Each week Pastor Sarah offers a devotional reflection to connect with the South Shore UMC Family. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
Sunday’s Scripture ~ John 12:27-36.
Devotional Scripture ~ Philippians 1:9-11.
Our Devotional Scripture passage for this week is the concluding verses of Paul’s Thanksgiving for and over the Philippians. He concludes with his prayer for them:
That their love would abound in greater knowledge, depth, and insight;
For enhanced clarity in their discernment of what is pure and blameless - and therefore becoming of - the day of Christ;
And that they would be so filled with the fruit of righteousness - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - that they cannot help but bear it out of themselves and help God bear it in others.
That is a big prayer. That is certainly an “elephant prayer” - praying a prayer that is so incredible, perhaps even outlandish, in the confident faith that Jesus teaches us, “Ask, and you shall receive” (Mt 7).
In this week’s sermon I will share a story about my dear friend Bob, though I often refer to him by his last name alone.
Such a great last name, right?!
Recently, the Tuskawilla UMC Family gathered for a service of healing for Spitzer and their current pastor, Rev. Heather Harding, asked if I would like to video a prayer for him to be shared during the service. I was and continue to be so moved by her invitation. In reflection of that experience alongside our Devotional Scripture this week, I feel as if I stepped into the Apostle Paul’s place - offering my thanksgiving to God for and over Spitzer, and praying boldly for his spirit and his healing.
As I prepared to record my part of the worship service, God nudged me towards one of my most treasured voices in prayer, the Rev. Jan Richardson. In her volume, The Cure for Sorrow, she shares a prayer poem entitled 'Fierce Blessing.' As I read the words again, I wept. God brought Spitzer’s kind, confident, and faithful face to my heart. I knew this blessing was - and is - meant for him.
Jan, thank you for your ministry through poem and prose. Spitzer, thank you for your witness to God’s presence and power, for your vulnerability to share your story, and for your fierceness of faith that propels you in service on this side of eternity and towards the next.
Believe me when I say there is nothing this blessing would not do to protect you, to save you, to encompass you.
This blessing would stand between you and every danger, every evil, every harm and hurt.
This blessing would dare to wade with you into the waters that come offering life.
It would make a way for you through the waters that come threatening death.
I cannot explain how fierce this blessing feels about you, but I can tell you it has more than pledged itself to you; it would lay down its life for you and not once look back in regret nor go in sorrow for what it has chosen to give.
And you - so deeply blessed, so utterly encompassed - what will you save in turn?
Not because it is owed, but because you cannot imagine failing to pass along this grace that casts its circle so wide, this love that flows so deep through this perilous and precious life.*
Reflection: Think of someone in your life that you would like to honor this week with a prayer of thanksgiving. Who are they? What circumstances stir within you to offer this prayer for and over them? Write out the prayer. Offer it to God. And share the experience - the remembrance and the celebration! - with the person for whom you prayed.
Prayer: “Let us praise God together on our knees, (on our knees). Let us praise God together on our knees, (on our knees). When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me, (on me).”** Amen.
*The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief - The Rev. Jan Richardson - www.janrichardson.com
**"Let Us Break Bread Together," The United Methodist Hymnal 618.
***Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal