Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Who among you will give your children a stone when they ask for bread? Or give them a snake when they ask for fish? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.
Ever since I was called to be an Elder at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda,
MD in 1994, I have tried to live a "Christ Like" life. It is a challenging call and journey,
but with God's help, I attempt the goal daily. My favorite scripture is Matthew 7: 7-11
"Ask, Search, Knock". In my teaching, in my Christian Education Ministry, and in my
family life's journey; the scripture has helped me tremendously.
The surprise and joy came when God answered my prayers and supported me when my
husband and I were sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. I didn't expect God to be with me
all the time, especially when having fun. In the 28 years of sailing we were in 2 very bad
storms. In 1 storm at night the rain was coming down sideways because the wind was
blowing so hard. During the storm, I was grateful for God's presence - the surprise was
feeling the Holy Spirit inside the boat. Needless to say, I was glad I remembered the
lessons from the sailing classes we took and we "weathered the storm."
Gracious God thank you for your presence in our lives no matter where we find
ourselves. Help us to ask, search and knock for the joy this Advent Season. Help
us to know your will for our lives. God we are most grateful for the birth of your
son, Jesus. Amen.
I’ve told this story many times, but it bears repeating. Many years ago my then boyfriend took me home to Virginia to meet his family and to see where he grew up. He brought me to a beautiful park, acting rather nervously, and I just knew he was going to propose. I decided that he was going to propose at a lovely gazebo that I saw in the distance and I tried making sure that we got there quickly, despite all his efforts to stop and sit several times. What I didn’t realize was that all those stops along the way were attempts at proposal, and I missed them because I was focused on what I thought should happen. Thankfully, he did not give up and was able to get me to pause for a moment so he could ask me to be his wife and spend my life with him. I felt rather foolish when I realized that I had missed several beautiful and joyous moments (and gorgeous scenery) on the path because, well, gazebo.
This has been a common theme in my life, unfortunately. I am so focused on what I previously imagined and what I think should happen next that I miss out on wonderful moments in the present. It’s hard for God to work in my life sometimes because I am always trying to second guess Him. But God is always doing the unexpected. In the book of Isaiah, He says:
Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history.
Look! I’m doing a new thing;
now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.
The Christmas story is all about God doing something new! A different star in the sky? What in the world! God as a human baby? Weird! Born in a manger? Ew! Birth announcement delivered by angels to shepherds? How commonplace! That’s not at all what we were expecting!! In week 3 of Advent, let’s allow ourselves to be surprised by a God who was born among cows and sheep, by Jesus who said the last shall be first and the first shall be last, by the Holy Spirit who still works in our lives in mysterious ways. Don’t miss out on the joy that God is trying to share with you because you are expecting something else. Look! He is doing a new thing.
Heavens and earth may—and will!—pass away, O Lord, along with all living things which inhabit them; but, through the person and work of Jesus, you are bringing into existence new heavens and a new earth and a reclaimed and renewed humanity. Though the heavens vanish like smoke and the earth wear out like a garment and those of us who live on it die like gnats, your salvation is forever and our deliverance will never end.
Our hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
We dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, we stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
God, we thank you for our earliest Christian mothers and fathers who stood bravely on Christ, their Rock, in spite of dungeon, fire and sword.
We thank you for Protestant Reformers who, 500 years ago, helped the church move out of the quicksand of superstition and corruption back onto the firm foundation of Christ and the biblical word which bears witness to him.
We thank you for those who established in colonial America and in Williamsburg a Presbyterian Church with Christ at its center, with the Bible as its guide and with moral and ethical values consistent with Christ’s life and teaching.
God, keep our feet planted solidly on this Rock lest we be swept to the left or to the right by winds of doctrine which deny Christ even as they claim to serve him.
Keep us true to the radical inclusiveness of Christ as we foster the ecumenical and interfaith relations for which we have been noted.
Keep us true to the righteousness of Christ by working to build bridges between people where others work at erecting barriers.
Keep us true to the peace of Christ as we strive for wholeness in our personal lives and support public policies and programs which foster wholeness in the lives of others.
Keep us true to the graciousness of Christ as we pray your blessing, not only upon ourselves and our friends and allies, but upon our enemies as well.
