Worship Message Texts

I concluded my final interim pastorate in March 2016, so I am no longer preaching on a regular basis. I am available for pulpit supply and these sermon scripts and videos give a picture of my approach. For pulpit supply, I am happy to write new sermons targeted at specific concerns or needs of congregations, otherwise I will rework previous sermons based on the texts of the Revised Common Lectionary for that Sunday.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Letting Go of Temporary to Gain Permanent

Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
March 1, 2015
© 2015

In Henry James’ 1903 novella The Beast in the Jungle, John Marcher had a premonition of a “beast in the jungle” that will ruin his life. So he adopted a wary, vigilant life avoiding anything that might turn out to be the “beast in the jungle.” At the end of his life, John Marcher realized that his caution was the beast that had deprived him of living to the fullest.
English poet A. E. Housman (1859-1936) said that Jesus confirmed this when he said, “Those who want to save their life will lose it.” But he never came to the place of accepting Jesus’ next line, “those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
Alyce McKenzie, who teaches at Perkins School of Theology, tells of a recruiter for Teach for America makes Jesus’ point when she asks bright, young people to teach in America's most deprived schools saying, “Here I stand, trying to recruit you for a salary of $15,000 a year in some of the worst schools in America, begging you to waste your life for a bunch of ungrateful kids. I will to talk to anybody who is interested.” Many students respond, dying to give themselves to something bigger and more important than their own selves.
Jesus taught his first followers, and us, that the way to save our lives is to give ourselves away for others.
Mark 8:31-38 is the fulcrum of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus turned directly toward the cross right after Peter’s great confession.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Peter prompted Jesus’ rebuke, but turning and looking at them warned all of Jesus’ disciples not to set their minds on human things but on divine things. Jesus called the whole crowd in to teach them, and us, that human things have to do with protecting ourselves, but divine things have to do with giving ourselves away for others. Jesus, not only taught this and practiced it, he embodied it.
Some have questioned whether Jesus would have referred to the cross before his crucifixion. I do believe it made sense to his listeners, but not as a symbol of Christian faith. A cross was the instrument of a torturous execution Rome used for political intimidation and humiliating the lowest of criminals. Though Jesus hearers missed that Jesus spoke of resurrection, that is what makes sense of losing his life for the sake of others as the path to saving not only his life, but ours as well.
Romans 4 tells how Abraham’s faith in the face of the impossible was reckoned to him as righteousness. So too, for us as Jesus’ followers, it is by faith that we journey through suffering, rejection and death to resurrection.
Many Christians from different backgrounds have recognized that Jesus taught his first followers, and us, that the way to save our lives is to give ourselves away for others. So they have called Jesus “the man for others.”
From his Nazi prison cell in 1944, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his friend Eberhard Bethge that Jesus is the man for others. It is being there for others that marks the Christian. We encounter God in the middle of life when we are there for our neighbors. The church is the church only when it exists for others.
Our son Erik went to Jesuit high school hearing their purpose to build “men for others.” In 1973 Father Pedro Arrupe told the International Congress of Jesuit Alumni in Europe that developing men-and-women-for-others was the paramount objective of Jesuit education. Only by being for others does one become fully human, not only in the natural sense but is being a spiritual person.
That Francis, the first Jesuit Pope would suggest giving up indifference to suffering people as a Lenten discipline is not accidental. He quoted John Chrysostom (349-407). “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do not do good to others, you do nothing great.”
Congregations seeking a new pastor are naturally drawn to those who suit the preferences with which they have become comfortable. As Jesus taught in Mark 8, the way for Highlands Christian Church to follow Jesus into the future is to be a church who gives itself away for others.
Quite a bit of that is already going on. Worship at Brookdale. Cooperating with other congregations to serve your neighbors. Support for Week of Compassion. Even renting space to other groups, not just as a way to supplement the church’s income but as authentic service in the name of Jesus. A question to ask of ourselves is, “How can we grow in defining and identifying Highlands Christian Church as a church that exists for others?”
An important question for the Search and Call Committee and the whole congregation to ask of pastoral candidates is, “Can and will this pastor lead us to keep stretching to be more and more for others?”
Abraham’s faith in the face of the impossible was reckoned to him as righteousness. Jesus calls us to faith that by letting go of self-preservation, we will receive resurrection. Such faith, personally and congregationally means risking everything to be for others, trusting God to bring about resurrection life.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Starting Out Clean, Loved and Tested

