Come Away to the Beautiful Place

January 9, 2005

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning. Our sermon this morning is entitled “Come Away to the Beautiful Place.” Oh dear friends, as you and I have been looking out the window these days in January, it still seems as though there’s more nighttime than daytime. Sometimes it seems there are more clouds than sunshine. But you know, my dear friends, thoughts like that in the middle of January can even provoke us to look in the paper at the travel section. Do you find yourself doing that a bit more this year, looking at the places where the sun is shining a lot or where there are interesting things to see?

 

Well, this morning, dear friends, I’m going to ask you to come away. Come away this week to the beautiful place. And whether you are able-bodied and can drive a car, or whether you are reading this sermon from a hospital bed or listening to it from a place where you must stay, you can still come away to the beautiful place. Yes you can! Because that beautiful place is the place of prayer.

 

Oh, my dear friends, I’ve been thinking about this so much and wanting to share it with you. Prayer is a beautiful place to be.

 

I invite you to ask yourselves, “How is it going with my prayer life?” Maybe some of you will say, “Oh, I pray everyday and I’m so fulfilled in my prayer life.” Perhaps others are saying, “Well, you know, it’s a little hit and miss – or hit and run. I go to God and I say, ‘God, please help me fix this’ or ‘O Lord, don’t let me be late for this appointment!’ or ‘Lord, how am I going to handle this situation? I feel so bad.’” Perhaps our prayers are a series of requests. There’s nothing wrong with requests. God wants us to make our requests known to Him.

 

But sometimes, in the busy-ness and the responsibility of our lives, our prayers can be relegated to prayer requests, can’t they? Oh friends, this morning I invite you to make a decision to step across a line from your everyday life into the beautiful place of prayer.

 

Perhaps for you that beautiful place is a golden room, in the center of which is a column of light, powerful yet peaceful, loving and energizing, that represents the spirit of God. Perhaps for you that beautiful place is like a garden, where you behold the beauty of the roses and the lilies and the lilacs, and it is there that you meet the Savior, Jesus Christ, and you talk with Him. Whatever image is most appealing to you, I invite you to hold it. And whenever you go to prayer, be in that place.

 

Oh, friends, what did you think prayer was like up until now? Did you enter prayer feeling a little guilty? Did you enter prayer saying, “Lord, I’m sorry I haven’t been here for a while”? Did you ever enter prayer wondering how the Lord would feel about you? Let your time of prayer be a time in the beautiful room.

 

I’d like to invite you to consider four ideas with me to hold in your mind as you go into that beautiful space. The initials spell ACE (like the card) augmented: ACCE. When you go into prayer, friends, you are Accepted; you are Connected; we are Corrected; and we are Encouraged. We are Accepted, Connected, Corrected, and Encouraged – yes, we are.

 

Dear friends, let it be so for you that that room is your sacred space in consciousness. And when you cross that line you are accepted, no matter what. Maybe the first time you do it and you find yourself in that golden room, you’ll say, “Oh, Lord, forgive me! How can I be here with you?” No, my friends: as soon as you enter into prayer, you are accepted.

 

Some of you may have been using that hand signal we talked about some months ago, making the sign of the cross by bringing your index finger down on the inside of your thumb and across, and holding it to remind yourself that you are in the sacred space. Remember that you are accepted, “just as you are, without one plea, but that His blood was shed for thee.”

 

I heard a beautiful story this week. It was told to me by the father of a teenage boy. It seems that the teenage boy had become very rebellious and confrontational about some things, and the father felt that a discussion was in order. They were having a heated discussion, and the father said, “You know what? There isn’t anything you could do that was so bad it would cause me to love you any less, son. And there isn’t anything that you could do that was so very good that it would cause me to love you any more than I already do.” There was something about that that melted things a little bit for the son, and they began to talk. And as he felt the security of that love and the totality of that acceptance, communication started between them and good behavior developed and the relationship deepened.

 

As you enter the golden room of prayer, can you hear God saying that to you? “There’s nothing you could do wrong that could cause me to love you any less, and nothing you could do that’s so right that it could cause me to love you any more than I already do.” Oh, friends, you are accepted. Spend time in that golden room, won’t you?

 

And second, you are connected. My word, it is the Christian belief that when you say you are in prayer, the intention to be in prayer is entrance to prayer and connects you with the source of the universe, in whose image and likeness you are created. You are connected to Almighty God. And what a delight that is! What a power that is, to know that your spirit and God’s spirit are connected! You know that beautiful picture on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where Adam reaches out his hand and God’s hand reaches out to touch his – that’s what prayer is like. You are connected to Almighty God, and there is delight in our hearts because of it.

 

But not only that! I believe that there is delight in God’s heart, to be near you. Do you remember that wonderful passage of scripture right before the Last Supper when Jesus Christ says to His disciples, “I have longed with great longing to share this Passover meal with you”? When you reach out and are connected with God, I believe there is delight in the very heart of God. You are accepted, and you are connected.

 

And in prayer, we are corrected. Now, don’t let that put you off. It’s not a lecture; it’s not judgment time. It’s growing time. Even Jesus was changed at that highly powerful prayer moment called His baptism. He went into the water of the Jordan and was baptized of John, and He came out of the water transformed. So much so that He was sent into the wilderness to contemplate His new-found powers.

 

And so it is with us. When we go into prayer, we are saying, “God, help me grow. Where do I need to grow? Where do I need to become more the way You want me to be? Is there a hardness in my heart that needs to melt? Is there a mistake I’m making that I don’t need to make any more? Is there a fear I’m harboring that I need to rise above? Is there an insecurity that’s keeping me from the fullness of Your plan that I need to let go off? Lord, let me grow in this moment of prayer.”

 

Since you are totally accepted and connected to your heavenly Father, you can grow in safety and without any fear and come from your prayer a changed person. In the golden room of prayer, we are accepted, we are connected, and we are corrected – we are made better.

 

And, my friends, we are encouraged! Did you ever know a person – and I’ve known several in my life – where just talking with them makes you feel better? Just being around them makes you feel better about yourself. You’ve heard me refer to one gentleman so often, Joel Nystrom, one of the founding members of this church. He was that kind of guy. You couldn’t come away from a conversation with him without feeling better about yourself. My own dear mother, whom I had the pleasure of knowing for 37 ½ years, was like that, an encourager to the core. How much greater an encourager than anyone is Jesus Christ, wanting to lift you up, His beloved child in whom He is well-pleased, and send you back into the world energized and transformed.

 

You are accepted and connected and corrected and encouraged, for your living of these days. And so, dear friends, my prayer for you this week is that you would take some time, whenever it occurs to you, to step over that line, from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from the everyday to the golden room of prayer. Feel God’s accepting, encouraging grace and love for you, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.

 

© 2005 Anthony J. Godlefski