As we move through Lent toward Easter and beyond to Pentecost, I’m hoping and praying for a significant, positive, meaningful change in the spiritual climate of our churches. We are spiritual … but Methodists are not about staying the same or maintaining the status quo. We are about growing spiritually and “going on toward perfection” – we are about making progress as we follow Jesus. And so I’m hoping for a “rise to walk in newness of life” experience for each of us as we go through Easter. Resurrection is not just an event in Christ’s history, it’s an event in our history, as Paul says, through our baptism: Rom 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
The old slave spiritual says it well:
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? …
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? …
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? …
Were you there when God raised him from the dead? …
The passage in Romans answers with a gigantic YES – you were there.
And because you were there, you have the opportunity to experience your own resurrection, your own new beginning, your own new birth: so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
How do we come to feel this newness of life? How do we cause it to happen? Why is it seem more rare than commonplace and everyday?
I think the place for us to begin to grow in this is that third line of the spiritual:
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
If we can open up our hearts and let us feel some of what it felt to the early disciples to see Jesus on the cross, to lay him in the tomb, and to be surprised on Easter morning, I think we would also tremble, tremble, tremble.
So how do we open our hearts and get to trembling with the authentic emotions of a disciple facing the cross and the tomb and the joy of Easter?
One first step: let’s cause our prayers to be more powerful. I’m a very practical guy, and so my prayers are often very focused: Thank you, Lord, for this food. More is not necessary; more is not helpful. Help me, Lord, during this hospital visit. Bless this sermon, Lord, so that it will bless your people. Short and sweet is my habit in prayer. I am focused on the task ahead.
But Thank you, Lord, for this food is not a very powerful prayer. It’s not going to change my life or yours. What would happen if that – a life changing faith – was the focus of my focused prayer? Answer: God would answer that prayer! What could happen if we began to pray as regularly and we give thanks for our food – three times a day – that God would bless us as followers of Jesus to “rise up and walk in newness of life?” God would answer that prayer!
This is the heart of having a personal daily “Quiet Time” – it begins with this sort of prayer that rededicates our life to Christ. This is the key in the lock that opens up the narrow gate to new life. My wife and I have a custom in Lent … we keep a copy of three prayers of high commitment on our dining room table, and pray one at breakfast, one at lunch, and the third at supper. As we do, we can feel a stirring in our hearts … and I think you would, too. See you in worship this Sunday!
Pastor David Kueker
QUIET TIME PRAYERS
The Centering Prayer: Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.
WESLEY COVENANT PRAYER
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
PRAYER OF ST FRANCIS
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.