February 5, 2006
5th Sunday after Epiphany
"Are You Plugged In?"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Sue Buchanan tells the story about her father, a pastor in a small Southern town. It seems his granddaughter, Dana, for whatever reason, was afraid of the siren. In this small town, a siren went off every day at noon. It was installed generations ago in order to let factory workers know it was time to go home for lunch. Every time little Dana visited Grandpa, the siren scared her silly. So, Grandpa suggested that, since it was a lunchtime siren, whenever Dana heard it, she should stand up and yell, "Go home and get your lunch!"
Sure enough, Grandpa's suggestion worked. Whenever Dana heard the siren, she began yelling, "Go home and get your lunch!," and she never thought about being scared again.
Well, one Sunday morning, Grandpa got a little wound up and he was still preaching up a storm when the noon siren went off. (you can see it coming can't you?) And right on cue, Dana stood up, turned to the congregation, and yelled, "Go home and get your lunch!" and all the people promptly gathered up their things and left. (1)
Now don't get any ideas. I don't want you to go home and get your lunch. Refreshments of a spiritual nature will be served shortly when we celebrated the Lord's Supper. Besides, the Super Bowl doesn't start until this evening.
I wonder if there was ever a point in His ministry that Jesus wished the crowds would just go away? In the passage for today we see just how busy they kept Him.
Mark 1:29-39 (NRSV)
 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
 Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.
 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.
 And the whole city was gathered around the door.
 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
 And Simon and his companions hunted for him.
 When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you."
 He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do."
 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
In the midst of all that activity, Jesus rose early and went to a deserted place, a place by Himself, so he could pray.
It wasn't just to clear His head. It wasn't just to check in with God. It was in and through prayer that Jesus found the strength to do what he was called to do and the strength to be who he really was. Jesus went off by Himself into the presence of God because he had just spent hours being idolized by the crowds of people whom he had healed. If Jesus listened to the applause, He'd get lost in it all. Jesus knew he needed to step away. He needed to plug back into His purpose and position. He needed to plug back into servanthood for and through God. He needed to plug in and listen to God through prayer. 
Prayer is the extension cord that connects us to the power of God. Prayer is Power For Life, the Seat Belt of Life and Breath of Life for our souls.
As I've told you all before, I spent four years in the U.S. Coast Guard. A year of that service was spent on a LORAN Station on the island of Hokkaido in Japan. One of the pieces of electronic equipment we had on the base was a Teletype. It was early Instant Messaging. Well, just like the generators the mechanics worked on, the electronics equipment had to be run through a preventive maintenance schedule, as well.
Now there was a big rivalry between the Engineering Department and the Tech Department. We watched and laughed when they tore down one of the teletypes for the third time. They couldn't figure out what was wrong. They meticulously put it back together and each time it wouldn't work. At least until we finally too pity on them and pointed out that each time they had tried to make it work, they had forgotten to plug it in.
Here they were trying, Electronics Technicians, trying to operate a piece of electronic equipment without plugging into the source of power.
When we try to live our lives without prayer, we're just like them. We're not plugging into the real source of power, God. God offers us power for life. Power for living. I'm not talking about political or corporate power. Not the kind used to control others or make yourself stronger. I'm talking about the basic fuel we need for living in God's presence.
Are you plugged into the Power for Life.
A. One of the members of a church told her pastor that she came into church one Sunday, her mind elsewhere, and out of habit, she sat in the pew and reached for her seat belt. She and her pastor had a good laugh. But you know, she may be on to something. Because this life we lead can get pretty bumpy sometimes.
We'll be motivating along, everything seems normal, no problems, whatsoever. We've put our life on cruise control. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, there's a chuck hole the size of Kansas or a curve or a flat tire or somebody else's problems and life come crashing into ours. That's when we need a Seat Belt. Possibly even air bags and side impact airbags.
When that happens, and it's going to happen, prayer keeps us safe. It keeps us attached to our faith. It keeps us focused and in God's presence. We've been prepared. We know how to drive defensively. And we know that when those chuck holes, curves and crashes happened, we aren't alone.
