This week’s memory verse: Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.John 16:24

Pray the week: Lord, Grant that I may be confident and faith filled in approaching Your Throne of Grace. Help me to persevere.

Be annoying to
God.

I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was arrested for his challenges to the leaders of Athens. His student, Plato, recorded Socrates defense in the “Apology,” essentially the speech given by Socrates in court. As Socrates speaks he tells of the life he had lead, who he was, and his duty.

Socrates uses metaphor and compares himself to a gadfly and the state of Athens to a sluggish horse: “as upon a great noble horse, which was somewhat sluggish because of its size, and needed to be stirred up by a kind of gadfly.” The gadfly is irritating. Everyone wants to get rid of the gadfly, but by its constant buzzing and stinging it awakens the one being annoyed.
The gadfly gets attention. Socrates told the court and the people that his being a gadfly is a gift given to them by the gods.

As we meet Abraham again, God in His presence is about to go off and destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham becomes a gadfly to God. He is annoying, and he keeps at it. Five times he ask the Lord: What if there are only…

Similarly, by parable, Jesus tells us that this is perfectly fine. He tells us that the Father is open and accepting of our coming to Him in prayer and petition, even if we begin thinking we are annoying: he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

One of the hardest things we face in life is asking for the things we need. It is like taking the last piece of chicken or the last chocolate. We are afraid to grab after it and claim it. We hesitate to ask for a raise at work or for affection from someone we care about. We may feel unworthy, overly self-deprecating, or too shy. In the end we feel unworthy – how much more with God. He won’t hear or listen to me, who am I?

Abraham too was a little afraid, but he did press on. Jesus reassures us that we are perfectly right to press on, to be persistent, to be a gadfly to God. We are God’s adopted children. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Jesus, God Himself, encourages us to approach the Throne of Grace, to storm heaven, to pray. Not just that, but we are to pray with confidence and persistence. St. Paul reminds us: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Yes, it is God’s will that we be those gadflies. The Father is not apart or immune from His children, which we are in Jesus. He will not hand us a rock or a snake. He will give that which we seek and ask for persistently and with faith. Let us keep at it.

Click on the attached Master Schedule of Summer Meals sites in Schenectady and a Schedule of sites by neighborhood. For the site nearest you, please call United Way’s 2-1-1 or text FOOD to 877-877.

Sites in Mont Pleasant include:

  • Faith Deliverance Tabernacle, 1028 Ostrander Place, 6/27-8/12, 12:15-1:30
  • Mont Pleasant Library—Mobile Site*, 1026 Crane Street, 6/27-9/2, 2:10-2:30
  • New Day Christian Empowerment Center, 1259 Chrisler Avenue, 6/27-9/2, 12:30-1:45
  • Orchard Park—Mobile Site*, 733 Orchard Street, 6/27-9/2, 1:45-2:00
  • Quackenbush Park, Forest Road, 7/5-8/19, 11:45-1:00
  • Wallingford Park, Congress & 5th Street, 6/27-8/26, 12:45-2:00

*Look for the SICM Mobile Meals Truck

God
visits!

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot. Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, he said: “Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant.”

There is so much symbolism in these few words of scripture.

This is one of those moments where an Old Testament encounter foreshadows the truth of the Holy Trinity revealed in Jesus. That is something great in and of itself. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit come to Abraham’s camp and God is revealed as He is.

God is acting as if He is passing through. Abraham feels the presence of God and extends hospitality. He asks nothing more than that the Lord stay awhile. We can certainly understand and connect with that. We want God present and active in our lives. Lord, just stay with me awhile. Take hold of me. Abraham states it in words we might use: “Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant.”

The terebinth of Mamre is a large oak tree. Terebinth is translated oak. We know that is where Abraham established his camp. The oak – symbolic of strength, courage and power – the most powerful of all trees, the mighty oak stands strong through all things. We desire God as our strength. Hold me up Lord, support me, and guide me through al things.

Abraham had their feet washed. He ran to Sarah and asked her to prepare bread. He had a servant prepare meat. He ran to fetch curds and milk – Abraham brought both fresh milk (probably from the camels) and sour milk (from the sheep – which is particularly refreshing in a hot climate), and this with the cakes and the calf made a stately meal. With noble courtesy he waited on them under the tree while they ate. We want to serve God in our charity towards others and through our worship.

This is most particularly a beautiful, heartwarming, and comforting encounter between man and God. Very appropriate for the season too; Abraham was trying to catch a little rest and coolness as the day grew hotter. Suddenly God was there, at Abraham’s doorstep. Key to us is God’s desire to encounter and be with us; to refresh us. Our God visits His people – not through weird visions and a Jesus with rays beaming out of Him – but in a very real way. He is with us in our homes, on the road, in good times and tragedy. He is not, as the song states, ‘looking on from a distance.’ Rather, God is revealed, present and active, strong and supportive, alive in all we serve. Not far. Here as He is!

