In the Lectionary

Sunday, January 13, 2013: Isaiah 43:1-7; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

I was ordained last February, and since then I’ve been invited to preach at more than a dozen churches as a supply preacher. It’s always an adventure to pack up my minister’s gown and stole and drive to a new church. Last summer I found myself preaching at the opening worship service for a local fair.

More recently, I used my GPS system to locate a church on the mountainous Pennsylvania and West Virginia border. I traveled literally over the river and through the woods (and under the large conveyor belt of an immense coal mine) to an idyllic valley and pulled up in front of a small clapboard church with a white steeple.

Early in the worship service, I discovered that this congregation believed in heartfelt prayer. It seemed as though every person who had come that morning brought with him or her a joy or concern to share during the church’s prayer time. As a result, the prayer time took a prominent position in the service. People mentioned illnesses, economic uncertainty, injuries, academic anxiety and family challenges. Some described athletic victories, medical healings or improvements and the enjoyment of church activities and charitable endeavors. The responses that people in this closely knit group shared with each other indicated their mutual trust and their confident hope. A church elder took note of each prayer request and then poetically wove them together in a congregational prayer that stressed the comfort God provides amidst the hard edges and high points of human existence.