Sermon: “The Lord is Gracious” (October 9, 2016)

Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta
“The Lord is Gracious” (Psalm 111:4)
October 9, 2016
Dave Johnson

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Today I am preaching on four words from today’s psalm: “The Lord is gracious” (Psalm 111:4).  The grace of God is the theme of the collect for today, a gem that summarizes the work of God in our lives and our response to that:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen (The Book of Common Prayer 234-235).

We emphasize the grace of God here at Christ Church because the grace of God is at the heart of the gospel.  “By grace you have been saved through faith,” scripture tells us, “and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).  Not only is it by grace alone that we have been saved, it is “this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:2)—or as the slave trader turned Anglican priest John Newton (1725-1807) put it, “’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home” (Amazing Grace, Hymn 671 in The Hymnal, 1982).

Fifty years ago one of the best-loved science fiction shows of all time premiered, the 1960’s classic Star Trek.  I used to love watching the reruns of this, again and again, when I was a little boy.  Many of you remember the famous opening as you peer into space and Captain Kirk (the incomparable William Shatner) proclaims in a voiceover, “Space: the final frontier”—and the starship Enterprise emerges out of nowhere and whisks across the screen and speeds off into space—“These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.  Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”  Cue the epic Star Trek theme music…

The Lord is gracious, and his grace boldly goes where you have never gone before, and the grace of God follows you too.

The Lord is gracious.

We need to be reminded often of what we prayed in today’s collect, that the grace of God indeed precedes and follows us.  Why?  Because we forget, and because sometimes we do not feel the grace of God with us, but instead feel alone—as the band Green Day put it in their 2004 hit “Boulevard of Broken Dreams:”

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me and I walk alone

I walk this empty street
On the boulevard of broken dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I’m the only one and I walk alone…

My shadow’s only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
Till then I walk alone

Have you ever felt that way?  That is when you need to be reminded that the Lord is gracious, that the grace of God precedes and follows you, that you in fact do not walk alone.  Episcopal priest and scholar Paul Zahl describes this grace of God:

Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return.  Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you.  Grace is being loved when you are unlovable.  Grace is being loved when you are the opposite of lovable…The one-way love of grace is the essence of any lasting transformation that takes place in the human experience…You felt ugly or sinking in confidence, and somebody complimented you, or helped you, or spoke a kind word to you.  You were at the end of your rope and someone showed a little sympathy… It is true in life that grace, one-way love, has the power to turn despair into hope.  It is almost always some form of grace, some outside source of unexpected and unhoped for compassion and kindness, that creates the change from discouragement and despair to endurance and perseverance (Grace in Practice, 36- 37).

This grace of God, this “one-way love” of God for you, precedes you, boldly goes before you, enables you both to receive the grace of God and then, again as we prayed in the collect, to “continually be given to good works.”  Article X of the “The Thirty-nine Articles,” the sixteenth century distillation of Anglican doctrine found in the back of The Book of Common Prayer, puts it this way:

The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God.  Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing (or preceding) us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will (BCP, 869).

In other words, it is this prevenient grace that makes it possible for you to receive the grace of God, the grace by which you are saved, in the first place.  What does that look like?  Well, as singer-songwriter Taylor Swift puts it “You told me I was pretty when I looked like a mess” (from her 2010 hit “Today was a Fairytale”).

In their insightful book, The Collects of Thomas Cranmer, C. Frederick Barbee and Paul Zahl describe this in their commentary about today’s collect:

Without God having already gone before us, we would, as human beings in our own strength, face impossible odds…Without (God) we are not up to what Mr. Murdstone in David Copperfield termed so chillingly the “battle of life.”  What lies ahead of us, humanly speaking, is too uncertain, too hostile, too large, too callous, too cold, too hard, too impossible.  The Collects emphasize the frailty of our case and the dangers in which we are perpetually set, circling the human being like sharks and vultures.  If (God) were not going before us, not to mention covering our flanks, we would, in general, within ourselves, simply freeze (103).

And this grace of God that precedes us gives us hope in the exact place where we feel like we walk alone, where we feel like we look like a mess, where we “simply freeze.”  As you look ahead in your life, what is it that gives you pause, or a knot in your stomach, or anxiety?  What is it that makes you afraid?  The grace of God will be there ahead of you because the grace of God precedes you.  Not only that, this same grace of God also follows you.

What does that look like?