This week’s memory verse: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?Psalm 56:3-4

Pray the week: Lord, Grant me faith trust; knowledge of Your all pervading presence and power and full trust in it.

Where is
God?

“For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”

This week we experienced great joys at the annual Kurs encampment for the Church’s youth and children. We grew in faith and knowledge of the Lord. We focused our reverence on God alone.

This week we experienced great sadness at the prejudice that still exists in our country – the great American sin or as author and Christian activist Jim Wallis titles his book – America’s Original Sin. This week we also experienced great shock as one man decided to fight violence with violence, who took up the cause of hatred and wrought death instead of peace, reconciliation and life.

It is easy to see God at work when young hearts are opened, when barriers are broken down, when a person comes to the realization that God is with them. But, when we look at divided cultures and gridlocked power structures that fail to end systemic sin or worse yet, encourage sin and death, we feel that God is far from us.

That is the problem with expecting that we can “feel” God’s intervention. Sure, it is easy in good or joyous times to feel God. It might even be possible in times of tragedy; we run to the Lord to feel His comfort. But what about times such as these where we are hammered day-by-day with evil? What about times when our leaders and those with responsibility fail to stop and root out evil, or worse yet, condone it?

If we were to rely on feelings we would be tossed about like little boats on the sea. Up and down, He’s there; He’s not there. I don’t know. Moses got that. He knew that God had been with Israel through their exodus, before the enemy, in time of famine, thirst, sickness, and death. He had been there when Israel turned its back and ran away, even when they completely failed to trust in the Lord. Moses saw with eyes that had been taught by faith. It took him awhile, but he finally got it.

Like Moses we must build and renew our faith trust. Faith trust tells us that God is with us, not up in the sky, nor across the sea. No, very near to us. Faith trust tells us that He will answer us. With faith trust we will not loose heart in confronting evil. With faith trust we are secure even in the face of certain death. With faith trust we will see God act mightily in our life. Don’t just hope that we might feel His presence. Know He is here.

What will stop
Jesus?

At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”

Thirty-six, what can we do with thirty-six? With thirty-six dollars we could hire an actuary, a Sports Agent, or a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator for an hour. We could hire a Physical Therapist for an hour’s treatment. We could buy a fairly good meal at a good restaurant. We could get three drinks at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa. We could get a whole mess of stuff at our local dollar store. The point is that with thirty-six dollars we couldn’t do a lot. We would be limited. Thirty-six isn’t a lot.

What could Jesus accomplish with only a few? This is a powerful moment. Jesus cuts His first followers loose on the world. He sends them out. There are only seventy-two. Thirty-six pairs of disciples who go out to witness and proclaim the kingdom.

What was it about these thirty-six ordinary pairs of people? They’d listened to Jesus for a while. Not exactly like going to college or a long-term course of study. Jesus’ instructions aren’t even that detailed. So what would these thirty-six be able to do?

Jesus gave them an essential mission. Tell people who receive you: ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ They went and they did it – then came back rejoicing. They were successful. They focused on one thing that Jesus asked and that was all that was needed. The word was spread. By this proclaiming people came to know about the kingdom. A kingdom they had part of by their faith.

We might now think, wow, with only thirty-six pairs of people so much seems to have been done. Unfortunately things did not get great immediately. Things went backwards. Once the Great Preacher and Teacher was arrested, tried, and killed many ran away. Was it fear or no earthly kingdom? We cannot say for sure, but in the end twelve counting Judas’ replacement and a handful of supporters were left in the upper room.

We know the story – they were filled by the Holy Spirit and preached the Kingdom to the ends of the earth. Yet they were only twelve. They were small, uneducated, and unpopular. They went out like lambs among wolves. Within days some would be arrested. One was already dead. But nothing stopped them. Nothing was more powerful than their faith. They were victorious because regardless of obstacles faith overcame. And their names are written in heaven.

Still on the on-time newsletter streak. How many months is it?

And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” Summer is about preparation. Going on a picnic? Having a barbecue? Friends coming over to sit on the deck or hit the pool? Heading off to the beach or on vacation? Going on a summer walk?
We gather food, charcoal (if you are old school like me), sunblock, bug spray, our more colorful clothes (I’m getting my Hawaiian shirts ready). Summer joy is about two things – preparation for joy and getting to that place where we can be joyful. This summer let us reflect on our spiritual preparedness and to focus on what that preparedness will bring for us – true and eternal joy. This summer, as we gather food, let us reflect on the food of everlasting life – in Word and Communion. As we put on sunblock, let us block the evils that challenge our faith. As we spray away the bugs, let us push away the things that sting our soul. And, prepare that colorful garment for the joys of the kingdom.

Also in our newsletter, prayers for Orlando, a huge thanks to the Matsiko Orphan Choir, a Year of Reverence update, a happy summer to our youth – we are off to Kurs and Convo, our parish and community picnic on the church grounds on Sunday, August 21st, and special thanks to all those who pitched in at PolishFest. So much more too…

You may view and download a copy of our July 2016 Newsletter right here.