The following is a prayer from The United Methodist Book of Worship (#294). It’s intended use is New Year’s Eve or New Year’s. Sometime in the next 24 hours (now is a perfectly fine time to do it!), make space to pray the prayer attentively. Rather than just reading the words or saying them aloud, pause on them – what are your new desires? What are your old fears? Etc. Let them lead you into reflecting on the good and bad of the year behind you and on what you hope to make of the year ahead. Reflect on God who is in the midst of all of it and will continue to be. Let the prayer lead you into prayers of your own.
This Sunday begins a three-week series on Stewardship. This is a time of the year when added emphasis is given to stewardship. I hesitate to call it “Stewardship Season” in case that implies other seasons when stewardship is not a focal point. Can you imagine if we said it’s “Discipleship Season” and meant that the rest of the year we aren’t interested in discipleship? Every day, disciples are called to be stewards – caretakers of that which God has shared with us.
The healing stories in yesterday’s gospel reading (Mark 7:24-37) demonstrate both the abundant mercy of Jesus and of others who care. In both stories, it was other people who brought the needs of the afflicted to Jesus. As it turns out, in Mark’s gospel there are two healings that occur as the result of Jesus initiating contact with the afflicted, four that happen after the afflicted persons ask Jesus for help, and seven that occur because others brought the need before Jesus on behalf of someone else.
If my sermon yesterday sounded a little grumpy for someone just returning from a wonderful vacation, then you should know that the majority of the work was done before I left. Maybe that explains some of the edge. When I returned, refreshed and joyful, however, I still saw the value in preaching it. It's not that I've noticed a rise of malice and slander among our congregation, but that we're to "not make room for the devil" (Ephesians 4:27) and it feels like there has been a rise of anger and hardheartedness on a national and global scale. Thankfully there are counter-stories that show that kindness is not only still part of how our church lives and grows together, but how the country and world does.