Last week we read the parable of the 10 Bridesmaids.
The nature of the Kingdom of God is that opportunities to step into it happen all the time –
but they can come upon us suddenly, and we have to be ready to seize the moment.
Otherwise the door can slam shut quickly and we miss that opportunity.
 
[Luke 12: 35-40]  Be ready…
It is part of God’s expectations of us that we are to be ready to step into the Kingdom of God at a moment’s notice
 
This can be true of forgiveness; sometimes a person pleads for forgiveness, and we can deny it – or we can set them free; but the opportunity may be quickly upon us, and fleeting;
 
It can be true of standing up against evil or even just not joining in with evil; doing something costly, but obviously required of a life guided by love.
 
Sometimes we have time to think and plan.
Sometimes it happens suddenly and we have to be ready.
 
It can be true of stopping to help a stranger who needs us to be their caring neighbor.
[e.g., the Good Samaratin]
 
[Read Walter Fish: A modern parable;  The Parable of the Fish on the Beach]
 
Q:  What is the message of this story?
 
Being ready to step into the Kingdom of God at a moment’s notice includes:
 
1) recognizing a distressed fish on the beach for what it is – a fish struggling to breath without much time left
 
2) taking immediate action to give the fish what it obviously needs: bending down and picking the fish up and putting it in the water
 
It does not involve analyzing how the fish got there, questioning the fish about how it plans to avoid such a situation in the future, worrying about being late for our own appointment somewhere, etc.

We have to be ready.  The door into the Kingdom of God can slam really fast.
And there are people who need us today.
In other words, God needs us today
 
Q: Why can’t God just take care of distressed people himself?
Why couldn’t God just send the wave to pull the fish back into the water before he died?
 
[Play “Hands” by Jewell (see words at end of lesson)]
 
Q:  “I will get down on my knees, and I will pray”  What do you imagine she is praying for?
A:  Not to be broken.  (not to be made idle with despair)
For God to use her (hands, heart, eyes, mind…)
 
Q:  What does she mean that we are God’s hands?
Q:  What does she mean that we are God’s eyes?
Q:  What does she mean that we are God’s mind?
Q:  What does she mean that we are God’s heart?]
 
God needs us as much as we need God.
Q: Do you believe this?  Does this idea bother you any?  Why?
 
[Matt. 6: 5-8] – pray in secret; God knows what you need before you ask him.
Jesus taught his disciples that long eloquent public prayers don’t mean much to God.  Talking to God privately, straight from the heart is what counts.
 
Q: Why do we have to pray, when God already knows what we need (Matt 6:8)?
[Our daughter, living in the midst of a devastating drought in Texas, asked us once,  “Why do we pray for rain?” How would you answer such a question?
My spouse told me once of a friend whose dog died after she had prayed really hard that it not die.  She asked, “Why do we pray?” How would you answer such a question?]

Prayer is another great mystery.  There is no easy answer to that question.  But clearly Jesus understood that prayer is necessary sometimes to bring about God’s will.
 
Maybe connecting with God through prayer allows God to act in the world by acting through us?
 
[Mark 9: 14-29]  Although the disciples healed many others, they could not cure this boy –
Q: Why could they not cure him?
A: Because they had not prayed…
 
Perhaps God must work through our minds to act in the world, just like he must work through our hands?
 
But we have to allow God to do that.  Prayer makes our eyes, hearts, hands, and minds available to God so that he can work through them.
Making our eyes, hearts, hands, and minds available to God makes us agents of God’s work – What better role could there be for us in life than that?

Hands
by Jewel Kilcher; Album: Spirit (1998)

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be, we’re all ok
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
 
My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
 
Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn’t steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn’t ever after

We’ll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what’s right
‘Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing

My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
 
In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters
 
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray… (3X)
My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken…   (2X)
We are never broken…
We are God’s eyes
God’s hands
God’s mind

We are God’s eyes
God’s hands
God’s heart
 
We are God’s eyes
We are God’s hands
We are God’s eyes…

–Jewel