Knocking at the Door
Luke 11:1-13 and Psalm 139:1-10
Dramatic Presentation by the Cross I'd Players
The Lord's Prayer Our Father who art in heaven . . . . . .Yes?(Muttering) ""Our Father who art in heaven . . . ... . . . . .Yes, what can I do for you? Who's talking? Leave me alone. I'm praying. But you called me. God? But, but . . . . .you just don't sound like yourself. How am I supposed to sound? You know, kind of . . . . ..Masculine? You know better than that; as you have studied your Bible, you should have realized that I'm neither male nor female; I'm both and more!! When are you people going to realize that your human language can never describe me. Using just one image is . . . . oh, sorry, I didn't mean to lecture! Now, what is it you called me for? I didn't call you. I'm praying; you know, ""Our Father who art in heaven . . .""There, you did it again. Did what? Called me. Here I am. What's on your mind? But I didn't mean anything by it. I was just, you know, just saying my prayers for the day. We're supposed to say the Lord's prayer. It makes me feel good, like I've accomplished something, . . . . . you know like brushing my teeth or taking our the garbage. Right. Well, go on. ""Hallowed by thy name. . . . .""What do you mean by that? By what? ""Hallowed be thy name. ""It means . . . . .it means. . . . I don't know what it means. How should I know? I didn't write the doggone thing. It's just part of the prayer. < pause> By the way, what does it means? It means honored, holy, wonderful. Huh. Makes sense. I never thought about it before. ""Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."" Do you really mean that? Sure, why not? What are you doing about it? Doing? What am I supposed to do? . . . it's your kingdom. I just think you should get control of things down here.Do you really pay attention to the sermons here? What was that you said to the pastor a couple of weeks ago about kingdom? I really liked that! You said I am not in this alone! Besides, do I have control of you? Do you even want me to have control of you? Uhhhh, I don't know. You haven't been sleeping too well lately, have you? You seem to be trying to handle everything by yourself. Sometimes I think that you think that you are me! Hey, leave me alone! Did I ask for anything? Well, as a matter of fact, you did. I distinctly heard you say ""Thy will be done."" So I figured I'd start my will with you. Oh, yeah. I suppose you are right. . . There are probably a few things I could change . . . Just a few? OK, OK, give me a break. There are some things I really would like to change about myself. Good now we are getting somewhere. We'll work together, you and I. You'd be surprised how much we can accomplish together. . . This is taking a lot longer than usual. Let's get on with it. ""Give us this day our daily bread."" Maybe we need to talk a little about that bread, girl. I haven't seen you worrying too much about doing without it! Let's not get too comfortable! Hey, hey! What is this, criticize the little girl day? If I want grief I''ll talk to my parents. When I talk to you, I want to feel good about myself. You want to feel good about yourself? Get a dog. Praying isn't all about feeling good! It's about having a relationship with me- - maybe even listening once in a while for what I have to say to you! It can be a dangerous thing. YOU could wind up changed you know. . . Well, you called me, here I am, and it's too late to stop now. Go on, I can't wait for the next part. . . Go on. I'm not sure I want to. Why not? Because I know what you'll say.""Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."" Aha! Could there be something you need to forgive? Do you need a little forgiveness? Doggone it, now, I was the one who was done wrong! I've got every right to be mad! But what about your prayer? What about it? It's not much fun carrying bitterness around in you, is it? No, not really. But man, sometimes I really would like to get even. You won't feel any better, trust me. Think of how unhappy you are now. You'll feel worse. Revenge isn't sweet. But you can change all of that. How? Let go of the anger. Forgive others. Then you will be able to accept my forgiveness of you. But they never said they're sorry. What they did was wrong! Maybe. If they don't say they're sorry, then the anger and bitterness will be their problem, not yours. You can't control what others do, only what you do. Yeah, but just let me tell you what they did . . . . It's too late. What do you mean it's too late? They've already talked to me about it. Huh? What did they say? I don't really remember - - I don't keep a list, you know. Let's see - - it was something about you being selfish, and, unreasonable. Wait a minute, that's not . . . . I'm not selfish and unreasonable. I'd say they were the ones who were manipulative and unreasonable. And while you're both rolling in the mud and feeling self-righteous, nothing is changed, right? OK, OK, I get the picture. You know, the truth is that the more I think about it, the madder I get, the more sleep I lose and the less gets done. Now you're getting it! Feel better? NO! But I'll probably sleep better tonight. Yeah, it doesn't get better all at once. Anger is a lot like a flooded basement. It takes a long time for all the water to drain out. But go on, you''re not through with your prayer yet. Oh, all right. ""And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."" That's easy: don't put yourself in a place where you can be tempted! What does that mean? You know very well what distracts you, what tempts you from doing the right thing. A recovering addict . . . . Now I am an addict??? No, but you can be a pretentious snob. Just because your temptations are more subtle than booze or drugs doesn't mean they are any less dangerous, deadly or addictive. May I continue now?