B. In the movie Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal has had several of those sudden curves and crashes. The movie opens with her having moved to the tiny town of Naomi, Florida, with her father, the preacher. Like most "new kids," in town, Opal hasn't made any friends, yet. Instead of whining about it to her dad, she decides to take it up with God.
Opal runs into the storefront church where Dad's the preacher, but she's late. In a moving, beautiful little scene, Opal lifts her voice to God. She prays, "It's me, God. I'd like some friends." She then reviews the people available to her at church. One she describes as a girl with a pinched up face; another who's a five-year old finger sucker; and a couple of bald-headed boys. She says, "None of them wants to be friends." She also tells God that she wants to see her mother again.
Opal's prayer shows she is firmly attached to her faith. Her prayers have been her seat belt keeping her from falling away and getting injured. Not only that but her prayers are answered for, each of the children she initially rejects becomes a friend, and even though her mama never returns, she is blessed by the friendship of two older women in the town. (2)
Prayer kept her safe and helped get her to her destination.
I want to teach you a prayer technique that I find very useful and fulfilling. I think we've done this before but I can't remember when. It's called a Breath Prayers. I really like Breath Prayers because Prayer is also part of the Breath of Life.
Breath Prayers are really quite simple. Have you ever noticed that if you're nervous about doing something or saying something, that a deep breath right beforehand actually helps. Several of those slow deep breaths can put you in the right frame of mind and calm you down. Well, you can do the very same thing with Breath Prayers and use what you do naturally and instinctively as part of your Prayer Life.
[BRING DOWN LIGHTS] The first thing you do is close your eyes. Then you focus on those things that you want to get rid of. Those negative thoughts and feelings or the anger and stress that are sapping your energy and joy of life. Now breathe out. Expel all those negative things as you let your breath out.
Then focus on the love, joy, peace, grace, mercy, faithfulness all of those positive attributes of God. As you breathe in. Think about all the spiritual gifts Paul talks about. Breathe those in with every breath. And breathe out the garbage with every exhale.
Inhale the good, exhale the rotten focusing on God. Do it slowly. Slowly breathe in focusing on the gifts of God. Exhale slowly, giving yourself time to name all the junk you want out of your system.
[Show "Be Still" Clip. www.sermonvideos.com]
Prayer is the Breath Of Life. Breath prayers allow us to listen. They allow us to pray even when we're doing something else. They allow us to connect. Breath deep.
The kids were putting on the Christmas play. To show the radiance of the new born Savior, an electric light bulb was hidden in the manger. On cue, all the stage lights were supposed to be turned off so that only the brightness of the manger could be seen, but the boy who controlled all the lights got confused. You see ALL the lights went out!
It was a pitch black, tense moment. All of a sudden, out of the dark, the voice of one of the shepherds said in a loud stage whisper hollered "Hey! You switched off Jesus!" (4)
There was a news clip which appeared in the papers after blackout in one city. I don't know if was a misprint, a mistake or if it was true: "During the power failure many people complained of having gotten stuck for hours on escalators."
We can't go through our every day life with Jesus or God switched off. We won't make it. There won't be any power for living. We'll be stuck on the escalator of life and won't have the energy to walk up or down. We need to spend time in prayer. Prayer is our connection to the source of power in life, God.
Jesus knew that. And if Jesus, the Son of God, needed to refuel, to reconnect, to plug in and recharge, what makes us think that we can get along without it? You and I have a source of power and energy just waiting to be tapped. And all you have to do is plug in.
Because it's as close and as simple as breathing. Are You Plugged In?
1. Deborah Ford, with Edie Hand, The Grits Guide to Life (New York: Plume, 2003), p.172.
2. © 2003-2005 MovieMinistry.com, All Rights Reserved (DVD Chapter: 1 Start Time: 0:03:48 End Time: 0:05:28)
3. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), December 1984
www.SermonWriter.com (Copyright, Richard Niell Donovan, 2000)
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