University Congregational Church
May 20, 2018
The Prayer Wheel: Your Will Be Done
If I were a betting person, I would bet that this morning when you woke up, the first thought that many of you had was: “It’s Pentecost Sunday! I’m so excited to go to church and hear what Robin has to say about the Holy Spirit!” No? It wasn’t your first thought?
Today is the 50th day after Easter – the day we remember the gift of God’s Spirit. It is the 3rd biggest Christian holiday of the year – after Christmas and Easter. On that first Pentecost, the disciples had no idea what to expect. Jesus had told them that a Comforter, an Advocate, a Counselor, would be coming to them to help them continue his work. But they had no idea what it would look like or when it would come.
In typical divine fashion, God’s Spirit shows up unannounced and in a completely unexpected way. Fire on the heads of the disciples? It was unlike anything that had ever happened before! The traditional word for today tells the story of that first Pentecost. Perhaps it is not a literal story – but a way to demonstrate the change of the followers of Jesus after his death and the strength they found to go about their calling…
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit… Acts 2:1-4a
So today I want to talk about spiritual passion – the specific gifts and enthusiasm you and I have to share with the world. Some people call these the “gifts of the spirit” or “fruit of the spirit”. Some of them are listed as the second circle on the prayer wheel: piety, knowledge, fortitude, counsel, understanding, wisdom, and fear of the Lord. As a child I memorized the list from Galatians, which is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
If you look at the prayer wheel in the bulletin, you will see the highlighted list of phrases:
• “Your Will Be Done” from the Lord’s Prayer;
• “Counsel” from the list of spiritual gifts;
• “Passion” from the events in Jesus’ life’;
• “Merciful” and “Obtain Mercy” from the Beatitudes.
Passion often separates success and failure. French military strategist Ferdinand Foch said, “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” So I’m asking you on this Pentecost day: What is stirring your spirit?
I was heartened last Monday when I saw news from across the country of religious leaders and community leaders making their voices heard about the needs of the poor. About 30 people from Wichita and 150 from around the state of Kansas gathered at the Capitol in Topeka to talk to legislators and let their voices be heard in support of the poor. Groups around the country and in Washington DC met for the same purpose at the same time. The passionate call for a new civil rights movement in support of the poor was their unified message. What is stirring your spirit?
I recently buried a woman who had a passion for animals unlike any other. She was a virtual St. Francis of Wichita. She had up to 16 cats at a time and made a special room in her barn to stimulate them, complete with scratching posts, different levels for them to jump up and down on, and unique places to hide, crawl and sleep. She wanted to make provisions in her will for the burial places of her beloved animals – that their final resting spot would always be cared for and used only for a pet cemetery. She felt a passionate call for all living things and left her money to a dolphin rescue organization as well as an animal protection agency. What is stirring your spirit?
Effective people are those who have figured out what their purpose – their passion – is. They identify that fire of the Spirit within. When we pray “your will be done”, there is an implicit message within. God’s will is done through us! Can God’s will meet our deepest passion and come alive within us? Yes! This is what the prayer wheel helps us to see. When we pray “your will be done” then we move to the next rung of the wheel and see “counsel” and “passion”. God’s will is done when the Spirit lights our passion on fire and we put it into action. William Ward wrote: “Enthusiasm and persistence can make an average person superior; indifference and lethargy can make a superior person average.” What is stirring your spirit?
Although some of you may have been listening to me preach for 5 ½ years, I don’t think I’ve explicitly told you my spiritual passion. But I’ll bet you intuit at least one of them. The core of what I believe and what I think of as my purpose in this world is this: compassion for all people, especially those who are put down and outcast. That is why I often advocate for the homeless, for LGBTQ persons, and for women and children. There is nothing that makes a fire burn within me more than advocacy and care for those who are cast aside.
Purpose has to do with our heads – education and thinking right about our lives. Passion has to do with our hearts – what is burning within us to be done. Passion and purpose go together. Passion (or fervor) without a purpose is foolish and vice versa. These two can work together in our vocational choice. But this is about much for than our work lives. This is about our spiritual quest and it is a life-long pursuit… even after retirement.
One woman I know was very committed to serving other people. She is humble and shy. It was her mission in life to do behind-the-scenes things for others. Because I was her minister and she was not able to give much to the church, she volunteered to clean the church and take care of light maintenance as part of her offering. Very few people knew that she did it, but she was faithful and even grateful for that ministry. The time came, however, when she wasn’t able to do as much physically. She lamented that she had lost her purpose. She no longer drove and no longer had consistent strength. It took her a couple of years to figure it out – but now she is the unofficial activity director in her nursing home! This is her new passion. She notices people who are new and sends them a welcome gift. She started a coloring group and a wii bowling group and a Shocker basketball group. Although she is 86 and has been in a nursing home almost 10 years with Parkinson’s Disease and a broken right arm that won’t ever heal, she quietly goes about this ministry. What is the spirit stirring up inside of you? What is your purpose and your passion?
Saying “your will be done” means we are praying to God, “Take my brief life, and use me to create a piece of heaven on earth.” The final words on the prayer wheel this week are “mercy” and “obtain mercy”. At the core, you could say that God’s will cannot be done without mercy. We are merciful when we refuse to do harm to someone, even and especially when we know we are in the right. When people mistreat us or disappoint us, and we respond with kindness, we are following Jesus’ example in the world. Sometimes we not only offer mercy to others… we need to obtain it for ourselves. Giving grace or mercy to one’s self is one of the hardest things to learn.
A quote from the book we are following: “Paradoxically, the way to receive mercy is to give it; the way to invite compassion is to pour it out for others. Through our acts of mercy, we do God’s will in one little corner of the world, and in so doing, we open ourselves up to receiving divine grace.”
Our distinctive abilities, experience, spiritual gifts, education, temperaments, and spheres of influence gift us for different passions and purposes. Why do you get out of bed in the morning?
Our little pile of goods will fall into someone else’s hands after we’re gone. Someone will take not only our possessions, but our positions at work and in our families. The world will go on without us, and we will likely be forgotten after a few years. This could be a depressing realization – but it does not have to be. The reason is that our spiritual passion can be what lives on after we are gone. Our personal calling – that which burns without our hearts – can change others lives. And that carries our lives into eternity. As you pray the prayer wheel this week, think about how your spiritual purpose and passion can provide mercy and bring about God’s will.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
“To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.”
What is your spiritual purpose and passion?
“The Prayer Wheel” by Patton Dodd, Jana Riess, and David Van Biema. Convergent Books. 2018.
“Ten Steps to Increase Your Spiritual Passion”. www.housetohouse.com
“Purpose and Passion”. Bible.org