Preaching: Rebecca A. Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, July 24, 2016
Scripture Reference: Acts 1:6-8, John 17:17-26
Sermon: All My Days: The World
More and more I have been noticing how much I am looking down when making purchases. There’s a good chance I greet the cashier at the beginning, but sometimes I am still unloading my cart, or I am distracted by the kids that even then I’m not noticing who is helping me. It isn’t until after I put my SCRIP card away that I realize how much I have spent looking down at my purse, down at the keypad and never really seeing who is the cashier. As I finally look up to take my receipt I make a point to really notice who is standing before me and to say something. Each time it amazes me how absorbed I had become in my own thing to not really notice a person.
I thought about that when preparing for today and our prayer focus on “the world.” I think all too often, and all too easily, we become preoccupied with our own lives, our own commitments and needs that we fail to take the time, or even notice others around us, not to mention the world around us. To be honest, for most of us, it is probably fairly easy and common for us to offer prayers of intercession, lifting our worries and concerns for family and friends. Only as we progress in our prayer strand we are reminded to also pray for the world, to remember those beyond our immediate circle of connection.
The same invitation can be heard in our scripture readings today. In our scripture from Acts we find, once again, that the disciples aren’t all that different from us. They, too, are preoccupied with themselves and their own concerns, asking Jesus when Israel will be great again, when will the Kingdom be given back to Israel. Only that isn’t so much the concern or focus for Jesus. Rather, Jesus turns the disciples’ attention elsewhere. He reiterates the prayer he says in John, “I am sending you into the world as my witnesses.” It is a daunting task, to be sure, that starts at home, in familiar places, with people they know, but even so their work is to then go beyond to all of Judea, Samaria, and all the rest of the world. There is to be no boundary, no limits to the people the disciples are sent forth to reach and connect with, to share the love of Jesus with. They are to carry on the work of Jesus, sharing with others all that they know about Jesus.
The truth is it is no different for us. Our prayer bead for today is raising our eyes, our awareness, beyond ourselves and those we know to see all the others Christ has placed in our care. If anything, perhaps in some ways it is even easier for us to connect with people around the world, to be aware of what is happening beyond our own community. We now have the internet and all the dimensions of social media to keep informed of what is happening around the world. We travel with far greater ease such that health scares in foreign countries, like the Zika virus, are capable of and have reached our own country. Indeed we have been reminded once again in recent weeks just how connected we are with one another that the Brexit vote has an impact on our economy, or that the Syrian war is leading to millions of refugees in other countries.
Indeed, it is much easier for us to see and know more about the world Jesus is sending us into. Only all this information can leave us feeling very much afraid and uncertain about the world we are a part of. All the violence, all the anger, all those sick and dying can feel rather daunting. What difference can our prayers possibly make? How can we even begin to impact the world? Maybe it isn’t just praying for the environment or the poor, but buying fair trade coffee for the church. Maybe it isn’t just praying for those hit by earthquakes or flooding, but continuing to support UMCOR, who not only brings relief to troubled areas here in the United States, but all over the world. Maybe we don’t just pray for the sick and poor, but like our UMM we use our resources to help build wells that offer healthier lifestyles. Indeed we are connected with people all over the world, and Jesus calls us to be his witnesses, to share his love, to all ends of the earth.
Every time we come to this table we are reminded of that mission. When we gather as a community it is with an awareness that this is a table that stretches beyond this time and place. It is a feast that encompasses all the saints who have come before us, and our brothers and sisters around the world. Every time I come here to this table I find myself wondering who else has celebrated communion today, wondering what it has meant for them on this day. Through this table and meal we come to know Christ more fully so that we are able to answer the call.
With all the connections we have to learn about world events, we know just how much Christ’s love is needed, how much the goods news of Jesus Christ needs to be shared. It is not always clear how to do so, but through our prayers our eyes are lifted to see the ways Jesus is calling us to be witnesses, not just in Seymour and Black Creek, but to all ends of the world.