6-23-24 Sermon

    06.23.24 | by Jennifer Parks-Snyder

    Sermon: Praying for the Will of God by Pastor Jenn    Scripture Lesson: Matthew 6:9-10

    June 23, 2024

    This past week our nation celebrated Juneteenth, which is the national holiday that commemorates when U.S. troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to ensure the release of all still enslaved, even though it had been more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. What a powerful holiday when you think about it. It’s a sad mark on our history and our relations toward one another, and yet in its honor there is conviction, isn’t there? We own this part of our history; we hold it so that we do not repeat such treatment that led to this prolonged freedom.

    As Christians, we know we serve a God who cares for and frees the oppressed, the Hebrew Bible teaches that time and time again. When Jesus introduces his ministry, he quotes Isaiah 61 stating:

     “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
        because he has anointed me
            to bring good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
        and recovery of sight to the blind,
            to set free those who are oppressed,
    19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

    Jesus will do those things, to proclaim the Lord’s favor, revealing the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. 

    Now when Jesus read those words in his home synagogue, those who heard him were hoping that Jesus was a Messiah who would take over the physical kingdom of the empire’s rule as at that time the Romans were oppressing them. However, in following and learning from Jesus, he will make it known that God’s kingdom is not established by brick and mortar, rather it has no bounds, so long as followers are willing to live its beliefs.

    So, this is a kingdom that brings good news to the poor, releases the oppressed, and opens eyes to truth and healing. It is a kingdom that brings mercy and aims for justice as well as a kingdom of grace and love that casts out evil and pain.

    This is why when Jesus is asked to teach people how to pray, in his instruction he includes the words, Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Meaning, (to be disciples of Jesus) we welcome God’s rule for our lives, as seen and revealed through Jesus who makes the kingdom known.

    You may recall that in Matthew chapter 13, Jesus gives various illustrations about what the kingdom of God is like. He says it’s like the seeds of the Sower/ he says it a treasure hid in the field/ and a pearl of high value. Each illustration offers a different way to understand the kingdom. But Jesus didn’t just teach about the kingdom, he lived it.

    Consider all the healings he provides physical, emotional, and spiritual. He was showing and sharing the kingdom of God among the people. And in doing so, the people were so blessed, weren’t they?  Don’t we all have a favorite story where Jesus changes someone’s life for the better? As Christians, we are to take ownership in that we have a part to make God’s kingdom present and real when we welcome the Spirit to work in and through us to provide kingdom healings, be it physical, emotional, and/or spiritual, to change lives for the better, so that when Jesus shows us that God’s will, God’s kingdom is overflowing with hope for all as Jesus heals the sick and the struggling, uniting them in community, we should work to do the same and provide care to people who need it, that’s kingdom work today where there is more health and joy than sickness or sorrow.

    Jesus also shows us that it is a kingdom where there is food and water for all. No one goes hungry in Jesus’ ministry there is an abundance of food left over. Remember after the feeding of the 5000, each disciple gathered up the extra food, that’s 12 baskets full. It was not the manna of the exiles that disappeared, it was there to help that community. We do kingdom work when we gather our food items and provide an abundance for those who are hungry. Or spend the money needed or physical labor to provide fresh water for communities who need it. That’s the kingdom living in, where there is food and fresh water for all.

    And finally, Jesus shows that the kingdom is where righteousness and mercy are the standard, and death and dying no more. Jesus says “I am the resurrection, and I am the life. Those who believe in me will never die” And through his ministry, he proved that. We experience kingdom living when we remember events like Juneteenth to learn from, grow from, and continue to work towards so all are free from the oppression that holds us back from a progression of unity AND it reminds us of the sanctity of all lives.

    I like how Bishop Will Willimon said it in his book, Lord, Teach Us: The Lord’s Prayer & the Christian Life, “We take God’s will more seriously and our own will a little less so”.

    Praying Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven -means we offer ourselves to be part of God’s just, right, and peaceable kingdom, and take ownership in that so that the world is better for all.

    This week I found a story about Dr. Opal Lee, retired public educator and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, who remembers when she was 12 years old being chased from her home in Fort Worth Texas on Juneteenth because she and her family had just moved into a white neighborhood, and a mob of 500 white people formed to chase them out by burning their house down.

    In 2016 at the age of 89, Opal Lee chose to develop the Opal Lee walk where she would walk for 2.5 miles in different areas of the country, to symbolize the 2.5 years it took for the Emancipation Proclamation to be enforced in Texas. And in doing these walks she gathered signatures to deliver to Congress to make Juneteenth a national holiday. God bless her, she was able to gather 1.5 million signatures.

    But it wasn’t just her walks that set her apart, it is the way she used those walks to go into communities, see the need, and develop support. Lee is considered the grandmother of Juneteenth for her actions and work to make communities better for all. Here’s a recent interview she gave….

    -The video Starts at 1:10 and ends at 2:03 https://youtu.be/u6ScUeuGIXc?si=ARsWbNm9G1_Y9S4E

    In one of her final statements in an interview she said, “If it’s good, God will help you.”

    That’s kingdom work, isn’t it? Helping with jobs, education, with relations in a community that make that community and its people better. Dr. Opal Lee is providing an answer to the prayer Jesus taught us, and we can do the same.

    And here’s just a little side note, thanks to Habitat for Humanity, she resides in a new home, which happens to be rebuilt at the same address where her family lived in 1939.

    Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven is not just a prayer we offer, it is a summons stating: God we recognize what is not good, and we welcome you to help us change that, to bring about your healing, your hope, your goodness for all.

    I want to close with a prayer provided this week by the United Methodist Board of Church6-23-24 and Society. Will you pray with me:

    God our maker

    We honor the sacred multitude that resides in You.

    May the guardian in you protect us.

    May the child in you delight in us.

    May the friend in you challenge us.

    May your ashes resurrect us.

    May your sky shelter us.

    May the mystery of you liberate us.

    Provide abundance and healing in all forms to those who need it today.

    And deliver us from shame, hatred, and the chains that bind us.

    For you have made us and we are still being made.

    So, here and now, we offer ourselves to you and your will as we pray the prayer Jesus taught us saying…Our Father….