Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

After 38 years of parish ministry, I have a vast assortment of files. Multiple file cabinets, computers and somewhere in the Cloud there are literally hundreds of files. There is a file of thank you notes that bring a smile to my face. There is file of angry notes that chronicle some of my missteps and the musings of crabby Christians. There are thousands of sermons, a thousand more missives like this one, church council files, scholarship files, HR files, confirmation essays, wedding files, endowment reports and building plans.

Recently I pulled out a file that was more than a thousand pages, it is an assortment of prayers. Prayers used by our congregation during worship, prayers for special occasions, prayers lifted to God over three decades. In perusing the prayers, I noticed that most of the prayers seemed to be unanswered. It was also clear upon further examination that though the words changed from week to week, the prayers requests were remarkably consistent over all those years.

We have prayed for the sick among us, sadly most of the people who made it to our prayer list have died. We have prayed for peace in the Middle East and yet there is no peace. We repeatedly pray for the homeless, those who are hungry, for God’s creation entrusted to us, and for an end to racism, greed, bigotry and religious judgmentalism. Every few months a new conflict, war, or natural disaster shows up in the prayers. This all got me to wondering, do our prayers make a difference? Is anybody listening? Why do the good prayers of good people go unheeded?

I prayed about it, I shook my fist to heaven a little, taking a chance on a thunderbolt coming my way, secretly hoping that it would if only to prove that God was listening. And then in the Epiphany season, I had one, an epiphany that is. While it is true that most of those that we prayed for had died, it was also that we helped them to die, we comforted and cared for them to the very end. We ministered to their grieving families, and we honored them with a respectful and hopeful funeral.

People are still hungry but worldwide those percentages have decreased, and we have collectively given hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million dollars to alleviate hunger. There are homeless people on our streets and in refugee camps across the world. We have not solved the problem of homelessness, but Habitat for Humanity of Island County was birthed at TLC, the Tiny Houses in Langley have provided homes for our island neighbors, and a TLC ministry called His Hands Extended continues to bring critical food, clothing, essential personal items, and hope to God’s children who live on the streets of our cities.

Religious self-righteous Christians will be with us always, but TLC was among the first to celebrate same gender marriages, our communion table is open to all, seekers, skeptics, and doubters are encouraged to be a part of our family. Peace in the Middle East? That is beyond us, we are simply not capable of understanding the complexities of the issues and we are certainly not in a position to negotiate peace. Having said that, I hope that our families are more peaceful, and our neighborhoods are more friendly because of the prayers we have offered.

Tomorrow we will once again lift our prayers to God. My prayer file will be expanded once again. To be honest I am not sure how this all works, in fact, at times I am not sure that it is working at all, but I see signs of hope. With a 38-year perspective, I can see that our prayers have inspired us to change the world. Our prayers have emboldened us to swing hammers, to write cards, to wash feet, to offer comfort, to feed the hungry, to build and dream, to believe that God can use us to bring healing to a broken world. Maybe that is the point, God was never going to sweep in and make all things right, God is not genie at our beck and call. We have been called to be the hands and feet of God in this world. That’s how it works, and in many ways, it is working.

I am one beggar, telling another beggar where to find bread. I am your

Pastor Jim

Contact Pastor Jim if you have questions at [email protected]