Eternal and almighty God, we give you thanks for all your faithful people who have followed your will in a great procession of praise throughout the world and down through the centuries, into our own time and place. As we remember them, inspire us by your Spirit to join their ranks and follow our Lord through life, to be bold as they were, and brave as well, witnessing to your righteous truth and generous love. Give us grace, O God, that we will leave a legacy of faithfulness to encourage and challenge those who follow us along the way of discipleship; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray, saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Dear Lord and creator of the universe, we thank you for all of your handiwork which we take for granted. We thank you for the morning sun which nudges us from are sleep. We thank you for the rain which blankets us in wetness. We marvel at the interdependence of all the creatures of and plants even the very air we slowly inhale and softly exhale as a gift from you. Help us Lord, to accept your gifts as easily as we do our breaths. Help us to breathe in your peace and exhale our busyness. Help us to breathe in your calmness and exhale our anxiety. Help us to breathe in your quietness and exhale our noise. Help us to breathe in your generosity and exhale our selfishness. Help us to breathe in your love and exhale our hate. Help us to breathe in your faithfulness and exhale our disobedience.
And now in the quietness and the calmness of our hearts we pray you would hear our petitions as we lift them to you. As children, we sang “you've got the whole world in your hands” and as we grow older we realize how great a weight that really must be. You feel the weight of our disobedience, of fighting and wars, of hunger and starving, of flood, fire, and hurricane. We pray that you would mold the broken edges of our globe in your hands and make us whole again.
We know that we cannot solve the world’s problems on our own, but help us Lord, to make our small part of this globe a better place to live. Help us to bring peace in our community, to bring food to those who are hungry and to bring comfort to those who are sick so that we may bring your message of love to those who we touch.
When we think of those people who are special to us standing in the need of prayer, our hearts are filled with names and faces and concerns. So hear us now as we empty our hearts for those whom we love…
We pray especially for those who are in the hospital. We pray that you would give them rest and relief.
We pray for your church here in Williamsburg. For the people gathered here in your name. We want to be an example of your love and fellowship to all who see us. Yet we know as a human church we fall short of our goals. Help us to relate that we are not perfect people but selfish sinners who come here to be refreshed in your forgiveness and revitalized in your mission. We lift up also ourselves. We pray you would take us, full of insecurities and doubts and anxiety and faults and that you would mold us into the special creation we were intended to be. We pray that you would take our bodies as living sacrifices to you. We have chosen to be servants, show us how to serve. All this we ask in the name of the servant of servants our Lord Jesus Christ who taught us to pray saying: Our Father…
You are the One, O God, to whom each of us is ultimately responsible. We came from you at birth. We return to you at death. We belong to you in life. In Jesus Christ you have redeemed us from sin and called us to live day by day as he lived, loving you with heart, mind and will and our neighbors as ourselves. We earnestly pray that you will enable us to do that with increasing consistency in order that we may have in life the joy which you intend and that life for others may be brighter and better because of their contact with us.
We pray today for the church which we have entered by baptism here in this place or in churches to which we have previously belonged. You called us together to be a model on earth of that perfect community which exists with you in heaven and to be an instrument of your justice and compassion in the world. You know how inconsistently we fulfill that calling, but you know that we aspire to greater faithfulness, and we pray that you will help us to meet our aspirations. Shape us, here in this congregation, into a community of mutual support and effective outreach which you want us to be.
Make us attentive to those close by who have special needs this day. We lift up to you for comfort and healing members of the Fiske, Silver and Patten families who have lost loved ones.
Make us attentive, as well, to those distant from us upon whom catastrophe has fallen. Surround with your grace and peace all who have been directly affected by earthquake in Mexico; by wind and water in Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida; by gunfire in Las Vegas; and by raging fire in Northern California. By your Spirit lift those who have fallen and be an eternal refuge to those who will not rise again in this life. Give stamina and success to all who are working day and night to rescue and rebuild. Give generous hands to those of us who seek to support their efforts from afar.
We pray for the world which you created, which you love and in which you are continuously at work independent of your church. Worldly powers exist with your permission and will ultimately succeed to the degree that they serve your design for human life and society. Grant that the governor and legislator of our commonwealth may discern and serve your purposes. Grant that the president and congress and courts of this country may lead us in paths of justice and righteousness for your name’s sake and for our well being. Grant that leaders of all nations may be thwarted to the extent that their purposes are narrow and self-serving and may thrive to the extent that they contribute to the building of a more just and stable global community.
Lord of our lives, Lord of the church, Lord of the world, we commit ourselves and the earth to your loving care in the name of Jesus Christ your Son; and together we pray the prayer which he left us:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.