Growing up in the suburbs of Northern Virginia I played soccer every year for over ten years.  I was hyper-competitive and intense, and probably took it way too seriously.  In the spring of my third grade year I played on an orange team called The Flames.  We were awful.  The Flames never caught fire that season, ever—instead, we fizzled out, week after week, game after game.  We were so bad that we scored just one goal the entire season.

It was a scorching hot Saturday in late May and we were losing… again—surprise, surprise.  I was playing defense, running side by side with a forward from the other team toward our goal, and I tried to kick the bouncing ball back over our heads but instead kicked it high toward our own goal.  It was like a slow motion nightmare watching the ball sail up, bounce in front of our goalie over his head, and into our own goal.  The other team went wild.  My team…not so much.  My first “career” goal was for the other team.  My coach told me not to worry about it, but I was apoplectic, and I wanted to quit.

But grace followed me.  The next week I read the write-up of our soccer game in the local newspaper (a small local newspaper, though not small to me), and was shocked to read the following sentence: “Flames defender Dave Johnson played game-long outstanding defense.”  That was all it said.  There was no mention of my scoring a goal for the other team.  Instead, words of encouragement in the paper—moreover, my coach never mentioned it again.  That grace that followed me helped me not quit after all—and believe it or not the next season I actually started scoring for my own team, a much more pleasant experience.

And it is the same with the grace of God that follows you, to help you when what happened in your life was the exact opposite of what you intended.

This is what happened to Peter, the Rock upon whom Jesus said he would build his church, who in Jesus’ darkest hour, denied him not once, but three times.  Peter was apoplectic with himself, so ashamed that he decided he would quit and go fishing.  While fishing Peter sees none other than the Risen Jesus on the beach, and he jumps out of the boat and swims to shore.

And what does Jesus do?  Jesus cooks and serves Peter breakfast, and gives Peter not one, but three chances to express his love for him anew.  Metaphorically, when there was nothing written in the paper about Peter denying Jesus, but instead, Jesus’ repeated exhortation, “Don’t quit, Peter.  You are forgiven.  You are still the Rock.  Feed my sheep.”  The grace of Jesus followed Peter.

Peter experienced firsthand the reality of what the late Brennan Manning wrote in his final book, All is Grace (2011), “If I’ve learned anything about the world of grace, it’s that failure is always a chance for a do-over” (162).  What is true for Peter is true for you.  The grace of God follows you.  You have been forgiven for the things in your past for which you have not even forgiven yourself.

In other words, if you look in the rearview mirror of your life you will see gracious face of Jesus—as the psalmist put it, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6, KJV).

The ultimate expression of this grace of God that goes before you and follows you is Jesus’ death on the cross.  Scripture identifies Jesus as the One who chose you before the foundation of the world…to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:4, 6, KJV), and the Lamb of God who on your behalf was “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, KJV).  Even as Jesus found himself surrounded by the sharks and vultures of angry sinners, he did not freeze; he did not quit; but instead walked the lonely road to Calvary.

God’s grace toward you began before the foundation of the world, before you were even a glint in your parents’ eyes, and God’s grace remains with you now and always will.

The Lord is gracious—that is good news of the gospel.

And our response is to “continually be given to good works”—in our way, “to boldly go where no man has gone before” and share that grace of God with others.

Amen.

Dedication of Altar Frontals and Pulpit Hangings

Dedication of Altar Frontals and Pulpit Hangings
The Rev. Peter L. Ingeman
Posted October 6, 2016

Remarks by Fr. Ingeman upon the occasion of the dedication of new altar frontals, pulpit hangings, and other altar linens for use in Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia. The text of these remarks is also available on this page in the website for Fr. Ingeman’s collection of sermons.

For an album of photographs from this event, click here.

Happy Ingeman, Laura Paine, and the Rev. Peter L. Ingeman arrange a frontal on the altar railing to display it for the congregation. Click this image to see more photographs from this event.

These frontals and the pulpit hanging add color and beauty to the altar and the pulpit, but they are more than that.

Our Episcopal Church cycles through a series of seasons every year. Centuries ago, before calendars were common, many, perhaps most, people were agricultural. They lived out their lives according to the seasons. In the colors displayed in the church, they could see a witness to the passing of the year, season by season.

Laura Paine holds the new purple pulpit hanging. Click this image to see more photographs from this event.

