July 24: Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12):
Draft text of the homily, please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.
Lord, teach us to pray.
What about Jesus’s prayer is different, I wonder.
It must have been different from what they were used to because they see him doing it and ask, “teach us to do that.”
Teach us as John taught his disciples…maybe John’s prayer was different as well?
What was it about Jesus’ prayer that was different? Noticeable?
This passage is interesting because at first he gives them a set formula of words. These very familiar words…the Lord’s prayer…
But then he launches immediately into this story…sometimes referred to as the parable of the seamless friend.
And then he launches into this teaching about asking, and seeking, and knocking
He’s still teaching them about prayer, but now it’s not about words, rather it’s about attitude, about persistence, about trust, about a relationship.
Prayer is about relationship.
Franciscan priest and teacher Richard Rohr describes prayer as “a stance, a way of being in the world.” A connected way, “a way of love and acceptance, rather than a stance of judgement, or analysis, or critique.”
He says, “What ever you do in a state of communion, connection, love, is prayer…
“When you’re acting out of a state of conscious loving union with what you’re doing…
with God and the person across from you…that’s the deepest meaning of prayer.
“Whatever we do in a state of union is prayer…what ever we do not in a state of communion is not prayer.”
The twelve team members who went to El Hogar (adults and youth from All Saints, and young adults from St. Stephens and Baltimore) all learned something about prayer in Honduras; real prayer, this kind of conscious, loving union with God and those around you.
To give you just a brief refresher: El Hogar was started in 1979 when the Spirit brought together five members of the local Episcopal Church and five scared, hungry, little boys abandoned on the streets of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The adults rented a house, brought the boys in and fed them, clothed them and provided them with safety, love and compassion. Now, El Hogar has four schools (an elementary school where we stayed, a technical school and and agricultural school for the boys, and a residence for high school girls. Nearly 1,000 students have graduated in the past 30 years, and El Hogar continues to “find the most desperate children – the ones on the streets, the ones without enough to eat, the ones at most risk – and show them what a better future looks like” by providing a loving home and an education.
Prayer surrounds and infuses the work at El Hogar. Claudia, the head of the elementary school likes to describe the “umbrella of prayer that covers the school.” And prayer surrounded us as we made our pilgrimage there.
Three of the team members, Sue LeClaire, Bruce Keary, and Becky Taylor have been reflecting on the reality of prayer that we experienced at El Hogar, and are here to share some of those brief reflections.
In today’s Gospel reading, a disciple asks Jesus to teach him how to pray. Jesus’ response is a three-part teaching; a prayer, a parable about prayer, and additional words about prayer. Padre nuestro, que estas en el cielo, santificado sea tu nombre; Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; Like the disciples, we – the 12 volunteers from All Saints Parish, St. Stephen’s, and St. Ignatius were bound by prayer during our week’s sojourn to Honduras. Beginning with structured prayer each morning, we embarked on our day’s journey weaving relationships with the staff and children at El Hogar as well as with each other. My prayer experience began Sunday afternoon at St. Lucia. After Sunday morning service at St. Mary’s, we ventured to the Valley of the Angles to meet the high school girls. Following lunch, a group of us gathered on the steps just outside the front door and quietly worked on friendship bracelets with embroidery thread one of our teammates brought with her. In fractured Spanish, we asked for instruction on how to make a certain knot and willingly gave away our creations, leaving a little bit of ourselves behind. In this beau colic setting, I was able to open my heart to both God and these girls. There was one girl in particular, Llilia, that captured a piece of me. As Llilia and I were exchanging bracelets with each other, I realized we were creating a bond with one another and God. I pray for her daily, both for her circumstances that brought her to St. Lucia as well as the future I hope she will have because of El Hogar. Creating friendship bracelets throughout the week provided the space I needed to process what I had seen and heard. On Thursday, it was evident how fragile the threads that hold us together can be. In the morning we listened to two men share their war stories of life on the street addicted to drugs and running with gangs as pre-teens. Later in the day we embarked on a home visit in Tegucigalpa where gang activity is rampant and the homes are utterly hopeless. Following the home visit, a group of us gathered on the porch and attached our threads to the chairs. We discerned privately and aloud what God was saying to us, how the experience was changing us, and what could we do to help the people who were becoming a part of the fabric of our lives. Saturday morning as we were leaving the compound, we gathered one last time with Matt, the Executive Director of El Hogar. We pointedly asked “what can we do?” And, Matt replied, “pray.” In prayer we can keep the experience alive in our hearts as we contemplate how we proceed. It has been a week since our return and I am still conflicted about how to move forward. A part of me is stuck in Honduras. I continue to pray, seeking God’s voice, to help me to understand how I can best serve him and the people I created a bond with at El Hogar. Porque tuyo es el reino, el poder, y la Gloria; Por los siglos de los siglos. Amén. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory; Forever and ever. Amen.
