In just two weeks, I’ll be heading out on my three-month sabbatical. Back when we were working on a grant proposal to fund the sabbatical I had to come up with a theme. So, I chose the theme – “Reclaiming a Founding Vision.” Over the past year, even after we didn’t get the grant, I’ve been reworking this theme. So as I go out on my sabbath journey, I plan to explore my own spiritual roots. I also plan to spend some time considering Central Woodward’s spiritual roots.
The theme for this year’s General Assembly emerged from this very passage of Scripture – “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.” It was a good theme for us to take up as we entered once again into important but often difficult conversations. It is always good to bathe our conversations in prayer. After all, we come together as followers of Jesus who seek to be in relationship with the living God. Sometimes we forget that this is true. Our prayers become perfunctory rituals. We offer a quick word to God, assuming God is paying attention, and then we get on with business, often forgetting that we’ve invited God into the conversation.
Wouldn’t it be nice if God spoke to you, like God apparently spoke to Elijah? As a preacher, it would be nice to stand before you each Sunday and say: “I have a direct Word from the Lord?” Or, as Elders or Trustees or the Council, we could turn to God and say – what do you want us to do? And then, God would send us a message from heaven, either in an audible voice or maybe as a Tweet, telling us where to go and what to do.
Several weeks ago Pope Francis stirred up some more controversy. As you may have noticed, he seems to be very good at doing this. What caught people by surprise this time was who he included among the redeemed in Jesus. He didn’t just include good Catholics or Christians in general. He didn’t even stop with people who participate in the world’s great religions. No, he didn’t stop until he included even the atheist who does good.