1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
February 22, 2015
© 2015

The 40 days of Lent reflect several 40 day and year intervals in the Bible, especially Jesus’ temptation that we consider today. As Sundays are “Little Easters,” they are not counted in the 40 days, so today is the first Sunday in Lent, not of Lent.
Very early, during Lent new believers prepared for baptism on Easter. This soon developed into a season of spiritual renewal for all believers, preparing for mission.
For Jesus, 40 days of testing followed his baptism, having passed the test, he launched his public ministry.
My hope is that contemplating baptism today will feed our confidence in Christ’s redemption and fuel introducing spiritually hungry people to Jesus.
In the compact space of 7 verses, Mark 1:9-15 presents Jesus’ baptism, temptation and start of ministry with fierceness not evident in Matthew and Luke (not in John at all). Usually I tell the Gospel before explaining it, but today I want to point out Mark’s distinctive features so you can listen for them.
When Jesus came up from the water of his baptism, Matthew and Luke said heaven was opened, but Mark wrote “he saw the heavens torn apart.” (v. 10)
Matthew and Luke said the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but Mark wrote, “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” (v. 12)
Matthew and Luke called the tempter “the devil,” but Mark called him “Satan.” Satan is not the devil’s name but identifies him as “the accuser” as we see ha satan in Job 1-2 and the accuser of our brothers in Rev.12:10.
Only Mark wrote that while tested in the wilderness Jesus “was with the wild beasts.” (v. 13)
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
We need some context and perspective to contemplate baptism in a way that feeds confidence in Christ’s redemption and fuels introducing spiritually hungry people to Jesus.
In the interest of full disclosure, I tell you I did not come to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) until 2000. Candy and I were both baptized by immersion on profession of faith in the Baptist churches with whom we grew up. Our children were baptized by effusion (sprinkling) on profession of faith in the Presbyterian church we served in NJ. During my 17 years there, I assisted with the baptism of infants by effusion. Sharing our baptismal journeys could be interesting and fruitful.
Baptismal thinking in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has not been static but developed over the last two centuries. Part of Alexander Campbell’s break with the Presbyterians came when he refused to present his daughter for baptism arguing she should be baptized by immersion on her profession of faith, which he regarded as essential to her salvation. Barton Stone also advocated immersion on profession of faith, but in the interest of Christian unity was unwilling to reject what someone else considered their legitimate baptism, thus not necessarily essential for salvation. For many years, Campbell’s view prevailed, but since WW II, we have moved toward a view more like Stone’s, practicing believer’s immersion but accepting all Christian baptisms, and not re-baptizing. Interestingly, the NT used the words “pour” in Titus 3:6 and “sprinkle” in Hebrews 10:22 in association with baptism, and by the 2nd and 3rd centuries art in the catacombs showed John pouring water over Jesus. I’m not suggesting that resolves the conflicts, only interesting.
Contemplating what baptism accomplishes feeds confidence in Christ’s redemption and fuels introducing spiritually hungry people to Jesus. Though Disciples have avoided the word “sacrament” until lately, it just means that baptism and communion were given by Jesus for believers in which something physical (ordinary) conveys something spiritual (holy, sacred, thus sacrament). Though scholars seem only to agree that 1 Peter 3:18-22 may the most difficult NT passage to interpret, it does shed light on the meaning of baptism.
The washing away of sin is the clearest spiritual reality conveyed in baptism, not water washing dirt from the body but by the resurrection of Christ. This is seen in Acts 22:16 and 2:38, which our Disciples forbearer Walter Scott gave as the five finger exercise: faith, repentance, baptism, forgiveness, receiving the Holy Spirit.
Just as sinless Jesus identified with us sinners when he was baptized, Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27 and Colossians 2:11-12 tell us that we are identified with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection when we are baptized, and are clothed with his righteousness.
Titus 3:5 tells us that we are not saved by any works we have done, not even the ritual of baptism, but God saves us by his mercy in Christ. Baptism is not something we do for God, but God gives us baptism to assure us of our redemption, which is an objective reality that does not depend on the faith or righteousness of the one who baptized us, or even on whether we stray for Jesus’ path. When we come back we don’t need to be re-baptized.
1 Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 4:4-6 tell us that baptism incorporates, initiates us into the one Body of Christ, the community of faith that is the Church.
Danielle Shroyer, one of the pastors of Journey Church here in Dallas, has correctly, and cleverly, said, “What happens in baptism … doesn’t stay in baptism. Baptism gives us travelin’ shoes.… It gives us the indelible mark of belovedness.” Just as Jesus’ baptism was his anointing for his redemptive mission, Jesus put baptism at the core of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19: make disciples and baptize them!

