Monday, July 15, 2013

"Fasting and Praying" International Sunday School Lesson for Sunday July 21, 2013

                               "Fasting and Praying"
International Sunday School Lesson for Sunday July 21, 2013

Scripture Text: Ezra 8:21-23

Purpose: To affirm that in worship we are to become vulnerable and make sacrifices before God

Ezra 8:21-23 (CEB)
21 Then I called for a fast there at the Ahava River so that we might submit before our God and ask of him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions.22 I had been ashamed to ask the king for a group of soldiers and cavalry to help us in facing enemies on the way, because we had told the king, "The power of God favors all who seek him, but his fierce wrath is against all who abandon him."23 So we fasted and prayed to our God for this, and he responded to us.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

For the past few weeks we have been looking at worship as it existed in Jerusalem during the rebuilding of the temple. Today our lesson takes place as Ezra, the scribe and priest, is ready to head to Jerusalem himself.

Jewish tradition has Ezra as the scribe and chronicler of most of the Talmud or Jewish writings aside from the books attributed to the prophets or Moses, or David. He is credited with bringing back to Jerusalem the books of worship and also may have written down the sayings and stories, in a script that could be used, for all of the books we call the Old Testament. In addition he is credited with several writings of the Apocrypha, where he is refereed to as Esdras.

Our lesson text is only three verses long, but it paints a picture for us that should call us to willingly be vulnerable in the way we live the Christian life. Our text shows a devout man that had told a good story while in the comfort of the King of Persia's protection, but now he was going to have to make himself vulnerable and possible risk his own life.

The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem would take about four months and this band of unarmed travelers would be subjected to all sorts of bandits and enemies. While Ezra's decision to not ask the king for a small military escort may have seemed unwise. Ezra knew that he and others had been assuring the Persians that their God would protect them as they made this journey.

I think the question for us is how can we become a more powerful witness by making ourselves vulnerable? I don't think that we should put ourselves in dangerous situations, but, we do need to take stands on occasion, that might not be the most popular. We are probably the most vulnerable when we voice opposition to popular or socially accepted behavior that does not best identify us with the teachings of Christ or the church.

Christians that voice opposition to behavior that society and our culture now finds acceptable is a way we can make ourselves vulnerable. Promoting good environmental practices can make us vulnerable, even among some so called Christians. Taking a stand on our freedom of worship as well as to worship, can make us vulnerable. Promoting prayer and witnessing in our schools can make us vulnerable. Allowing chaplains to comfort soldiers by sharing the gospel, can make us vulnerable.

Christianity is under attack on several fronts, there are plenty of opportunities for us to make ourselves vulnerable in today's world.

From the earliest Apostles to missionaries of today there have been those that have sacrificed everything for Christ. Doing things in the name of Christ does not always guarantee we will succeed, or that our life will be spared. We are called to proclaim the Good News and it is possible that we might need to make ourselves vulnerable, in order for that message to be more affective.

Whether we become vulnerable physically, emotionally or spiritually, we need to be willing to try. Living out our faith is our best witness. The palmist said in 103:1 “Let my whole being bless the Lord!, Let everything inside me bless his holy name!

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