Today is Commitment Sunday, and on your 2018 Commitment Card,
there is a box that we encourage all members and friends of the church to check.
The box says: I commit to pray regularly for Decatur Presbyterian Church.
The Apostle Paul never wrote one of his letters without encouraging the duty and privilege of prayer.
The Church is encouraged in Holy Scripture to: Persevere in prayer (Romans 12)
Pray in the Spirit at all times (Eph 6), Pray without ceasing (I Thess 5), Pray for me (Eph 6),
Pray for us (I Thess 5, II Thess 3, Heb 13), Pray for one another (James 5).
Prayer is the key to discerning God’s will.
Prayer is the means for finding our true way in life.
Prayer is a must in order for the Church to discover the doors that could be opened to us.
In our text for today, Paul does not ask for prayers that he would be released from his prison cell,
nor does he pray that his upcoming trial would have a good outcome.
He prayed that God would grant an opportunity to him and to the Church.
He prayed that a door would be opened, so that the good news of Jesus Christ
could continue to be shared.
Hear the Word of God from Colossians 4:2-6:
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.
At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word,
that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly,
as I should. Conduct yourselves wisely towards outsiders, making the most of the time.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.
Devote yourselves to prayer, keep alert in prayer; be careful and intentional and watchful in prayer.
Pray with thanksgiving – always counting your blessings. Pray that God will open a door to us.
Prayer is the first step in our discipleship, our daily opportunity to meet God and to discern God’s will.
Tom Tewell recently wrote – “God is asking us as followers of Jesus Christ to open our eyes
(and our ears) to the opportunities and possibilities all around us.
This is a unique moment in history.
So many people in the Church are discouraged with the decline in mainline Protestantism,
but actually this is a magnificent time to call people to a deeper walk with God.
People (all around us) are thirsty for God…even if they don’t know it.
So often ministry opportunities are right in front of us,
but (sometimes) we are so focused on the crisis or the obstacles
that we don’t even see the opportunities.
As Pastor Charles Swindoll says, “The greatest opportunities of our lives
(may) come to us brilliantly disguised as seemingly insolvable problems.”
The Church today faces many challenges, many potential problems,
but the Church also faces great opportunity, not unlike the early church of the first century.
The first century Church spread and grew under secular Roman rule, especially when under persecution.
It even spread to the small town of Colossae, to whom Paul wrote his letter,
to encourage these new Christians and clarify what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
A great opportunity lies before this congregation as we approach our 200th year.
Under vastly different cultural circumstances than perhaps this church has ever faced,
we have the opportunity to open wide our doors to this community,
to welcome the stranger, to bind up the broken hearted,
to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, to weep with those who weep.
As Paul writes, we are stewards of a great mystery! – the mystery of the love and grace of Jesus Christ,
the love and grace which conquers all ills, even death itself.
How fortunate we are to participate in the proclamation of this mystery from week to week!
We have good news to share – with our lives and occasionally with our words.
We never know what tragedies may befall us and the ones whom we love.
Last Sunday morning, a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas experienced an unimaginable tragedy.
Among the other children and adults, the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter was one of the victims.
The whole nation has been praying for this small town,
that it may know some measure of comfort amidst indescribable grief.
This afternoon, I will attend the funeral of a friend close to my age.
Last Saturday, this friend of mine from the soccer sidelines, a long term resident of Decatur,
a loving husband to a devoted wife, a father of two bright and engaging college students,
took his own life after a long bout with depression.
We often do not know what suffering friends and neighbors around us may be facing.
Yesterday was Veterans Day.
As we honor our veterans, we also become aware of the challenges they have faced.
This is a good time to pray that God would open a door to veterans,
especially those who returned home with injuries that cannot be seen.
This is a good time to pray that God would open a door for young families,
for parents who are so hyper busy that they feel like they have no room in their life for God,
let alone meaningful participation in a community of faith
This a good time to pray that God would open door for young adults,
all of whom are facing major life decisions,
some of whom are having panic attacks because they cannot see a hopeful future.
This is a good time to pray for those with mental illness, those who suffer from mild depression
as well as those cannot function in normal daily life.
This is a good time to pray for victims of sexual assault,
as recent news events recall painful times of discomfort and disgust.
This is a good time to pray for the elderly, who face a long and slow and sometimes frustrating decline.
This is a good time to pray for children who need to be loved, for single persons seeking friendships,
for married persons striving to keep their marriage intact, for homeless who need to be housed,
for the unemployed who seek meaningful employment, for the employed who seek a true vocation.
We pray, and then we live our prayers…
Friends, this congregation is granted the high privilege and calling to be Christ’s people
in and for the sake of this community, for the sake of the world.
We are called to be salt, light, and hope for people in need, for those who are lonely and hurting,
for a world that is thirsty, hungering for a Word from God.
First, fulfilling this calling requires prayer;
then, fulfilling God’s calling requires acting on our prayers with significant time, talent, and resources.
We will talk about the resources in a few minutes, but first I have a different request of you.
In addition to your financial commitments today,
I want you to write down the name of one particular person.
Write down the name of someone for whom God might open a door through you.
I invite you to tear off a slip of paper or open your notes app on your cell phone.
Write down the name of someone you know or whom you know of –
this could be a friend or neighbor, a loved one or a coworker.
Over the coming days and weeks, I ask you to pray for this person.
Pray that God will open a door for you toward them.
Ask God what your role might be related to this person.
Pray for how you might encourage their relationship with God and with the community of faith.
You are encouraged to turn in a commitment card as you bring your offerings today,
but I want you to hold onto this slip of paper.
Keep it in your pocket or your purse or on your dresser or post it on your mirror.
Every relationship we have is an opportunity.
Every calendar decision, every financial decision, is an opportunity to feel God’s pleasure,
to be a faithful steward of the time, talent and resources God has allowed us to manage.
In addition to personal relationships and calendar planning,
financial stewardship is also a fundamental part of our discipleship.
We spend most of the year talking about God’s grace and love,
but it is without embarrassment that sometimes during the year we talk about money.
Did you know that Jesus spoke five times as often about money and earthly possessions as he did about prayer?
Did you know that Jesus talked more about money than he did sin or even love?!
Sixteen of Jesus’ thirty-eight parables talk about the use of money. (Herb Miller, The Parish Paper)
Jesus knew the power of money and possessions, that they could either pull us away
from faithful discipleship, or become an effective tool for our corporate response to God.
We make financial commitments today in order to follow up on our prayers,
in order to offer tangible support for the ministries we share,
vital ministries offered for the sake of this congregation, community and world.
Pray that God will open a door for this Church for the Word to be shared.
Pray for your church staff and for your session, that we may support and encourage you
in this ministry of wide open doors, so that together we may declare the mystery of Christ.
Friends, remember – you are Decatur Presbyterian Church!
The Church is not the buildings or the budgets or the programs. The Church is you.
Pray that God will open a door through you, provide an opportunity through you,
to share the mystery of the grace, to offer the wonder of the healing mercy of Jesus Christ.
Your gifts of time, talent, and finances will enable us to walk through the doors that God opens,
and your gifts will allow us to discover untold blessings that we have not yet imagined.
To God be the glory in our prayers, in our relationships,
and in our faithful use of the resources entrusted to us.
May God open wide the doors of the Church!
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church
November 12, 2017