These purple hangings will be used at Advent and at Lent, two seasons when we are called to quiet reflection and preparation. The color is dark – like a seed germinating in the soil. The seed is the knowledge of God’s grace that we have in Jesus Christ.

Then at the Christmas season and at Easter the hangings are white or tapestry, celebrating Jesus’ Incarnation and Resurrection, the festive seasons of the church. It’s as though the seed breaks into life and light, God’s grace present with us as the seed that has been planted grows and matures through the presence and teaching of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. We hear lessons that remind us of Jesus’ words and healings.

Both the new green and purple altar frontals are visible in this photograph.

The seasons are repeated every year because they are a never-ending reminder that all we do here is to the greater glory of God.

I would love to claim credit for these beautiful hangings but I cannot. I am only a consultant. We need to thank Laura Paine and Steph Johnson for it all. And we must thank Fr. Dave, and of course, our Vestry for their support.

Sermon: “The Faithful God” (Luke 17:5-10)

Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta
“The Faithful God” 
October 2, 2016
Philip Ryan

I want you to picture a day like yesterday; clear blue skies, a gentle breeze, no humidity, and warm but not hot. Now, picture a young girl playing in her front yard her parents watching her with pure delight. She climbs the big oak tree in their front yard being careful not to slip. After a good climb up she looks out and sees her house, her front yard, and her parents. A sudden panic passes over her as she realizes how far she is from her parents, how great of an effort it will take to get to them, and how on earth is she going to get down!

She calls out, “Daddy! Daddy, I can’t come down. You’ve got to get me down!”
Her Father responds, “You can jump and I’ll catch you.”
“You’ll catch me?” She’s not repeating back what he said but clarifying, “You are going to catch me.”
He stretches out his arms and says, “I’ll catch you.”
With a big gulp she whispers, “He’ll catch me” before leaping off the tree branch and into the air. Continue reading

The location of the village of El Pedregal (red marker), the site of our 2017 mission trip. 2017 will mark the sixteenth year our team has worked at this site.

Planning For Our 2017 Mission Trip

This page has been established as a central online site for planning information about the 2017 mission trip to the Dominican Republic sponsored by Christ Episcopal Church in Valdosta, GA. This page was last updated on May 2, 2017.

PLEASE NOTE: THE CDC HAS ISSUED A TRAVEL ALERT FOR THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND OTHER AREAS IN SOUTH AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN RELATED TO THE MOSQUITO-BORNE ZIKA VIRUS. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS ALERT, click here.

Sign Up for Email Updates for the 2017 Trip
Click here to sign up to receive general updates about the 2017 trip.

Confirmed team members (as of March 12, 2017):
1. Julia Ariail (Lake Park/Valdosta, GA)
2. Julius Ariail (Lake Park/Valdosta, GA)
3. The Reverend Deacon Leeann Culbreath (Tifton, GA)
4. Bonnie Hanson (Valdosta, GA)
5. Caroline Hiers (Thomasville, GA)
6. Meg Hiers (Marietta, GA)
7. Phyllis Hiers (Valdosta, GA)
8. The Reverend Dave Johnson (Valdosta, GA)
9. Paul Johnson (Valdosta, GA)
10. Grady Lacy (Woodstock, GA)
11. Bill Querin (Valdosta, GA)
12. Fred Richter (Statesboro, GA)
13. Paul Stevenson (Valdosta, GA)
14. Erin Twomey (Adel, GA)

Destination: the village of El Pedregal (near the city of Jarabacoa – map).

Team Leaders: Julia Ariail, (229 563-0074; juliacariail@gmail.com) and Julius Ariail, (229 563-0209; julius.ariail@gmail.com.

Trip Dates: June 12-19, 2017.

Leidy and her son, Emanuel.

Projects: Our major projects for 2017 will be to build a house for Leidy Rosario, her fiancé Jesús Rosado, and their son Emanuel; to conduct Vacation Bible School and a “splash party” for the children of the village; to rebuild the basketball backboards and goals; and to conduct a veterinary clinic. We may add other small maintenance tasks at the Episcopal Campamento and service projects in the village depending on their feasibility and the amount of funds that we have for projects.

These projects have been approved by Padre Daniel Samuel, the priest in charge of the Campamento, and by the Rt. Rev. Julio C. Holguín, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic. The logistics of our trip and the work on these projects are being coordinated by the Dominican Development Group, a coordinating agency for the 50+ mission team from the US that work in the DR each year.