> Source Unknown for Dramatic Presentation
We just don't expect God to answer us, do we? We go through the motion of praying and often tell God what is on our mind, but just don't really expect to hear God speaking to us or answering our prayers.
When a nightclub opened on Main Street, the only church in a small town organized an all-night prayer meeting. The members asked God to destroy the club. A short time later lightening struck that nightclub and it burned to the ground. The members of the church rejoiced. However, the owner of the club was angry and sued the church for being responsible for the night club's destruction. The church said, why they had absolutely nothing to do with the fire - it was lightening. The case went to court. After hearing both sides of the story, the judge said, it seems that wherever the guilt may lie, the tavern owner is the one who really believes in prayer, while the church doesn't. Ah yes, like Emerson in today's drama we really don't expect God to answer our prayers. So why do we pray?
In today's Gospel reading Jesus is teaching the disciples how to pray and then telling them to be persistent in prayer. When I hear the word persistent I think of nagging - like a child begging and pleading. Could Jesus be saying that we need to nag God like the persistent intruder in the scripture passage who wakes his neighbor up to get some bread for a late night visitor. Even after the neighbor tells him to go away the persistent intruder continues to knock at the door until his request is granted.
In a way this parable has always disturbed me. What are we to take from this? That God is like a grumpy friend at midnight who doesn't want to be disturbed. That God is like a neighbor who requires us to beg and knock at the door in order to get our needs met. This view doesn't make sense to me.
First of all, why would I need to beg and plead with God to hear me? Doesn't God know my thoughts before I utter them? Hasn't God always known me - even before I was born. Isn't God always with me? And prayer certainly can't be about buttering God up, for I know that God loves me already, and has always loved me. In fact, there is nothing in all creation that can separate me from God's love.
So, what is this persistence about and why the need for prayer? First of all, let's agree that prayer is much more than the words that we say to God. Prayer is all the things that we do and say in our relationship with God. In fact, our relationship with God is prayer.
So that makes me believe that the story Jesus is telling is not a story about the right technique for prayer, but rather about our side of a right relationship with God. God's part of the relationship has already been fulfilled. God sent us Jesus to live among us and to heal and teach and save us. So, I think this parable must be about our side of the relationship. Our part of the deal must involve being persistently aware of all that God has done for us and the close relationship that God desires to have with us. It requires that we expect to hear God speaking to us. Yes, God is still speaking.
God is still speaking is the exciting new television ad campaign that the United Church of Christ will begin airing on December 1st. You'll be hearing a lot more about this in the coming weeks. But, the important thing to note is that we in the United Church of Christ do believe that God is still speaking ... God has spoken throughout the ages and God continues to speak - we only need to tune in, to listen, and hear God's love for us.
Well I do pray, because I believe that God always answers prayer. I pray because it makes me feel closer and more connected to God. I know God is always connected to me, but I am not always connected God. I pray to remind myself of that connection. I pray to build my side of the relationship. Yes, that's why I pray. Oh my prayers and your prayers may not be answered in the way that I want, or hope for, or even ask for. They may not bring a physical cure, but the effects of prayer can bring a sense of peace, comfort, and insight. Prayer can release those built up emotions and allow us to be cleansed and healed. Healed of our emotional pain and comforted by God.
There is an old expression all of us have heard: Prayer changes things. Prayer changes things - ah that's true. But even more importantly, prayer changes people. The truth is that prayer changes the pray -er. Yes, the person who is offering the prayer is changed.
