Prayers and Promises
Welcome to today's worship service.
March 7, 2010
Prayers and Promises
Open your Bible
Light a candle
Poems, Prayers, and Promises
John Denver & the Muppets
From the Bible:
13At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
6Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Apocalypse Revealed (Whitehead) n. 650
650. Verse 19. And the angel sent his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vineyard of the earth, signifies the end of the present Christian church. By "sending his sickle and gathering," the like is signified as by "sending his sickle and reaping," but the latter is said of a harvest and the former of a vineyard. That "to gather" is to take down the vine and gather the grapes, and that "to reap" signifies to cut down the harvest and gather the corn, is evident. That "a vineyard" signifies the church where the Word is, by which the Lord is known, thus here the Christian church, may appear from the following passages:
Jesus said, I am the vine, ye are the branches; he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing. If anyone abide not in Me, he is cast forth, and is as a dried branch in the fire (John 15:5-6).
Jesus likened the kingdom of the heavens to a householder, who brought laborers into his vineyard (Matt. 20:1, 8).
Of the sons who were to labor in the vineyard (Matt. 21:28).
Of the fig tree planted in the vineyard which bore no fruit (Luke 13:6-9).
Jesus spoke a parable; a man planted a vineyard, and encompassed it with a hedge, and let it out to husbandmen, that he might receive the fruits of it, but they slew the servants sent to them, and at last the son (Matt. 21:33-39; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9-16).
I will sing a song of my beloved concerning his vineyard. My well-beloved hath a vineyard which he fenced about, and planted with a noble vine (Isa. 5:1-2 seq.).
In that day answer ye unto her, a vineyard of unmixed wine; I, Jehovah, do keep it; I will water it every moment (Isa. 27:2-3).
Many shepherds have destroyed My vineyard; they have placed it in a solitude (Jer. 12:10-11).
Jehovah cometh into judgment with the elders, for you have kindled the vineyard (Isa. 3:14).
In all vineyards there is wailing (Amos 5:17).
In the vineyards there is no singing, neither is there shouting (Isa. 16:10).
Prayers and Promises
Have you ever made a promise to God? Have you promised God that you would do something in exchange for a prayer being answered? If your prayer was answered, how do you live with that promise you made? Did you expect God to punish you if you broke a promise?
I’m going to talk about two fictional characters who made promises to God.
The first is Joan of Arcadia. This was a TV series about a sixteen -year old girl who had conversations with God, and tried to live by God's direction. The series was on CBS from September, 2003 to April, 2005. Reruns are currently being aired by the SyFy cable channel. The episodes are available on DVD, and in segments on U-tube.
The title of the series was a play on "Joan of Arc." Arcadia was a fictional "every town," and Joan was an ordinary U.S. teen-ager.
In the pilot episode, God appears to her as a young man. The young man needs to convince Joan that he is God, so he reveals his knowledge of a promise she made when her brother had been injured in an auto accident.
Joan – I intend to give my father a full description and a composite drawing of you, both before dark.
God - Maybe, he’ll be too busy looking for creative ways to ground you for mouthing off in French class.
Joan - Are you spying on me?
God- I’m omniscient Joan, comes with the job.
Joan- Ok. So, you're God.
God - Yes
Joan - As in - God.
God - Right.
Joan - Old Testament, Tower of Babel, Burning bush, Ten Commandments - God
God - I come off a little friendlier in the new testament and the Koran but uh, Yeah, same God..
Joan - And, I'm supposed to believe you - because?
God - Because you have a feeling.
Joan - No, I don’t. (She turns to walk away)
God - How about you believe me if I agree to over look that promise you didn’t keep.
Joan - (she turns back) What promise?
God – Let’s see. That you would study hard, stop talking back, clean your room, and even go to church, if I recall, If I let your brother live.
Joan - (after a very long pause) How did you know about that?
God - Omniscient! Look it up.
Joan - So - you let my brother live, and now you’re here to collect?
God - No. I don’t bargain. That would be cruel.
God - I’m gonna be dropping in on you Joan. Now and then.
Joan - Why?
God - Let’s just say I need you to do some errands.
Joan - Why?
God - Do you notice how I’m not answering any of the whys? I want you to get a
job, at the Skylight bookstore. It’s about 3 bus stops from here. Manager’s name is Sammy. Now, He’s snippy. It’s important you do this pretty soon. Don’t ask why.
Joan - And if I say no? Am I gonna burst into flames?
God - (laughing) Where do you people get this stuff? Have I ever made any body
burst into flames? Do as I ask. I’ll see you around.
Joan’s first reaction is one that many of us might have, “Have you come to collect on that promise?” Joan knew she was not fulfilling the promise she had made, and was living with guilt and fear.
“God” is reassuring in saying, “I don’t bargain. It would be cruel.”
So, then does God punish us for disobedience? Joan asks if she will be burned in a flash if she doesn’t do as God wants.
“Where do you people get this stuff?”
So in this fictional scenario, we see a God that does not accept promises as prayer barter, and does not punish disobedience.
The theme of promises to God is central to a powerful motion picture: The End of The Affair, based on a novel by Graham Greene.
The novel and the movie focus on Maurice Bendrix, a writer during World War II in London, and Sarah Miles, the wife of an important civil servant. Bendrix and Sarah fall in love and have a passionate affair. When a bomb blasts Bendrix's flat as he is with Sarah, he is nearly killed. After this, Sarah breaks off the affair with no apparent explanation.
Two years later, through finding her diary, he learns that, when she thought he was dead after the bombing, she made a promise to God not to see him again if God allowed him to live again.
Sarah walked out of Maurice ‘s life, and he thought that she no longer loved him.
They rekindle their love and the affair, only to find that Sarah is diagnosed with a fatal illness.
We find that she had performed a miraculous healing before her death, suggesting God working through her; not punishing her.
Maurice had quite a struggle with God after that event. He was furiously angry at the God he didn’t believe in.
Today’s scripture gives us some ways to understand how God works in our lives.
Jesus refers to two recent horrible events, and points out that the victims were not greater sinners that anyone else, and were not being punished. He admonishes all to work towards repentence, but not because God is a punishing God. Jesus tells the story of a fig tree that is not bearing fruit. The owner of the land wants to cut it down. But the gardener begs for another chance for the fruit tree while he gives it extra fertizilizer and water.
In the same way, God is always giving us another chance at our regeneration. Swedenborg tells us that the Lord does not punish us. We ourselves choose our future home after physical death. God is pure love and wisdom flowing into us at all time.
Did God really want promises from Joan or Sarah in exchange for answering prayer? God is always striving to bring our loving prayers into reality – without our bargains. God is always working towards our regeneration; not seeking to bargain promises for prayer.
Have you made promises to God that leave you feeling guilty and fearful of punishment? Perhaps now is a good time to re-examine those and reconsider them in light of your relationship with God. God doesn't need promises from us to answer prayer. God wants us to accept the Divine promises we have been given, in eternal life and the ever-present in flow of the Divine into us at every moment.
You are the fig tree, and the Lord is there to always give you one more chance, and to nourish and nurture your growth gently and lovingly.
Standing on the Promises
Go in peace, trusting in God's divine in flow.