Gospel: Luke 11:1-13 1[Jesus] was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”2He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
In today’s Gospel story, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, as John had taught his disciples.
Jesus does a bit more than that. He starts out with a version of a prayer that we use regularly, in common form, which we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” and that many title the “Our Father.” It’s been set to music in various ways over the years, and in the continuing education event I attended last week, we sang it in two different ways, neither of which was the one we hear most often.
Jesus, however, does not stop with the prayer version we know as “The Lord’s Prayer.” He goes on with that perplexing story about going to a neighbor at midnight to ask for help because a guest had shown up unexpectedly, and there was no all-night grocer available. Jesus says that the neighbor will give because of the persistence in asking, not because of the friendship.
It’s actually something even deeper than that, though. This friend gives you what you need because it’s the right thing to do, to help one in need. Maybe there’s even a little bit of hope that if the tables are ever turned, and this friend needs help, the first will return the favor… but let’s not keep score.
“Teach us to pray,” the disciples demand, and Jesus does more.
Jesus teaches us how to be neighbor, how to live in community, how to love one another. Jesus teaches us how to be social.
Notice, I did not say socialist! That’s a politically-charged term that throws all kinds of people into disarray! I said social, and the definition of that word is two-fold. First, it’s “relating to society or its organization,” and secondly it’s “needing companionship and therefore best suited to living in communities.” (I saw a story this morning about two seals who approached a diver. One of them grabbed the diver’s hand, pulling it towards itself—apparently wanting a belly rub, and obviously enjoying it when the diver complied!)
English metaphysical poet John Donne who lived from 1572 until 1631 is credited with originating the phrase, “No man is an island.” He insisted that people are by nature interdependent. It is very difficult for any of us to be completely alone.
Today, we have ways to be together with others that never existed in the past. Many people have invested themselves in what we call social media, because it is a way to experience the social nature of our humanity without needing to find a physical place to gather, without needing to venture out into bad weather, without needing to drive a hundred miles, without needing to venture far from those who can assist us with our physical needs.
I first joined the process in a theological discussion site then run through the Methodist Church. It was called something like Desperate Preacher! The site still exists, but the theological discussions other than those relating directly to the weekly scriptures and preaching have gone elsewhere.
Social media not only allows us to interact with those we love who are far away, it also makes it easier for people who disagree with us to get in our faces—unless we block them. Social media makes it easier for people to influence us in ways that may not be helpful. Social media is another avenue for people to treat one another badly.
How many of us would be willing for Jesus to teach us how to do everything well, including things related to social interaction, even through the Internet?
One thing that happens in Social Media is that advertisements appear on your page to support the cost of managing the site. Many of them include bait, either a picture or words (or both) that don’t actually occur in linked piece, but entice you to click through so that you will be exposed to a multitude of ads that pop up all over the place.
Many of us have learned not to click through, or at least to read through the comments first to see if someone reveals the “bait” story there!
Recently, one came into my feed with different bait. Instead of inviting us to click through to see how awful or revengeful or clever something was, it invited us to read how “Compassionate People Share their Acts of Kindness.”
There was only one comment on this thread when I saw it, and the comment stated that asking people to share their good deeds was kind of creepy! My reaction is a bit different. If we never see any of the good done by others, how will we learn to behave well ourselves?
I clicked through. The ads did not pop up all over the place. Instead, they stayed nicely in the margin. The “bait” story was number 37 out of 42, not quite last! However, I’d like to share with you number 42. This one was a story from a person who received a kind act.
(from Factinate): https://www.factinate.com/experience/randoms-acts-of-kindness/42?fact=3&utm_source=cn&utm_medium=kindpeople_d_us&utm_content=fbkd&fbclid=IwAR3_SUBhWJtJZFcidt518hXTxdNPwqdiTULGiq90OOIgCrkPpKsTZX0AyH4
In 1986, a young boy was given $5 and dropped off at boarding school by a dad who then disappeared from his life, never paying any of the tuition, room, or board for his son. The boy worked every job he could find, and paid what he could, and did his best to be someone the school would not want to expel, even with such a large non-payment hanging over his head. On graduation day, he expected a bill of five figures to be tucked into the cover that would contain a diploma once the bill was paid. Instead, he found a note. The father of a friend had gathered a group of people who, together, satisfied the entire bill, and the diploma was there behind the note.
Jesus, teach us. Teach us to pray, and to welcome what arrives unexpectedly. Teach us to respond with your love rather than perpetuating the oh-so-clever ways of revenge. Teach us to be generously social, expressing God’s love in society more than we express our personal selfishness.
Teach us to be like Abraham, begging for mercy even for the strangers far from our homes. Teach us to pray with love, and to act with love in Jesus’ name. Amen