Luke 6:12-19

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. Luke 6:12-19

Every day is a good day to pray. Today is a good day to pray. Why do we pray? What IS prayer?

Everyone knows that communication is the key to every healthy relationship. And everyone knows that God gives us two ears and one mouth and therefore we ought to remember that ratio when communicating with others.

Unlike the gospel of John which casts whole chapters as the content of Jesus’ prayers, the synoptic gospels usually tell us only that Jesus made time to go off, by himself, to pray. In today’s reading, Jesus prayed all night long. Clearly his next move, identifying his key disciples, was a consequential moment. We can trust his prayers were for guidance, wisdom, and clarity.

I can’t imagine a day in our lives – as individuals, family members, workers, friends, citizens – where we don’t need such guidance, wisdom, and clarity. So prayer is about seeking, knocking, asking. We intercede on the behalf of others. We pray for health and wholeness.

But there is much more to relationships than negotiating our needs. Even more than helping one another. Sometimes it is simply about being together, enjoying one another’s company, sharing life’s ups and downs. Prayer is that too.

Jesus identified a core group within his followers to walk closest to him. The disciples were apprentices, learning by watching, and soon, learning by doing. That is how a person became a rabbi in Jesus’ day – studying under a master.

But the disciples were also something more. They provided Jesus with companionship. With friendship. Imagine that. They walked wherever they went. They ate meals together. They talked and talked and talked and talked. They got to know one another. And sometimes they fought amongst themselves.

I don’t know who first said this but they’re right, “A leader without followers is just taking a walk.” Followers do more than reflect their leaders, they define their leaders. The disciples were essential to the ministry of Jesus – their relationship with Jesus participated in the essence of what Jesus was all about. Freedom, liberation, mercy, healing, inclusion (even including Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.)

Even Simon the Zealot made the team. Think of the party of the Zealots as the Tea Party of Jesus’ day. Barabbas – on this day when we all have pardons on our minds – was a Zealot. Christianity is a team sport and Jesus built a leadership team around himself.

He still does.

Today we welcome a new President of the United States as our national leader. He’s not a savior or messiah or God’s anointed leader for these times – we already have one of those and his name is Jesus. He will become our president because a majority of voters voted for him. We hired him to work for us. May God bless him in his work and may God guide those who work with him for the good of our country and the world.

When Jesus came down the mountain, the crowds were waiting for him. The crowds will always gather. The crowds will always have expectations and needs and desires. Some were there to get what they wanted. Some were there to criticize and destroy everything good that Jesus would do. Once gathered, Jesus taught them. He communicated with them. And he showed them the actions of love and healing that made what he taught real in their lives.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, you have made yourself known to us. You have laid claim on our lives. You called us in our baptism to be your followers through all the chances and changes of life. Today, a day of great transition of leadership, remind us of the ties that bind us and the good work that you have called us to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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