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Tag Archive | "Vanderbilt"

Teach us to pray


Pastor Herb VanderBilt

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs

 

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, Teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, “When you pray, say Father…” (Luke 11: 1-2a.)

What follows these words is the very familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer, which is still an excellent model of how to pray today. So why did the disciples ask Jesus how to pray? Certainly prayer was not unusual in Jewish culture as there are several references to people praying. What was so different about Jesus and his prayers? The other question that came to me while I read these words again is how do we learn to pray? Is there a right way to pray? Why are people reluctant to pray aloud or to lead our groups to pray? These are all legitimate questions to ask ourselves during Lent, as we consider what part prayer takes in our Journey of Hope.

Many people, who grow up in the church, learn to pray as young children. I think the first prayer that I learned was at the dinner table, “God bless this food…” As adults however many people become uncomfortable when asked to pray or to pray aloud in public. According to the book that I am reading, Let the Whole Church Say Amen, by Lawrence Hall Stookey, one reason that so many people today are confused about how to pray is because they have never been taught. Just like the disciples, people need to have prayer modeled for them. One of the reasons many are hesitant to pray out loud is because people think that they have to pray “In King James” i.e. using thee or thou or wouldst or beseech, words that we really don’t use anymore. The reason Jesus’ disciples were so interested in learning how to pray like Jesus is that Jesus didn’t use extremely formal language to talk to God the Father; in fact he used the term “Abba,” which literally translated means “Daddy.” If a young child falls down and hurts himself, how does he talk to his parents? Does he say, “Father, if it is not too much trouble, can you consider coming to give me some help?” No, they most likely will say “Daddy, I am hurt, come help me!” Certainly we can pray to our Heavenly Father that way, too. Prayer is simply that—talking to God, the God who created us and formed us in his image. The God who has promised to always be with us, he doesn’t require a special invitation, so we don’t have to ask him to be with us, because he already is.

Prayer is like any other kind of speech or language; we need to practice. Practice praying, listening to Him and then teaching others. “For Yours is the kingdom, the Power and the Glory forever. Amen.”

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It’s all about balance


Pastor Herb VanderBilt

East Nelson United Methodist Church

9024 18 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs

 

 

“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you (I Thessalonians 5:12-28).

Paul’s words of advice to Timothy, over 2000 years ago, are good advice even today. Basically he is reminding Timothy that life is a balance of holding onto the good and avoiding the evil.  Recently we heard a lecture by the noted New Testament scholar N.T. Wright, where he said that the message of the church also has to be in balance or in harmony. He used the metaphor of a quadraphonic stereo with a speaker in each corner of the room and how if one speaker is too loud, it distorts the sound and destroys the harmony. I think that the apostle Paul is also telling Timothy to look for this balance in helping people not only grow the early church, but also those who are just discovering Jesus Christ. We can also use this metaphor in how to find balance in our lives today. We all have people in our lives pulling us one way or the next and we also need to find the balance in our relationships with others. If we use the idea of four speakers we can think of our relationship with our friends, our job, our family and Church as the quadraphonic space that we live in. If one of these speakers is too loud it affects how we hear the others. If we turn down our friends and only listen to the other three, it will distort the melody of life and so on with the other three. All of these speakers keep the spirits fire alive in us; turn any of them off and we put out the spirit’s fire. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

 

 

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Creation


Pastor Herb Vanderbilt
East Nelson United Methodist Church
9024 18 Mile Road, Cedar Springs

“Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers; flames of fire his servants. He set the earth on its foundations, it can never be moved.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them” Psalm 104:1-8.
When we talk about creation in the Bible, many people think that we are automatically talking about the story in Genesis 1 but this is not the only place in the Bible we learn about creation. Psalm 104 is one of the many “creation” writings attributed to David. In fact, not only do these Psalms echo the Genesis story but they are in an art form that in some ways is even more graphic than the depiction we see in the first chapter of the Holy Book.  My wife and I strolled through the streets of Grand Rapids looking at some of the over 1500 creations that have been entered into Art Prize 2011. Each piece is unique and reveals something that the artist sees or feels. Some of the entries have the artist present and many are willing to talk about their work and explain the meaning.  This is a special treat, getting to know the artist and their creation. They are often very passionate about their work and it shows.  The passion of the artist in Psalm 104 also comes through the verses that are rich in color and feeling. This is truly a piece of art of the highest quality. Many of the pieces of art in Grand Rapids will be scattered a long way far from here, but the collection of the Psalms we have with us as long as Bibles are printed. Sometimes God seems to be far away and distant but when we read a Psalm like 104 once again the creator touches our heart and mind, once again he, like creation itself is real again.

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This is the day


Pastor Herb Vanderbilt
East Nelson United Methodist Church
9024 18 Mile Road, Cedar Springs

Psalm118:19-24: Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This text contains a wake up call. In fact, we sometimes use it that way in summer camp. Early in the morning I often encounter a young person looking like they are not quite awake yet, their clothes are wrinkled like they slept in them all night (and probably did!) and their hair is going in several directions.  As the Camp Dean, It is always interesting to look them in the eye and hit them with this phrase, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” If nothing else it usually results in a sheepish smile just before they break into a dead run to find someone to tell what just happened to them.

Sometimes we go though life feeling just like that young person at camp, a little groggy and dulled to what is going on around us, or why it is that we have been placed here on this earth. Sometimes we just need a little wake up call.

The text today from the Psalmist also reminds us of the wake up call that was given by a man who lived over 2000 years ago. Not any man, but a man who was also God and was sent to deliver the ultimate wake up call. This passage also reminds us of the day when that man Jesus came riding into Jerusalem like a war hero or a conquering general, just what some of his followers were waiting for.  They were prepared to celebrate when He would start an earthly Kingdom, kick out the Romans and return the Israelite nation to the greatness it once had.  Finally they could get rid of all the foreigners and just live for themselves.  Jesus comes in like he is going to do that and then “Hello! That is not why I came here,” they get the wake up call. He came, not for an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one. Not just for the Jews but for all people. Through Him we are all made righteous and may enter into the gate of the Lord. If this is not the best news that you have heard all day, then, hello!  “This is the day the lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

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