Grace and peace be with you all from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.
Everything has changed.
At least this is how we all feel.
In the past week so much of our day to day lives have been altered, reshaped, and rearranged.
Just a couple of weeks ago I never would have thought that I would be leading worship in this way.
But here we are.
Accepting life as it is and worshiping together in this new way.
And grateful that we can still be together as the Body of Christ.
Even though so much has changed what has not changed is the Good News of the Gospel of God’s forgiving and transforming love.
The promise of new life through God’s son Jesus Christ, is still real for us today.
The Holy Spirit is still at work in our lives and in the life of the world
– making possible for the manifestation of the true gifts of hospitality, friendship, compassion, and peace.
What the church needs at all times and especially in challenging and difficult times is the clarity of vision and purpose.
It is was great intentionality that our church continues to move forward in light of God’s presence among us.
Now is the time to strengthen our congregation and to diligently be about the work of prayer.
In thinking about prayer sometimes it is helpful to look to the lives of Christians from history in order to glean some new insight.
In this way we can learn how they prayed especially during difficult time.
This past week I went to the writings of Julian of Norwich.
Julian lived during the Middle Ages.
Julian was a writer and Christian mystic meaning that she experienced God in very real and visible ways.
In her life she witnessed so much suffering including the devastating effects of a terrible plague that greatly impacted the lives of so many people at that time.
In her book, Revelations of Divine Love she writes:
“The Lord wants us both to pray and to trust in God. God wants us to pray with sure trust. Prayer makes a person calm and humble. Prayer unites the soul to God.
When a person is troubled or isolated by distress the soul is troubled. When that happens it is time to pray in order to make oneself open to God. When we pray and surrender to God, God’s will becomes known to us.
God turns to us in prayer and says, ‘I am glad that you came to me, for I have always loved you, and love you now, and you love me.’
Through prayer the soul is united to God.”
Those words were from Julian of Norwich again from her book Revelations of Divine Love.
That books happens to also be the earliest surviving book in the English language that was written by a women.
The book is so influential to Christian spirituality that it was required reading when I was in seminary.
This past week I picked up that book once again and started reading.
I find those words in particular really spoke to me and so I pass on her words to you this day.
Being about the work of prayer keeps our faith alive and having a live and active faith gives us hope.
In my sermons I often encourage us to be regularly praying and to be people of prayer.
Now more than ever I invite us to be praying.
We are awakened at this time to the needs of those around us.
We are awakened to our own needs and our vulnerabilities.
We are awakened to our own needs for healing and our great need for God.
In the Gospel reading that I read to you this morning Jesus is healing the people.
Then when it is very early in the morning Jesus gets up and goes to a quiet place to pray.
There at that quiet, solitary place we can assume that Jesus poured out his heart to God in prayer.
We do not know what he said but we know that he needed to be about the work of prayer.
He needed to be with his Father in prayer in the midst of the healing work that he was doing.
I love this text from Mark.
I turn to it often but one thing that really struck me this time that I read it is that, in the Bible, his time of prayer is sandwiched between healing people.
Jesus is healing Simon’s mother-in-law who is suffering from a fever.
Jesus is healing people in the town and he is casting out demons.
Then Jesus goes off to pray.
Then he is at it again.
Immediately after we hear about Jesus praying only a few verses later in the text Jesus heals a man with leprosy.
Healing and prayer go together.
During this time of great uncertainty and confusion we need to be about the work of prayer.
In Romans 12: 12 we hear that we are to be joyful in our hope, patient during times of trouble, and faithful in prayer.
May we all be faithful in prayer.
In conclusion I leave us with these three instructions.
First, this week create quiet space for prayer.
Pray for those who are greatly impacted by the Coronavirus. Pray for more peace and understanding in the world. Pray for healing and for an end to the Coronavirus. Pray so that your faith might be strong at this time.
Secondly, consider being a part of a prayer group.
I will be inviting people to become a part of a prayer group to pray for our congregation and for the needs of others during this time.
Look for a church email this coming week on this prayer group. If you are interested, send me an email back and I will create an email prayer group list. In this group I will be regularly sending out prayer requests and Scripture verses. The people in this group will be our Williams Bay Lutheran Prayer Warriors. This group will be praying over us during this challenging time.
Lastly, reach out to a neighbor, a family member, or a friend this week and ask them if you could pray for them this week.
Make the phone call and reach out! This is the time to be bold. Don’t shy away from asking someone this week.
Ask someone this week if they need prayer. Prayer is a healing thing at this time. Be a part of this powerful gift that God has given us.
And so I repeat myself: this coming week create a quiet space for personal prayer with God.
Secondly, consider becoming a part of the Williams Bay Lutheran prayer group.
Lastly, reach out to someone this week who is in some kind of need and offer to pray for him or her.
People of God, I leave us with these verses from Scripture:
First from Ephesians 1: 18: I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.
And again from Ephesians this time from Ephesians 6:18: Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Then the Apostle Paul goes on in verse nineteen with these words: Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make know the mystery of the Gospel.
Those words were from the Apostle Paul but I humbly ask that you might pray those very words for me this week that I would be able to continue preaching the Gospel at this time.
Finally, I leave you with hope from the prophet Jeremiah.
These are God’s words to God’s people in exile.
This promise from God speaks to us especially well on this day.
This is from Jeremiah chapter 29 beginning at verse 11:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you declares the Lord.
This week stay strong in faith, in hope, and especially in prayer.
May God be with us now and walk with us protecting and guiding us.