Eight years ago this past summer I sat in the chapel at Good Shepherd Hospital where I had been doing my chaplaincy. It had been an intensive summer in which I learned so much about myself. I had discovered gifts for ministry I didn't know I had. I was nearing the end of my long journey toward graduation and I found myself often wondering what I was going to do with this seminary education. I liked to have things under control, so, I wanted to figure this all out as well. That day, I sat in the chapel contemplating my future... and I remember saying - " Now what, God? You know, God, I never really saw myself as a pastor, I started this whole seminary journey just to learn more about Christian Education.... and now what's this all about?" " Where are you leading me?" "What do you plan to do with me?" And by the way, you know I love teaching -- I'm just not ready to leave the classroom, and I feel that is a calling too - so now what?" Now what?" I sat there deep in thought- not really expecting God to answer me. In fact, I probably had been too busy babbling to even hear God, if God was trying to reach me. I walked out of the chapel and went about my morning rounds.
After lunch I was sitting in the chaplain's office when the phone rang. It was Lavon Bayler -- Lavon was the Fox Valley Association Minister at the time. After chatting briefly, she told me she had something for me to think about. Carla Grosch, had just resigned as associate pastor at FCC Elgin and she wondered if she could suggest my name to Don Schmidt, the senior pastor. It would be for an interim position with a focus on Christian Education. I said, "Oh, I couldn't possibly do that - I still have to finish up my seminary classes next fall and spring and of course I am still teaching full-time." She said something like, they don't need many hours and just talking with Don would be a good experience." I remember her adding if nothing else it would help me prepare for future interviews. I had to admit that I had always admired First Congregational Church of Elgin. So, I reluctantly agreed to let her give my name to Don. Incidently, I didn't know Don Schmidt at all.
Two days later Don called and wanted to meet with me. I told him I had thought more about it and I really didn't think that I had the time to do the job. He said, "Why don't you just come in and we'll chat, we can be real flexible about this." A few days later, while driving to Elgin, I thought, there is no way that I have time to teach, go back and forth to seminary and work in Elgin. I am crazy even taking the time to talk about this.
I met with Don and he talked passionately about FCC, and about it's commitment to the downtown community. He talked about PADS, the Soup Kettle, and the Crisis Center and about the wonderful people in the congregation. I was very excited about the ministry of the church, and thought this is just the kind of place I want to do ministry. I said, "Wow!"It sounds wonderful, but I just don't have the time to do the job." Don said, "You know, we really don't need much - could you do about 6 - 8 hours a week -- maybe just Sundays? I left saying I'd think about it.
On the way home I thought I am crazy. I can't believe I'm even thinking about this. How could I possibly make this happen. And then I had an ah ha experience. Oh my goodness, was this God nudging me? Was it God's answer to the question I had posed in the chapel just a week before - Now what? Was God actually speaking to me. I had never really expected an answer to that question in the chapel. You know I was the one who was going to put it all together. I was the organizer. As I thought back , I had the shocking realization (for the first time)that, in fact, I had received the phone call from Lavon on the same day I had been praying in the chapel? Not only did God hear my prayer, but God had lined things up pretty quickly. What did this mean? Could I say No? Worse yet, could I say, Yes? How would this all work? I realized that I couldn't make this happen, but that God could. It wasn't my will, but God's will. Well, as they say, the rest is history. Six to eight hours quickly increased to twelve - fifteen hours. The search committee spent more than a year looking for the right full-time associate pastor. They had asked me to consider interviewing for the full-time position, but I wanted to continue my teaching career. After my seminary degree was completed, I was again approached and this time asked if I would consider staying on as the called associate pastor on a half-time basis. I was thrilled. Phew! God sure works in mysterious ways.
I have to tell you, that was one of those profound experiences, one in which I grew to recognize that God is still speaking. God is still listening too. Oh, I wish I could say that I am always in tune with God, always persistent in my relationship, but of course that isn't the case. Much of the time it seems as if I get so caught up in the busyness and distractions of life that I am numb to the expressions of God around me. Yes, I am most often like the pray-er in that Lord's prayer drama unaware and not really expectant, maybe even feeling a bit disconnected.. Oh , I must keep focusing, listening, tuning into God. What about you? Remember ...God is still
Copyright © 10/24/2004 Lois A. Bucher
First Congregational UCC, Elgin