Friday, June 27, 2008


Pray like your life depends upon it

The personnel department at a company’s head office
sent out a letter to all their branches
requesting a listing of their staff
“broken down by age and sex.”

One local office replied:
“Attached is a list of our staff.
We currently have no one broken down by age or sex.
However we do have a few alcoholics.”

It’s a funny story but I share it
because this month AA—Alcoholics Anonymous—
celebrates their 73rd anniversary.

It got started in Akron, Ohio
by two men who found out the best way to keep from drinking
was to spend time with other people
who wanted to keep from drinking and to talk about it.
No more dirty little secrets.

Working with an Episcopal priest,
these men developed the Twelve Steps
and the main traditions of AA—
anonymity, confession and mutual support.

AA is about as unorganized an organization
as one could ever imagine.
And that may be one of the reasons why it works.

The Church at our most hopeful
has much in common with AA.

We come together for weekly worship,
we confess our sins,
we offer mutual support to one another on our faith journeys.

We as people of faith have discovered
that the best way to develop a closer relationship with God
and with one another
is to spend time with those who also care
about their relationship with God,
their relationship with one another.

Our Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori
has called the Episcopal Church to a Day of Prayer on June 22.
That’s today.
She has called us to specifically pray
for this summer’s Lambeth Conference,
the gathering of our Anglican Communion bishops.

The Lambeth Conference is held once ever ten years
and this year
over 650 bishops are expected to attend the conference
from July 16 through August 3,
held at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England.
Bishop Taylor will be among those who gather.

In a letter sent to every Episcopal Church in the United States,
our Presiding Bishop writes to us with these words:
“I would bid your prayers
for openness of spirit,
vulnerability of heart,
and eagerness of mind
that we might all learn
to see the Spirit at work in the other.”

When I was in Wales just a few weeks ago,
I visited many, many churches.
And one thing I consistently found in every church
a posting, a bookmark, a flyer, something—
there was a bidding to the people in that congregation
of the Church of Wales
to pray for those preparing to gather
for the Lambeth Conference.

One gift of traveling is to become aware of how large, how diverse,
how truly beautiful
are the people of God.
We bind ourselves to God
And to one another
by prayer.

We are in some ways
a Church, a Communion, broken down by sex and gender.
I don’t believe that was or is God’s intent.

I believe we are called to be a church
bound together by prayer and worship.
I will tell you
I have a bookshelf filled with books about prayer.
But having books, even actually reading those books,
is not the same as taking time to pray.

I doubt any of us would say that prayer does not matter.
Indeed, I believe prayer may be the only thing that really matters.
But we have to take the time.
We have to make the time
To pray.

If I as your priest can encourage you in any way on your spiritual journey
My encouragement is really one word: pray.

Pray on your knees, pray as you stand in line at the post office,
Pray as you sit in traffic on I-40
or whatever I- you find yourself on this summer.

Pray as you make your toast and sip you coffee.
Pray as you hold the hand of someone you love.
Pray as you drift into your dreams at night.

We don’t need to worry about perfect prayers.
There’s no such thing.
Prayer is not a test or a literary exercise.

If you find you have no words,
you have a whole book of words
right here at your fingertips—
it’s the Book of Common Prayer.
If you don’t have a copy,
I can tell you how to order one.
If you can’t afford a copy,
come talk to me .

God is always present with us—
But we need to practice being present with God.
Prayer is practice.
Our lives are transformed.
The world is transformed.

God is always seeking us, always longing to be found
We, like Hagar and Ishmael in today’s reading from the book of Genesis,
we sometimes find ourselves cast out, lost in the wilderness,
dying of thirst and heartache.
Even when God does lead us immediately out of the wilderness,
God is present there with us,
even in our suffering.

Paul, Matthew, Jesus…their message is all the same in the scripture we hear today.
We each matter to God.
Each one of us.

God longs not to see us divided, broken down, disheartened.
God longs for our healing, for our wholeness.
God longs to hold us close.

Prayer is a way we freefall into God’s arms
and learn to open our own arms to others at the same time.

May we all pray for openness of spirit,
for vulnerability of heart,
for eagerness of mind,
May we all might learn to see the Spirit at work in the other.

I bid us now to sit in silence for five minutes
and offer our prayers.
Pray for those who will gather at Lambeth.
Pray for those who are gathered on your heart today.
Listen for God.
Know that you are God’s beloved.

Silence for 5 minutes


+ + +
The information about AA in this sermon came from the GERANIUM FARM webpage.

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