An abundance of scarcity | Youth Devotion | 3.15.20

Because all church events have been cancelled for today, I wanted to provide an opportunity for students and families to have a time of devotion to the Lord, and a time of reflection.

Contents (click to jump)

Below is a recording. You may also follow along below. The recording begins at the “Devotion” section and continues through the end of what is included below. The first four sections (Opening reflection – Prayer) may be followed individually.

A recording of the “Devotion” and “Response” portion of the Devotion.

OPENING REFLECTION

“…[I]t makes a great deal of difference whether or not God hears us and acts when we pray. Otherwise our prayer is merely autosuggestion, self-therapy, not up to the battle.”

― Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon,
Lord, Teach Us: The Lord’s Prayer & the Christian Life
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SCRIPTURE READING

Matthew 6:1-18

VIDEO

The Bible Project- “Generosity”

The Bible Project – “Generosity”
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PRAYER*

Your prayer might be long, or it might be short. Don’t worry about the length. Focus on telling your Heavenly Father about the many needs that you’re aware of, in your life and in the world. This prayer can be broken into three major sections*:

1.Pray for the church! What are you grateful for about the church, both worldwide and as our local congregation of Seventh & James? What does the church need, those in 7th & James Youth Ministry need? What do other members our congregation need? Tell God about those things.

2.Pray for the world! What are you grateful for about the world? What does the world need? Pray for nations that are facing any kind of hardship, including war, sickness, injustice, or food insecurity. Pray for our particular nation, and for our leaders and specific needs as a country.

3. Finally, pray for our own community! What are you grateful for about your own family, friends, and town? What needs are you aware of? Feel free to pray for people by name and specific situations. Consider reaching out to them after worship as well.

Close by reciting the Lord’s Prayer, which we will discuss in our devotion.

Our Father in heaven,
  hallowed be your Name,
   your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
        on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts
    as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.
For the kingdom, the power,
    and the glory are yours,
    now and for ever. Amen.

*Thanks to my friend, Pastor Sara Jane, for these categories and the wording.

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DEVOTION

A recording of the “Devotion” and “Response” portion of the Devotion.

See page 12 of the Truett Lenten devotion PDF, March 7th devotion.

Text Below:

“An abundance of scarcity”

Jonathan Balmer

Matthew 6:1-18

The Lord’s Prayer—a prayer so familiar to Christians that many of us still recite it with “Thou”s and “Hallowed”s centuries after we started using different words everywhere else. But perhaps re-examining the Lord’s prayer can help us see it again as living words given to the church.

Our Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

God’s name is Holy, and God reveals his names for our sake. “I am that I am,” God said to Moses, rejecting any attempt to contain him. We are given dozens upon dozens of names for God in Holy Scripture that we may cry out in prayer. Here, Jesus enables us to approach God as “our Father” at any time. Our conception of God as Father is not dependent on our good experiences with fathers. Rather all parental love, and all love, is to be measured against the Father’s love for the Son. To Hallow God, and to say, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is to pray for God to continue to disrupt the Kingdoms of this world.

To pray God’s will be done is to pray that God’s will would shape, and lead, our wills. The will of humans is to reject Jesus and nail him to the cross. The will of God disrupts that will and ensures that what humans meant for evil, God meant for good. God’s will insists that when we strike Jesus down, he is lifted up, exalted. That when humans sentence Jesus to the death penalty and crucify him, in the same act God enthrones him. And we pray that what God revealed in Jesus would be culminated here at his return: God’s Kingdom on earth.

National Geographic Channel had a program called “Doomsday Preppers.” It’s about those who plan and store up goods for imagined civilization-ending scenarios. But, we non-“preppers” are not as different from them as we put on. Asking God to “Give us this day our daily bread” stretches us thin. But why? Because our attempts to control our own destinies always leave us in a mindset of scarcity: our anxious plotting is certain we can never have enough. Most of us are one peculiar hobby away from being exactly like Doomsday “preppers.” Praying for our daily bread insists on our reliance on the one who is the Bread of Life.

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors is doubtlessly the hardest, the weightiest line we pray in the Lords’ prayer. To accept we have debts is to say we owe something to others. It is easy to misread this line about forgiveness as some sort of “I scratch your back; God will scratch mine” transaction. Instead, we learn that we are sinners in need of forgiveness and become subject to the Kingdom in which forgiveness is the way of life. Forgiveness requires us to recognize how much we owe and cannot give.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. Jesus honored the Father in all the ways we fail to honor God. And so, we are able to pray not to be led into that temptation, that suffering which we cannot withstand.

Jesus is always reminding us to fast, not to prove ourselves worthy, nor to pray to get an absent-minded God’s attention, but to discover that what we are seeking is given in him. For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever and ever. Amen.

We love, we fast, we show mercy, because God’s love, God’s nourishment, and God’s mercy have been given without measure. We say the Lord’s prayer together so we may trust and love God and one another all the more.

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RESPONSE

Here are some ways you may respond.

  1. Stay in contact! During this time of “social distancing,” how can you keep in contact not only with friends but also with those who may have to stay separate from others because of health concerns?
  • Could you write a card to someone who must stay at home? Perhaps you could go with a parent to get groceries for someone who is older or has a fragile immune system? Or, you could even call someone in a nursing home who may not be able to receive many visitors.
    • Phone calls can be awkward. I know my generation, and younger generations in general, have a tendency to avoid them. Ask your parents, or Jon, who you might give a call!
    • To help, if you call someone, consider just asking these three questions and one statement to someone who may be lonely, or unable to leave their home/ assisted living facility:
      • I’ve been thinking about you lately.
      • How have you been doing?
      • What has been on your mind/ heart?
      • How can I pray for you?

2. Keep a schedule! It’s strange to be off school and it not always feel like a vacation. Keeping a schedule can help us feel like our days aren’t wasting away. And praying like the Lord’s prayer teaches us is both effective, and it shifts our perspective. So in your days off, here’s some ways you might respond.

  • Keep “passive scrolling” through social media to a minimum.
  • Instead, try actively writing messages to friends, family, or church family, journal your prayers and concerns to God.
    • Stay active, and limit the time you spend reading news to a specified block of the day.

3. Love your neighbor, even when it means staying away.

  • The good news is that generations before us have lived through times of illness. This is certainly the only time I remember, in my lifetime, of so many closures happening at once across the country. But it is not unprecedented. This is serious, but it is something that, by God’s grace, we will get through together.
    • At the same time, remember that even if younger people are less likely to get sick, the reason we’re practicing “social distancing,” is to help the vulnerable around us: those who are older, hospitals who are trying not to get over-loaded, people who have to take autoimmune suppressant drugs or whose immune systems are weaker.
  • We’re distancing ourselves so they do not get very sick. It’s not just about our individual health, but the whole community’s health. So we stay away, but use the gifts of technology we are given to make sure people are cared for, and part of our community.

4. Let Jon, or other people at church, know how we can serve you in these weeks.

  • We’re figuring things out as we go. And we want to hear from you.
  • And we’re certainly praying for you.
  • Would an in-person visit with individual families help?
  • Would you be interested in a Youth “Zoom” (video)- conference call meeting once a week so we can all catch up?
  • Let us know!

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Closing Blessing

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 8:9

Throughout this week, in whatever you may be doing, let Christ’s love dwell in you richly, and be rich in love to one another.

Amen.

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