Sermon Archives

Rooted in Christ ~ Colossians 2:6-15, Luke 11:1-13

Jack Kornfield and Christian Feldman in their book Soul Food: Stories to Nourish the Spirit and the Heart, tell the following story:

When the Bishop’s ship stopped at a remote island for a day, he was determined to use the time as profitably as possible. He strolled along the seashore and came across three fishermen mending their nets. In Pidgin English they explained to him that centuries before they had been Christianized by missionaries. “We are Christians!” they said, proudly pointing to one another.

The bishop was impressed. Did they know the Lord’s Prayer? They had never heard of it. The bishop was shocked. “What do you say, then, when you pray?”

“We lift eyes to heaven. We pray, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’”

The bishop was appalled at the primitive, downright heretical nature of their prayer. So he spent the whole day teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. The fishermen were poor learners; but they gave it all they had, and before the bishop sailed away next day he had the satisfaction of hearing them go through the whole formula without a fault.

Months later the bishop’s ship happened to pass by those islands again and the bishop, as he paced the deck saying his evening prayers, recalled with pleasure the three men on that distant island who were now able to pray, thanks to his patient efforts. While he was lost in the thought he happened to look up and notice a spot of light in the east. The light kept approaching the ship and, as the bishop gazed in wonder, he saw three figures walking on the water. The captain stopped the boat and everyone leaned over the rails to see this sight.

When they were within speaking distance, the bishop recognized his three friends, the fishermen. “Bishop!” they exclaimed. “We hear your boat go past island and come hurry hurry to meet you.”

“What is it you want?” asked the awe-stricken bishop.

“Bishop,” they said, “we so, so sorry. We forget lovely prayer. We say, ‘Our Father in heaven, holy be your name, your kingdom come. . .’ then we forget. Please tell us prayer again.”

The bishop felt humbled. “Go back to your homes, my friends, he said, “and each time you pray, say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us!’”

The three fisherman in their simplicity knew instinctively that prayer to God is about being in relationship. At the core of the Lord’s Prayer formula is a call to be in relationship.

The Disciples ask Jesus: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

We are most familiar with Matthew’s version of this prayer; yet Luke pares down the formula allowing us to live into the expansiveness of our interconnectedness to God, all humanity, and creation. This prayer immediately places us in intimate relationship with God our ultimate parent/creator. Jesus used Abba for Father – not a formal title, rather an intimate papa, as a child closely embraced. The prayer calls forth the fullness of God’s desire for creation and our willingness to participate it its unfolding in our midst. God is the source of our life and very daily existence.

It acknowledges that our own well-being is intimately connected to all others, that we are forgiven and restored as we forgive and restore others. One cannot merely affect oneself, rather all are affected through this intimate interconnectedness. The prayer is “us” and “we”; as followers of the Christ we cannot be seduced to merely pray for me; myself and I; or see the world as us and them; rather Christ reveals that all humanity and creation are of the same source – the pre-existent Christ Himself, Whom we know in the bodily form of Jesus.

Our text from Colossians expands this view. Jesus the Christ is not merely one more teacher or prophet, he is the very embodiment of God in our midst. This letter written to the Church at Colossae in the first century might just as well have been written by a budding quantum physicist.

In the first Chapter of Colossians is written: “Jesus the Christ is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible….all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things and in him all things hold together.”

The way I understand this is that everything seen and unseen, all creation, and we ourselves were formed out of the very substance of the Christ, and when Jesus was born into the world – Emmanuel – he became God with us.

It was like God giving gene therapy to God’s creation. The pure source of being was birthed back into the world to bring healing and restoration. Not some militant messiah, come to save a portion of people and dominate the rest; rather a Messiah/Christ giving fully of himself to restore well-being to all humanity and creation.

With that image in mind, how could our prayers be solely about ourselves? For even as individuals we are ever part of the whole.

Father/Mother, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.

We are called to participate actively with God; God’s Spirit; Jesus the Christ; being transformed ourselves and being a part of the transformation of others and all creation.

Our faith in Christ is that vital and that powerful.

Drawing on quantum thought again, when the writer talks about a substance that is in all and from which everything is created, for me, that is the Christ. Quantum thought challenges us to think of everything being interconnected, as energy flowing beyond time and space; past, present and future existing simultaneously; at the subatomic level an action here instantly causing an action on the other side of the globe. This sounds much like the writings of Colossians or the writings of the early mystics or Gospel of John.

I encourage you to play with many of these images in the context of your faith. For the images we keep in our mind directly affect our thoughts, words, actions. When we see everyone and everything in all creation as formed of the same substance that we know as the Christ, how differently we relate to one another and the world.

I’d like to offer two Christ light imagery prayers that help to ground us and transform our way of relating to ourselves, others, God and creation.

First, a prayer that I say each morning. For me prayer isn’t merely in my mind but always involves conscious positioning of my body, often accompanied with some gesture or movement. This prayer involves hand arm gestures.

I begin with my right hand palm over my heart. Then I extend my right arm straight forward, palm forward, saying:
The light of Christ before me;

I extend my left arm backward, palm backward, saying:
the light of Christ behind me;

Extending both arms  out right and left, with palms facing opposite directions, I pray:
the light of Christ to my right and left; 

Raising my right arm up, palm up, and lowering my left arm, with palm  facing the ground, I pray:
the light of Christ above and below me;

With my hands on top of one another, I place my palms over my heart, saying:
the light of Christ fill me;

Placing my palms together as in prayer, with my head bowed, I pray:
the light of Christ heal and protect me. Amen.

Please join with me:

The light of Christ before me;
the light of Christ behind me;
the light of Christ to my right and left;
the light of Christ above and below me;
the light of Christ fill me;
the light of Christ heal and protect me. Amen.

The second prayer utilizes the image of a tree. The scriptures are filled with images of trees and their centrality to health and life of all creation. In many Native American spiritualties, trees are believed to be our spiritual next of kin in creation.

For this prayer it doesn’t matter what tree image you choose, it can be big or small, deciduous or coniferous, just choose a tree that is important to you. I’ll invite you to close your eyes during the prayer but if you are not comfortable sitting with your eyes closed gently pick a spot in front of you to softly hold your gaze.

Please close your eyes.

In your mind’s eye imagine that tree,
see yourself standing within it as a template,
allow yourself to grow roots deep within the earth,
then feel the branches growing out to fill the trees canopy,
finishing off with needles or leaves.

Now draw the light of Christ from the earth,
up through your roots flowing to your heart;
and from above draw the light of Christ down
through your leaves or needles through the branches to your heart.

The energy flows and mixes in the heart
and then flows over your shoulders and out your hands.

Take a moment to be with this image
and to feel the light of Christ flowing through you;
centering, calming, nurturing and restoring you.

Please open your eyes.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ: No matter what words you choose, or what images you use; open yourself to the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ our Lord, allowing yourself to be transformed and to participate in the transformation of this world. You are intimately connected with God, creation and all humanity; live into this reality. And may your prayer life be active and life changing.

[Rev. Adams closed by singing the song: “On Holy Ground.”]

 

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