This is the site for the house we will build for Leidy and her family. To see an online album with a satellite map of the house site in the village and photos showing the progress on clearing this site and constructing the house, click here.

Specific Skills Desired

  • For all: A servant’s heart
  • Optional: Ability to do light construction work (concrete blocks, wooden roof rafters, metal roofing sheets, painting) under the direction of a Dominican supervisor
  • Optional: A love of working with children in a Vacation Bible School setting
  • Optional: Ability to speak Spanish (not required, but any Spanish proficiency level would be very helpful)

Joining the Team DEADLINE PASSED
If you are interested in information about our 2017 trip or in joining the team, contact either of the team leaders (contact information above) before December 6, 2016. A $200 nonrefundable deposit is required by December 6, 2016.

DEADLINES

December 6, 2016 DEADLINE PASSED
–Sign up for this trip with payment of a $200 nonrefundable deposit applicable to the cost of the flight.
–Send photocopy or PDF scan of passport ID pages to Julia. If you have gone before and nothing has changed, Julia can use the passport information she has on file for you.

February 1, 2017 DEADLINE PASSED
–Personal information form (click for Word file) | (click for PDF file)
–Medical information form (click for Word file) | (click for PDF file)

March 1, 2017 DEADLINE PASSED
–Deadline to pay the remainder of $740.86 for flight tickets for Valdosta travelers, payable by check to Christ Episcopal Church with notation “DR Mission Fund.” Mail or hand-deliver check to Christ Church, 1521 North Patterson Street, Valdosta GA 31602. For Atlanta travelers, flights have been scheduled and paid for as individual tickets through Debi Saeger at South Georgia Travel (229-244-2324).

April 1, 2017 DEADLINE PASSED
–Deadline to pay the mission team fee of $650.00. (See below)

Team Fee: In addition to paying for the airline ticket, there will be a team fee, payable by check to Christ Episcopal Church (mail check to Christ Church, 1521 North Patterson Street, Valdosta GA 31602). This team fee pays for in-country transportation, our room and board at the camp, the “splash party” for the children, some of the costs of our projects including the house construction, basketball goal repair, and Vacation Bible School supplies, plus the one-night stay in the hotel in Santo Domingo. You will need to bring funds to pay for lunch and dinner on Sunday in Santo Domingo, plus any items you might want to buy in El Pedregal or in Santo Domingo. As usual, Julius will have Dominican pesos to loan to team members anytime during the trip, with repayments in US dollars not due until after we return home on June 19.

Information about our flights (updated as of November 17, 2016)

We are adopting a new flight plan for 2017. We are not flying from Orlando. Most of us will fly on Delta from Valdosta (VLD) to Atlanta (ATL) and then on to Santo Domingo (SDQ). Some of us who live closer to Atlanta will meet the Valdosta group at the departure gate for the Santo Domingo flight. The Valdosta group will be on a group ticket arranged through Debi Saeger at South Georgia Travel (229-244-2324 OR 800-248-2324) in Valdosta. Debi will also arrange for individual tickets for the three Atlanta missioners. Debi is a longtime member of Christ Church, has much experience in the travel industry, and is a “home team” supporter of our DR mission work. South Georgia Travel offers travel insurance with Travel Insurance International. Costs of the travel insurance are based on age and medical condition. If you are interested, contact Debi (229-244-2324) after December 6.

The overall flight schedule (times revised as of 04/12/2017):

June 12, 2017 Delta 5501 VLD 5:40 a.m. –> ATL 6:46 a.m.
June 12, 2017 Delta 686 ATL 9:57 a.m. –> SDQ 1:19 p.m.

June 19, 2017 Delta 324 SDQ 2:29 p.m. –> ATL 6:03 p.m.
June 19, 2017 Delta 5611 ATL 8:55 p.m. –> VLD 10:00 p.m.

Date of our annual DR Mission Trip auction and dinner to raise funds for our trip expenses and scholarships for the Episcopal school in El Pedregal: February 23, 2017. Location: Cotton Corner event space in downtown Valdosta (101 North Ashley Street, 229-242-3157).

Other useful information documents (Note – these will be updated for the 2017 trip, but most of the information will be the same as for the 2016 trip):

VBS booklet for younger children 2017 content.

VBS booklet for older children 2017 content.

VBS information in English for mission teams 2017 content.

