Faithlife Sermons

"Listen" Sunday, August 26, 2018 - 9 AM

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Listen – 1 Kings 8:22-30, 41-43 Bascomb UMC / August 26, 2018 / 9 AM & 11 AM Focus: Prayer – Solomon’s understanding and our understanding of prayer. Function: To move believers into a deeper position of listening to God in prayer. 5 Purpose Outcomes of the Church: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Evangelism, Service 1 Kings 8:22–30, 41–43 (CEB) 22 Solomon stood before the LORD’s altar in front of the entire Israelite assembly and, spreading out his hands toward the sky, 23 he said: LORD God of Israel, there’s no god like you in heaven above or on earth below. You keep the covenant and show loyalty to your servants who walk before you with all their heart. 24 This is the covenant you kept with your servant David, my father, which you promised him. Today, you have fulfilled what you promised. 25 So now, LORD, Israel’s God, keep what you promised my father David, your servant, when you said to him, “You will never fail to have a successor sitting on Israel’s throne as long as your descendants carefully walk before me just as you walked before me.” 26 So now, God of Israel, may your promise to your servant David, my father, come true. 27 But how could God possibly live on earth? If heaven, even the highest heaven, can’t contain you, how can this temple that I’ve built contain you? 28 LORD my God, listen to your servant’s prayer and request, and hear the cry and prayer that your servant prays to you today. 29 Constantly watch over this temple, the place about which you said, “My name will be there,” and listen to the prayer that your servant is praying toward this place. 30 Listen to the request of your servant and your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Listen from your heavenly dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive! Page 1 of 7 41 Listen also to the immigrant who isn’t from your people Israel but who comes from a distant country because of your reputation—42 because they will hear of your great reputation, your great power, and your outstretched arm. When the immigrant comes and prays toward this temple, 43 then listen from heaven, where you live, and do everything the immigrant asks. Do this so that all the people of the earth may know your reputation and revere you, as your people Israel do, and recognize that this temple I have built bears your name. Do you pray these prayers? Dear Lord, help me to quit obsessing about insignificant details and I’d like that to begin tomorrow at 7:41 a.m. EST. Dear Lord, help me to consider other people's feelings even though most of my friends are such losers! Dear Lord, help me to take responsibility for my actions even though most things are never my fault. Maybe you ask God to help you be more laid back (because you know that NEVER do it exactly right!). Or maybe you ask God to help you take life more seriously – stuff like next week’s birthday party or tonight’s spring dance. I always ask God to help me to keep my mind more focused on one thing ... oh, look, a bird ... one thing at a time. OK, you get the point! Seriously, what are we doing when we pray? I’m sure you can list several reasons why we pray, and Solomon’s prayer is a good model. He begins by describing an awesome God and God’s faithfulness as a Promise Keeper. Solomon talks about God’s attributes – how transcendent God is above all creation…..and yet, Solomon expects God to listen and hear from heaven - hear the needs and hopes of all humans – even non-Jewish humans: “My house will be known as a house of prayer for all peoples” Isaiah 56:7 (CEB). Page 2 of 7 Solomon, as THE representative of the people Israel, thinks God is also immanent – close by – that’s what the temple represents – not a house God lives in, No - the temple represents God’s presence with us! That’s the great gift of the Jews – we understand a very personal God! We should be thankful. Let me ask you, do you think to even say “grace” over your food? A farmer had closed his booth at the weekend Farmer’s market and gone to a restaurant to eat lunch. When he was served, it was his habit to bow his head and give thanks. A group of students noticed the farmer’s prayer and teased him: “Hey, Farmer Brown, out in the sticks does everybody pray before they eat?” The farmer answered, “No, come to think of it - the hogs don’t.” You see, there was an apple tree right beside his hog pen and the farmer noticed just yesterday that some of the apples that fell off that tree into the pen were immediately consumed by the hogs – but not one of those animals ever looked UP to see the source of the fruit. Abe Lincoln said: “…it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.” And all of us, Solomon included, ask things of GOD. Solomon’s prayer assumes that God is involved in the world, not an absentee landlord. So before we presume to start ASKING for things, maybe we ought to face the ways we have offended God. In Solomon’s day they may have been praying to other gods (a few of his wives did that), or maybe they had made images of God (like God could be represented), or maybe they were attaching God’s name to things that have nothing to do with God, or they were ignoring the Sabbath. I mean, that’s just the first four commandments. Page 3 of 7 Remember that this story is more than history, it has a message! The books of Kings tell the story down to the exile FOR people in the exile. The message was first delivered to the suffering and downtrodden in exile. There is HOPE for return here. They had turned away from God and prayer is a way to turn back—the literal meaning of “repent.” One task of prayer is to “confess” God’s name again before you begin to “plead” with God. But we do want our stuff, don’t