Our Mission Team reflection is an echo of today’s gospel. It’s about Prayer, Gifts and Shameless Neighbors. At El Hogar we prayed together a couple of times each day, and it seems to me we were constantly praying with our handiwork and our connection. • Several of us prayed by making, exchanging, giving and receiving knotted linen thread bracelets • Our athletes prayed by playing soccer with the kids and the staff • I prayed by playing my ukulele and by teaching anyone who asked me how to play the uke As soon as one of us dribbled the soccer ball; whenever one of us helped a sister weaver correct a knotwork mistake or attempt a yet more elaborate design, and when a kid would take my uke right out of my hands so he or she could try to play, we were giving of ourselves, and we were receiving the gift of connection with the El Hogar kids and from our teammates. As we spent more and more time with the kids, and with our teammates, as we learned more about both their needs and the profound love the kids were willing to offer us, we increasingly offered love to one another. Then it seems to me, each of the team members, from within her or his particular personal space, learned the lesson of today’s gospel. Each of us in her or his own way received the blessing conferred upon the grumpy householder called upon at night to help his shameless neighbor. [Shameless, by the way, I take to mean not mean craven or blatant, but without shame, innocent, and willing to initiate interdependence without hindrance by the harmful inhibition of shame.] For instance Ben, really competing and happily scoring on a much smaller El Hogar defender; Franklin, distraught at losing the thread bracelet made for him by his 8-year old heartthrob, Cesia, tearing the volunteer house apart looking for it, scouring the grounds, hoping against hope, then finally thrilling us by sharing his insight that the bracelet was merely a transitory token; that he could never lose the love that little Cesia shared with him and that he felt for her. Me frantically pursuing 5-year old Alexander when he mindlessly walked away with one of the precious school ukuleles, only to find him back at the teaching table, generously passing it on the next beginner. And one by one, the 12 of us on the mission team; And one by one, or two or three by two or three, the entire precious Noah’s Ark full of El Hogar kids, All of us … fell into KINSHIP. Which is what our God had in mind from the beginning.
This is the fifth time I have led a team from our parish to El Hogar, but the first time I have gone there as a member of its board of directors. For a year and a half I have been serving on the board of El Hogar Ministries, the nonprofit organization here in North America that oversees all aspects of donor support, communications, networking, and fundraising for El Hogar’s four centers in Honduras. Recently I was asked to consider becoming the vice president of the board. I went to Tegucigalpa carrying this invitation to new leadership with me. On Monday morning during our visit I awoke early and went outside to pray alone. The campus was beginning to wake up, too. Staff members were arriving for work. A few children were up, doing their chores. And one other member of our team was walking quietly around. Across the way from where I sat, the words “Dios es amor” – “God is love” – were painted in large colorful letters on the wall of the auditorium: a welcome reminder as I entered into prayer. That morning I asked God to help me in my discernment. I prayed for openness and patience, for wisdom and clarity. “Please give me a full sense of what I am being asked to steward,” I prayed. I believe that God began to respond to my prayer that very morning during the weekly on-campus Eucharist celebration. A deacon from the Episcopal Cathedral of Santa Maria presided. One member of our team, Bruce Keary, agreed to assist as chalice bearer. Everyone – children, staff and volunteers – the Body of Christ in that particular place and at that particular time – was gathered together in prayer, song, sacrament, and blessing. For me it was a deeply moving experience. God seemed to be telling me, “This is what this place is all about. You are part of El Hogar de Amor y Esperanza, the home of love and hope. Remember that.” For me, prayer is about tapping into the unconditional love of God, and then trying my best to return that love by embodying it with all that God has entrusted to my care. As Jesus reminds us in our reading this evening/morning, I can trust that God will hear and respond to my prayers, and guide me in my life, because God loves me like a parent loves a child.