Key Baptism Passages
Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Mark 16:15-16
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 16The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 
Acts 2:38-42
Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 10:48
So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Acts 16:30-33
Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 
Acts 19:3-5
Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” 4Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 
Acts 22:16
And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.
Romans 6:3-4
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:13
For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Galatians 3:27
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Ephesians 4:4-6
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Colossians 2:11-12
In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 
Titus 3:5-7
He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
1 Peter 3:20b-21
God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 10:22
Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fresh Starts: A New Anointing

2 Kings 2:1-12; Mark 9:2-9
February 15, 2015 
Transfiguration Sunday
© 2015

The first time we visited Niagara Falls we only had our two older sons. For me, the experience of the tunnel behind the Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls was awe-filled worship. Watching and hearing the power of the rushing water prompted an urge to lie prostrate and weep. Though I resisted prostration, I wept. I knew it could all be explained by geology, hydraulics and physics, but I’d been encountered by the holy. Transfiguration Sunday asks if we have space in our lives, our minds, our souls for what we can’t explain.
Just as the church’s calendar turns toward Lent, Jesus’ Transfiguration turns him toward the cross. All 3 synoptic Gospels report it, and today we will hear the story from Mark 9:2-9. Peter made his confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Jesus announced that he would suffer, die and rise again, to which Peter objected and was rebuked by Jesus. Jesus called those who would follow him to take up their cross, and he said some there would see the power of the Kingdom of God.
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Moses and Elijah also had inexplicable experiences. The pillar of cloud and fire accompanied Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. Moses’ face glowed after he came down from Mt. Sinai or met with God in the Tabernacle. (Exodus 34:29-35) Elijah was carried to heaven by a whirlwind accompanied by a chariot of fire. (2 Kings 2:1-12) Fire and cloud are often signs of God’s presence.
We can domesticate, diminish and dilute these familiar stories instead of standing in awe of the God who wants to transfigure us to be like Christ, radiating God’s glory.
Theologian Frederick Buechner has observed that once in a while a father walking with his child in the park, or a woman baking bread, or someone standing barefoot in the sand watching the waves is so touching, so alive, so incandescent it transfigures the human face almost beyond bearing.
I saw that in one of the mentally handicapped core members when we lived at Daybreak in Ontario. Though of limited ability, Dave was able to take a turn assisting in serving communion. When he put on the alb and distributed cup and bread, he knew he was handling the holy, and his face glowed. I said to Candy, “That must be what Moses looked like after being with God.”
The word translated “Transfigured” in Mark 9:2 and Matthew 17:2 is metamorphoo. Paul used the same word in Romans 12:2 to describe our transformation and connects us with Moses and Christ in 2 Corinthians 3:18. “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
As we meditate on Jesus’ Transfiguration, Paul invites, no urges, us to remove our protective veils that explain and obscure the glory of Christ and gaze unswervingly into his glory so the Spirit can transfigure us from one degree of Christ’s glory to another.
C. H. Makoff
The voice of Jesus’ Heavenly Father reprised the words from Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Our Heavenly Father tells us how we can be transfigured to become like Christ, radiating God’s glory.
“This is my Son.” Do you want to know God and see God’s glory? Gaze unswervingly at Jesus. This is not about theological assertions. It is watching him live.
“The Beloved.” From his Transfiguration on, Jesus relentlessly headed to the cross to deal with everything that shuts us off from God’s love. In Jesus, God identifies us with Christ, so in him, we too are the beloved.
“Listen to him.” Pay attention to how Jesus spoke to the people around him, especially from here to the cross. Listen to who he says they are and what God has done for them as well as the instructions he gave.
Lewis Bowman
Paul wrote of “seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror.” To be sure, when we are transfigured “from one degree of glory to another,” it is Christ’s glory, not our own. But “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” goes deeper than bouncing the glory of Christ off our shiny lives. It is more like spiritual phosphorescence. When glow in the dark novelties are exposed to light, they store the energy and release it gradually in the dark. Similarly, when we are exposed to the glory of Christ, we radiate it into the darkness around us.
Phosphorescent chemicals each have what is called a triplet lifetime that predicts how long they keep glowing after the light goes off. What is your spiritual triplet lifetime? How long will the glory of Christ glow from you since your last time of basking in his glory?
Lent is a season of spiritual renewal and refreshment. It starts on Wednesday, and I hope you will join us for Stone Soup Supper and Ash Wednesday worship to start the season under the bright light of Jesus’ glory.
I wouldn’t presume to predict your spiritual triplet lifetime, but I know I need a pretty intense daily exposure to the light of Jesus’ glory every day. Though I read from the Hebrew Scriptures and the Epistles daily also, I make sure I’ve spent focused time with Jesus in one of the Gospels. I dare not let familiarity dilute the stringent wine of the Gospel.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fresh Starts: A New Power