we? We want stuff to happen, we want what we want – God give me patience – and we want what we want right now! So, we ask, and God listens, and God answers? YES, God answers – God may say YES……or God may say NO – orrrrr… --- God may say………WAIT. We, the people, now pray within the earthly temple and hope that God will listen in the heavenly temple, and we HOPE (with more assurance because of Jesus) - that God will “pardon” or “forgive” our sin and answer our requests. This is the pattern of the people of faith. And Solomon invites us people to believe that God restores as well as pardons. Prayer is adoration, thanksgiving, confession, hope, and petition. But let’s go one step deeper – prayer should also hope for our restoration - our transformation. D. L. Moody was considered a great preacher, but he is quoted as saying: “I’d rather be able to pray than be a great preacher; Jesus Christ never taught His disciples how to preach, but only how to pray.” The true aim and result of prayer - answered prayers and confessional prayers and prayers of gratefulness will be reverence for God. Reverence means that God is God and we are not! Reverence for God means doing what God says. Solomon wants the reputation of God to spread out to all other nations. That reputation is carried by US. And God can “see” our heart.” God looks down from heaven and looks deep into our spirits. God knows our pressures and our pains. Solomon’s prayer keeps a balance between the community and the individual – both are in need of prayer. But what Page 4 of 7 really struck me in this text was how many times Solomon asked God to LISTEN. I believe God is the faithful one in this relationship, this covenant, so it made me a little uncomfortable that God is always the one being asked to listen. Doesn’t that go both ways? Are we listening? This God has made a covenant, this God has made promises, this God is steadfast in love, this God is loyal. You and I and Solomon and the people of Israel (the church) should be the ones shaped and formed by prayer. Our whole heart and our whole selves can be transformed in God’s presence. But we must receive God spirit – and we must listen to God’s direction. But do we really listen? Not just to God, but even to each other? Listening is considered the “lost art” because, as Lucy says: (graphic – “I like talking – I hate listening”). Two psychiatrists met at their 20th college reunion. One is youthful looking – rested even, while the other looks withered, worried, and worn down. "What's your secret?" the older looking psychiatrist asks. "Listening to other people's problems every day, all day long, hour after hour for years on end has drained me of the will to live!” The vibrant one looks up from his phone – “Oh, I’m sorry – I wasn’t listening.” And God has the same problem with us: “Oh, that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways!” Psalm 81:13 (NRSV). And here’s Jesus: Why don’t you understand what I’m saying? It’s because you can’t really hear my words. John 8:43 (CEB). There exist all sorts of advice out there on how to become a better listener, but hearing from God begins with humility, with reverence, with confession, and with thanksgiving. Solomon begins the prayer standing, but by the end he is on his knees! It’s a posture of prayer. We study scripture because God’s word Page 5 of 7 speaks back to us. We gather in small groups because God speaks back to us THROUGH our community of faith. And every so often God DOES speak back to you through a prophet or (heaven help us) a preacher (Nooooooo). But are you listening? One reason our world is so vulgar and loud is because people are trying to shock us into hearing them! Tony Campolo stood before a room full of preachers. “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a s***.” And he let the vulgarity fly! The preachers rumbled in the crowd – shocked at what they heard from the stage. Tony leaned in close and whispered………. “my third comment is how sad that you are more upset with the fact that I used vulgarity in your presence than the vulgar reality that 30,000 kids died last night.” Are we listening to God? As we say goodbye to the Pentecost Season and focus next week on the growth of the church in Kingdomtide, I pray we can explore the Spiritual Disciplines in such a way that we get better at listening and obeying what God is saying to us individually and as a church! Fasting goes along with prayer – when was the last time you fasted AND prayed. Scripture goes along with prayer. Lectio Divina is a practice of hearing scripture read many times with the intention of letting it SPEAK to you – jump out at you from God’s heart to your heart. The Examen is another form of meditative prayer – in these cases we pray with the expectation of personal change and transformation and growth. Come and pray here today, but don’t speak so much as kneel to listen! God may have something to say to you this day! Remember the great debate about whether we in the church see the glass as half-empty or half-full? The good news is…in prayer - the glass is simply refillable! Page 6 of 7 Meditate on this famous scripture (if my people) and notice how much of this petition is conditioned on US – what we must do. Let us pray…. SENDING FORTH or BENEDICTION: But even this is not the end of the story. For that, we turn to the last two chapters of the book of Revelation where we get a highly symbolic picture of the time of the end. In the new Jerusalem, it is specifically mentioned that there will be no temple. Why? “I didn’t see a temple in the city, because its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.” Revelation 21:22 (CEB). We are going back to Eden, back to God’s kingdom – even heaven itself. Page 7 of 7
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