Prayer Booklet (English and Spanish) 2016 trip content.

Daily Readings (English) 2016 trip content.

Daily Readings (Spanish). 2016 trip content.

Suggested packing list 2017 trip content.

Lessons Learned Updated for our 2017 trip.

Team Roster and Prayer Partners Updated for our 2017 trip.

Communication plan while in the Dominican Republic. 2017 trip content.

Information about smartphones and laptops on the mission trip 2017 trip content.

Location of online photos during the trip. 2017 trip content.

Medical Information for Travelers to the Dominican Republic
For medical advice for travelers to the Dominican Republic, consult your personal physician or go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s site here: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/dominican-republic

– – – – –

Links to more information about our mission work in the Dominican Republic:

The summary report from our 2016 mission team with links to online photos.

Overview of Christ Church’s mission work in the Dominican Republic

Overview of the Diocese of Georgia’s mission work in the Dominican Republic May 2
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Sermon: “The Life that Really is Life” (September 25, 2016)

Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta
“The Life that Really Is Life” (1 Timothy 1:17-19)
September 25, 2016
Dave Johnson

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Back in the fall of 1995 my family and I lived in Wyoming.  A friend of mine from college named Kevin lived in Colorado Springs, and managed to score two tickets for a Denver Broncos versus the Oakland Raiders Monday Night Football game at the old Mile High Stadium.  So Steph and I loaded up our (then) two kids into our Honda Accord and headed south to Denver.

We stopped for lunch at Hardee’s in Cheyenne, and afterwards, as we were loading our fussy toddlers back into their car seats we were startled by a poor man standing behind us.  “Could you please spare a dollar or two for lunch?” he asked.  I was selfishly preoccupied about getting back on the road and irritable because, as you know, traveling with squawking toddlers is not always as fun as you might think.  “No!” I snapped at him, as I got into the car.

As we pulled out of the parking lot and headed back to the highway I felt like such a jerk—me, a minister of the gospel, acting like that to this poor man?  Really?  What a hypocrite!  So I turned the Honda around and went back to the Hardee’s parking lot, looking for the man…but I never found him.  “I’m so sorry, God,” I prayed, “please give me another chance.”

There is no getting around the central theme in today’s scripture readings—God’s command to look out for the poor.  The Old Testament prophet Amos warns “those who are at ease in Zion…those who lounge on beds of ivory…and anoint themselves with the finest oils” that because of their negligence of the poor “they shall now be the first to go into exile” (Amos 6:1a, 4-7). Continue reading

Daughters of the King Install 4 New Members

Daughters of the King Install 4 New Members
By Julia Ariail
Posted September 20, 2016

Daughters of the King at the September 18th installation. Click this image to see more photographs from this event.

Celebrating 29 years at Christ Episcopal Church, the Saint Nino Chapter of the Daughters of the King (DOK) installed Kathy Armstrong, Sandra Fletcher, Sally Honeycutt, and Dottie Pitts, on Sunday, September 18, 2016. The order was formally commissioned at Christ Church, Valdosta, on July 14, 1987. The original chapter consisted of 14 Daughters from the parish. The DOK serves Christ Church through a strong and faithful ministry of prayer.

The Christ Church Daughters of the King order currently has 48 members and meets twice a year. Patricia Bezona currently serves as president and treasurer, Julie Jackson as vice president, and Helen Tucker as secretary.

“Our sole purpose is prayer, evangelism, and service to the church accomplishing whatever Fr. Dave would have us to do,” said Pat Bezona. “We also follow the national guidelines and attend the diocesan meetings when they are held.”

On the website: <http://www.doknational.org/>, the national organization of the DOK publishes the following vision statement: Empowered by the Holy Spirit, our vision as Daughters of the King is to know Jesus Christ, to make Him known to others, and to become reflections of God’s love throughout the world.

The DOK emblem.

The Order of the Daughters of the King (DOK) is a spiritual sisterhood of women dedicated to a life of prayer, service, and evangelism. They have made a commitment to Jesus as Savior, and follow Him as Lord of their lives. They are an Order for women who are commun­icants of the Episcopal Church, churches in communion with it, or churches in the historic episcopate. Today the membership includes women in the Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran (ELCA) and Roman Catholic churches.

The Daughters of the King describe themselves as an order, not an organization. An order is a community under a religious rule; especially one requiring members to take solemn vows. They don’t just enroll as members and attend meetings; they take life-long vows to follow the Rule of Prayer and Rule of Service.