Isaiah 40:21-31; Mark 1:29-39
February 8, 2015
© 2015

We have been following Jesus as he laid the foundations for launching his ministry. In Mark 1:29-39 we learn from Jesus to tap into God’s power by praying. One Sabbath, Jesus cast an unclean spirit out of a man in the Capernaum synagogue.
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Mark 1 reports Jesus ministry going public. John 2:11 says that turning water to wine at the wedding in Cana was Jesus’ first sign. That was a private event that may have occurred between Mark 1:20 and 21. The Sabbath in Mark 1 began with casting out the unclean spirit in the synagogue, then the curing of Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever, ending with many healings and demons cast out.
Interestingly the synagogue and Peter’s house in Capernaum have been found. The distance from door to door only several feet, thus “as soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house.” (v. 29)
At first Jesus’ only disciples seem to be these two pairs of fisherman brothers: Peter and Andrew, James and John. They will show up together on several key occasions, sometimes without Andrew, for whatever reason.
That Sabbath Jesus was poised for high demand popularity. But he snuck off to pray and then moved on. Episcopal priest Rick Morley asks, if he had been a senior pastor could he have gotten away with praying when so many were demanding his attention? Pondering that question can lead us to grasp how we learn from Jesus to tap into God’s power by praying.
After that Sabbath of physically and spiritually draining ministry, Jesus wisely withdrew to rest and recharge, to reconnect with the power of his heavenly Father.
I don’t imagine Jesus praying for those he delivered from sickness and demons to stay whole, or for better attendance or contributions for the synagogue, or even for the safety of Roman soldiers or Jewish police. Rather, as he prayed his heavenly Father confirmed his calling to proclaim the message throughout Galilee.
The whole city gathered around the door of Peter’s house because of the healings and exorcisms, but Jesus focused consistently on proclaiming the message of his ministry.
We don’t need to accept inadequacy of our simplistic prayers. We can learn from Jesus to tap into God’s power by praying.
The Swiss physician Paul Tournier had a patient who was an old pastor who, at the end of each visit, always prayed with extreme simplicity that seemed a continuation of an intimate conversation with Jesus. Dr. Tournier and his wife asked God for the same close fellowship and found Jesus was always with them, a friend who shared their joy, pain, hopes, and fears. Simple prayer is not simplistic prayer but accesses the power of God. (William Barclay, Mark, 1975, p. 38)
Fourth century Desert Father, Abba Agathon wrote of praying with power, “There is no labor greater than that of prayer. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies, the demons, prevent him, for they know that it is only by turning him from prayer that they can hinder his journey. Whatever good work a man undertakes, if he preservers in it, he will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath.” (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, tr. Benedicta Ward,1975, p. 22)
Isaiah 40:28-29 celebrates the power of God as endurance that does not grow weary and is given to the weak who wait for the Lord. We gain endurance as we wait. Such waiting is the prayer that receives the power of God.
Praying with power is not out-of-reach for all but a handful of spiritual giants. Powerful prayer is simple and accessible to every disciple of Jesus, though hardly simplistic. You can learn from Jesus to tap into God’s power by praying.
Nevertheless, praying with power eludes many of us. Reciting our anxieties too easily drowns out the whispers of the Holy Spirit deep in our hearts. Impatience to connect requests and results too easily short-cuts waiting for the Lord long enough for God to renew our strength. Craving for signs and wonders too easily distracts us from proclaiming Jesus’ message. As counter intuitive as it sounds, the secret to personally praying with power is letting go of our agendas and waiting for God’s power. To pray with power, we only need to quiet our hearts long enough to be attentive to the heart of God.
The interim journey tests a congregation’s patience. We rightly pray for discernment for Search and Call Committee and the candidates they consider. We rightly pray for God to prepare the congregation and the new pastor for each other. What is at once harder and simpler is to relinquish our plans and anxieties for the future and patiently open ourselves to God’s power.
Prayer that taps into God’s power is a matter of intent and not correct technique or eloquence. Paul wrote in Romans 8:26-27, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Starting with the simplicity of Jesus teaching the Lord’s prayer, through the centuries the Church’s giants have explored many ways that can help us let go of trying too hard when we pray. We will have an opportunity to try some of these at the Stone Soup Suppers we will share on Wednesday evenings in Lent.