St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Epiphany V 2018 Sermon
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Katie Hirschfeld

In the Morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
 
In today’s Gospel, we are once again swept away with whirl wind urgency by Mark as he continues his Jesus story.  After casting out the demons in the synagogue the morning of Sabbath, Jesus then hurries to the home of Simon and Andrew with James and John tagging along.  Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever which in those days could be considered if bad enough, life threatening.  Now even though it was the Sabbath and the Jews were supposed to take it easy and have a quiet day until sundown when the Sabbath was over, Jesus was very busy, anything but quiet.  After casting out demons that morning, he makes a quick trip to Simon’s house, ignoring the Sabbath rules and heals Simon’s mother-in-law.
 
The next morning after the Sabbath, after all this commotion and stress the day before was over, ‘While it was still very dark’, Jesus slipped out of the house, alone, and found a quiet place to pray.  A Sacred Space.  This was often his habit.  He sought quiet comfort and peace through meditation and prayer; one with his Father.
 
As I was preparing for this sermon today, I kept asking myself why did Jesus feel the need to pray?  Why do I feel the need to pray?  Why do you feel the need to pray?  Why does anyone feel the need to pray?
 
When I was a small child, one of my first memories of praying was saying my nightly, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’ prayer with my parents before I went to sleep.  Also, the nightly thanksgiving prayer before the meal, the prayers at church camp, the prayers during Sunday School, in the huddle in the locker room before a game, and so forth and so forth and so forth.  These prayers, for me, were often said out of duty.  Out of an obligation.  Said because they were the right thing to do, not because I fully understood what it meant to pray.  It wasn’t until much later in life that I became aware of how really powerful and important prayer can be.
 
For some folks, the only prayer that they participate in are those crisis prayers as I call them......’The Dear Lord, if you help me get to work on time, I promise I’ll get up earlier tomorrow’ type of prayers.  But in our Gospel this morning, Jesus teaches us, by modeling how necessary and important it is for us to set aside time to pray, to rejuvenate, even when we are extremely busy and life is moving at an urgent pace.
 
All throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus reaching out to his Father through prayer for comfort, for direction, for spiritual renewal, and for courage to do God’s will.   As Christian’s we are called to follow the Good Example of Jesus Christ, and as such, praying should be an important part of our lives even when our lives are complicated, busy and sometimes overwhelming.
 
How to pray is up to each of us.  It is a personal Sacred Time that you create between yourself and God.  It could be a formal set time each day.  It could be a conversation you have with God as you are taking a walk, riding your bike, sitting in church before, during or after service or even soaking in the tub.  It could be while you’re doing the dishes, weeding the garden, or driving to work or home from the store.  The time, the place, the situation doesn’t matter.  What matters is making that connection with God in thoughtful, meaningful, genuine prayer.
 
Often times we pray to ask for something, like healing, or direction, a blessing or for an answer.  Other times, we pray to give thanks.  Sometimes we don’t even know what to pray for or how to start to start the prayer.  The important thing is to just take a deep breathe, clear your mind, and pray.
 
The who, the what, the when, the why, the how really doesn’t matter, it’s making the effort.  It’s the slipping away and entering into a Sacred Space with God that matters.
 
When we clear our minds, and enter into a Sacred Space with prayer, and even though God is always with us, he steps in even closer, and he becomes present with us in the conversation. 
 
As we are fast approaching Lent, I encourage you to find your own Sacred Space with God, and enter into Lent with Him, and through him, finding peace in his Love, joy in his kindness and Direction through his words. 
 
In this quiet prayer time, we can allow God to wash over us, to be in us, and to heal, direct, guide, and comfort us giving us the peace that comes with Grace.
 
Currently one of my favorite Contemporary Christian songs is ‘Just Breathe’ by Jonny Diaz.  It reminds me so much of my life and the life of so many of my friends.  In it he talks about the Chaos that sometimes our lives feel like, and how we should just take a deep breath, and rest at the feet of our Lord, finding the Peace of God:
 
Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life
 
Ninety miles an hour going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life

It’s ready, set, go it’s another wild day
When the stress is on the rise
in my heart I feel you say
 
Just Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be


Amen.


 
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