What is a rule? A rule is a pre­scribed guide for conduct or action by laws or regulations pre­scribed by the founder of a religious order for observance by its members.

The Order of the Daughters of the King was founded in 1885 by Margaret J. Franklin at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in New York City. Members of the order undertake a Rule of Life, incorporating the Rule of Prayer and Service.

The emblem of the Order is in the form of a modified Greek fleury cross inscribed in Latin, “Magnanimiter Crucem Sustine,” the watchword of the Order, meaning “With heart, mind and spirit uphold and bear the cross.” At the base of the cross are the letters “FHS”, initials that stand for the Motto of the Order: “For His Sake.”

Contact Pat Bezona about registering for the new DOK class and information on becoming a prayer partner at 229-242-8289 or pbezona@bellsouth.net.

Sermon: “God the Great Evangelist” (September 18, 2016)

Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta
“God the Great Evangelist” (1 Timothy 2:1-7)
September 18, 2016
Philip Ryan

This time of year I get incredibly homesick for the lush hills and woods of the Hudson Valley, where I am from in New York. I get especially homesick for my grandparents house an old victorian house on the Hudson River. Attached to the living room is a smaller room, more like a large closet, which has always been one of the most sacred places I know. It has a couple bookshelves, a small desk, and a chair. Next to the chair is a window overlooking my grandfather’s rose bushes and beside that is a little stand where my grandmother keeps some well worn Bibles, commentaries, and her prayer journal. I remember being very young and curious and I happened to find myself alone in that sacred closet one sunny fall afternoon. I flipped open her journal and written on the inside cover were the names of my whole family. All seven aunts and uncles and their spouses, the four cousins, and extended family and friends. My grandmother prays for everyone in the family, her friends, and women in her Bible study throughout the week. At that time my grandmother had been praying for her two sons to come to the Lord, for future grandchildren and their salvation, and many other requests. I often wondered growing up if those prayers were answered.

Paul’s encouragement to Timothy that the church should pray for “everyone” reminded me of that journal. We should pray sounds so Christian 101 not even Christian – Religion 101. Almost all religions emphasize prayer and communion with the divine. However, these aren’t instructions on how to commune with God, or request something from God, or even to be saved from some peril. Paul encourages Timothy to pray because it is evangelistic. Praying for everyone is a good thing because God our Savior desires everyone to be saved (v. 4). God is the great evangelist and he wants all people to come to the truth that Jesus Christ gave himself a ransom, he purchased our salvation Paul says in 1 Corinthians, so that we might have transformation, grace, and deliverance from our sins.

How are we to pray though? Paul simply says “pray.” Do we pray that bad things happen to someone so they are brought so low they need to cry out to God? I’ve thought that way. Do we pray to be endowed with clever words and all the answers to convince someone of the truth? I’ve done that also. No, we simply pray and remember that God saves. J. I. Packer famous Anglican theologian said, “I think that what you do is to pray in categorical terms that God will, quite simply and decisively save them: that He will open the eyes of their understanding, soften their hard hearts, renew their natures, and move their wills to receive the Savior…You entreat Him to do that very thing, and your confidence in asking rests upon the certainty that He is able to do what you ask.”

On that sunny afternoon when I looked in my grandmother’s prayer journal her chair was new. A few years ago when we went up to visit after our daughter was born, I got to spend time in that sacred space. My grandfather warned me not to sit in her chair, “If you sit in it you might break it and I don’t want to buy a new one.” Still being curious, I attempted to sit in her prayer chair. It bent funny showing which side she favored. If I leaned back too much it felt like the whole thing would flip over, and the armrests had elbow indents in them. The weight of thirty years of prayers had made their mark on that chair. Those prayers made their mark in our family as well. From that chair in upstate New York overlooking rosebushes, my grandmother prayed for heavy and hard things. I used to wonder if her prayers were answered. Those two sons I mentioned at the beginning, my uncles, they are both ministers now. I have several other aunts involved in ministry within their churches. We have twelve cousins now not four. Of the twelve, two are ministers, three are missionaries, and two more are involved in ministries with their churches. This isn’t a brag on how pious my family is. It is a boast in how great an evangelist God is and how he pursued my family through my grandmother’s prayers. A simple prayer for years and years, “God our Savior, save them.” Amen.