Sermon – 6th Sunday after Trinity

Prayer – 24th July 2022

Colossians 2 vv 6 – 19 – Freedom, through Christ, from regulation

Luke 11 vv 1 – 13 – Jesus’ teaching on prayer

  1. Introduction.          In our Gospel reading, having given his disciples, that is us, what we know as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus goes on to some teaching on intercessory prayer.   He has three memorable words – Ask, Seek, Knock.   They are interrelated.   I’m going to be perverse and look at them in reverse order, Knock, Seek, Ask.
  • 2. Knock.         Have you ever had a neighbour knocking on the door or ringing the door bell after you have gone to bed, wanting a loaf of bread or other food to give to an unexpectant visitor?   (opportunity to respond –John will bring a microphone.  No one responded).   I have been in the position of waking up strangers when I was driving late at night with a friend, as passenger, from Cambridge to RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire, after we had been to a college dinner in Cambridge.   I rounded a corner of the road in my, even then, old, 1928 Alvis, to be met by an array of double reflectors, a few feet above the road.  Pause  There was a herd of cattle loose on the road.  As a farmer’s son, I knew that I had to do something about this.   I could see a track leading up to what might be a farmhouse.   I got no response to the door knocker, so picked up some gravel from the drive and gently threw it up at a first-floor window, judging that might be the main bedroom.   After an interval a man appeared at the window.  I told him about the cattle. He told me that they were not his but he knew whose they probably were and would ring his neighbouring farmer.   He thanked me for alerting him.   The point of Jesus’ story is of course that God doesn’t sleep.   He doesn’t need to have stones thrown at his window.   He is always open to our prayer.   How inconvenient it would be in these days of a worldwide Church if it were otherwise.   The churches in China, New Zealand and the Pacific islands would have to hold their Sunday services in the middle of the night, for of course God’s clock would be set to Greenwich Mean Time.   I’m reminded of the prophet Elijah, taunting the prophets of Baal, ‘Shout a bit louder, perhaps your god is having a nap’.  Thanks be to God, he is ever alert and ready to hear our prayers, whatever the time of day or the region of the world
  • 3. Seek.    Jesus tells us to seek.  Life is meant to be an exciting voyage of discovery.   In the context of prayer, it is making exciting discoveries in line with the will of God.   It is therefore to some extent answering our own prayers.  Some of the       eminent scientists have seen their work of exploring and understanding the natural world, the universe. as exploring God’s creation.   As one scientist put it, ‘I am seeking to think God’s thoughts after Him.’   Our seeking may be more mundane than formulating a theory of relativity or the relationship between energy and mass in the equation e = m c2.   It may be seeking to develop your gift of flower arranging or of making people feel welcome whether in Church or elsewhere.   Watching ‘Songs of Praise’ on TV last Sunday afternoon I was interested in an imaginative development in the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, to reach out to young people.   7 years ago, two Nigerian missionary priests were invited to go to Scotland, specifically to St Mary’s Church Beauly, about 5 miles W of Inverness at the head of Beauly Firth, to re-juvenate the Church in an area of low population with small congregations.   After a little while of assessing the situation, they started reaching out to young people by uploading videos on Tik Tok.   Their aim is to communicate something of the joy of following Jesus, bringing young people into a closer relationship with Jesus and actively participating in the life of the Church.   They now 7 years since their arrival in this country, have a following of 600,000 worldwide, on Tik Tok, and a responsibility for 12 parishes in their area.   Some of you will have experienced Messy Church here.   Many churches are using this to draw in families with young children not just into our Church building, but as a long-term project to bring young children and their parents to faith in Jesus.   We need to be imaginative in seeking to develop the life of the Church, to bring people to faith and active membership of the Church.

Understandably many people are concerned today with the rising cost of living.  How will they meet fuel bills, how will they pay for children’s school uniforms and Council Tax?   Jesus, in his teaching that we know as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, tells us not to worry about the basic necessities of food and clothing.  His concluding words are ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things (that is the food and clothing) will be given unto you’.

  • 4. Ask.   Knock, seek and thirdly ask.   The only specific ‘asking’ prayer in the Lord’s prayer is ‘Give us each day our daily bread’, i. e. our food for the day.  It will not be often that we will need to go round to a neighbour at midnight and ask for a loaf of bread.   I do recall my Mother telling me that the husband of our neighbouring couple came round in the evening after all the shops were shut and asked for some tea leaves and so that he would be able to return the right quantity, could he have them in an egg cup.  My Mother related, to her amusement, that not only did he not return the quantity of tea leaves, but nor did he ever return the eggcup!   Jesus goes on to give an example of family members providing good food in response to their children’s request.   Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion (Luke 11 v 12)?   Then, perhaps surprisingly, Jesus does not go on to say, ‘How much more will your Heavenly Father provide you with the best joint of beef and a delicious dessert of stewed blackcurrants’.  What Jesus does say ‘How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ (Luke 11 v 13).   Why so?   I believe that is because the Holy Spirit will then guide us into asking for things in line with God’s will, things that will be ultimately for our own good and the purposes of furthering God’s kingdom.   What are such requests likely to be?  Maybe for grace and guidance in speaking to the people we meet each day that we may be sensitive to the person’s situation and, if appropriate, in some small way point that person to Jesus, to the life of the Church.   It maybe, praying for our family.   Julia and I say a prayer at the end of breakfast, usually including the collect for the week or day and also specific prayers for ourselves, our family and other situations.   In our intercessions in Church, we pray for those people who are sick or in particular need.   I have suggested before, that perhaps you could remember one person from that list and pray for that person.   In recent weeks I have asked for two people to be put on the prayer list.  One of those I have regularly phoned as well as visiting her in hospital.  Thankfully she is now at home.   The other contracted Covid a few days before starting her summer holiday.  Thankfully she recovered quickly and is now enjoying a well-earned rest from a demanding job.   Whilst I was writing this sermon, twice a wasp flew in through the window.  It was somewhat of a distraction to writing a sermon.   I could have just prayed that God would tell the wasp to fly out of the window.  I thought though that the wasp needed a little human guidance to find the way out.  Yes, sometimes we become the instrument of answering our own prayers!   Let us not forget prayers of thankfulness for answered prayer.   Maybe you need to be alert to the opportunities of service that God provides.  We need someone to take over co-ordination of the monthly newsletter distribution.  Could that be you?
  • 5. Conclusion.  Knock, seek and ask.  What a difference that can make to a person’s life, to the development of our relationship with God the Father, through Our Lord Jesus, in the power of the Spirit.   I conclude with the opening verse of our reading from Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, (Col. 2 v 6), “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Col 2 v 6).  

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