Prayer for an astronaut

Saturday night I was given the privilege of giving the opening prayer at an event put on by Nebraska Educational Television: the Governor's Premier of the documentary about Nebraska born and bred astronaut Clay Anderson. I remember Clay from high school, mostly from band, as he was a three grades younger than I. His sister Lorie and I were friends.

After sharing a bit about Clay's parents, Jack and Alice, who have passed away, I offered a few introductory words and the prayer, which are printed below.

"As a call to prayer, I thought it might be fitting to remember Yuri Gagarin, the first human to see earth from the vantage of space. He's been credited with saying, 'I have been to the heavens, and there is no God.' But apparently those words are not on the verbatim of his space flight, and they are more likely to have originated with Nikita Khrushchev. What Yuri Gagarin did say to ground control is this. 'The earth is blue. ...How wonderful. It is amazing.'

"To me, that might be the most important reason for us to explore space. It's so we can hear the wonder in their voices, see their pictures, and vicariously live that experience through them. It's so we can be filled with awe at the little blue marble we live on. And whenever we're filled with awe, it awakens a sense of reverence and humility.

"So, filled with awe, reverence, and humility, as residents of the amazing blue marble, let's pray.

"Dear God, thank you that we get to explore the universe you have created. It takes our breath away to behold the wonder of the atom, the grandeur of a galaxy, the multitude of species, and the beauty of each and every person. Give us eyes to see ourselves as your children, sharing your gift of planet earth.

"We don't want to be like those in centuries past who shunned scientific knowledge, because it didn't fit what they'd been previously taught. Give us the grace and courage to study both scripture and creation, to know that all truth is your truth. May we cry out as David did 3000 years ago, 'The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands' (Psalm 19:1).

"Thank you for being with us tonight. Thank you for being with Clay during his trip to space and back. Thank you for showing us the way, the truth, and the life.

"We share this meal and this moment with grateful hearts, and we give thanks to you. We have been blessed so far beyond what we deserve.

"We may have a number of faiths represented here tonight, but as for me, I pray in the name of the one who said he came to seek and save the lost--and that includes me. I pray in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen."


Simon Peter restored

Read John 21:15-25. 

Observation: Compare vs. 15-19 with 18:15-18, 25-27.  What is the connection between them? 

Application: If Jesus calls you to "Feed my lambs," "Tend my sheep," and "Feed by sheep," what might that calling look like for you in the coming week?


Appearance to seven

Read John 21:1-14.

Observation: List the times the writer gives very specific details.  What does the abundance of fish (vs. 6, 8 and 11) tell us about Jesus? 

Application: Do you assume the Lord is usually stingy or generous with you?  How does your assumption affect the way you approach life? 


Appearance to disciples

Read John 20:19-31. 

Observation: In this passage, what leads to belief?  What does belief lead to?  What kind of belief is most blessed? 

Application:  What difference will it make whether you have received the Holy Spirit as one who is sent by Jesus to continue his work? 


Appearance to Mary

Read John 20:1-18.

Observation: Based on what the passage says, what are the assumptions of Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and the other disciple?  What were their expectations that morning? 

Application: Twice in this passage Mary gives testimony to what she has witnessed.  What have you witnessed?  Who will you tell?


"It is finished"

Read John 19:25-40.

Observation: What has Jesus finished (vs. 28 and 30)? Compare this to 4:34; 5:36; and 17:4. How is Jesus’ death a fulfillment of 12:23-24? How does he bear fruit?

Application: Pick one person in this passage and try to imagine the details of what he or she might have seen, heard, smelled or felt. What is your reaction?


Sentenced and crucified

Read John 19:1-25a.

Observation:  Underline or list all references to power, authority, office and title.  How do these illustrate the irony of Jesus' sentence and crucifixion? 

Application: If you were cast as an actor in a passion play as one of the characters in yesterday's or today's reading, which would be the most fitting for you?  Why? 


Denied and tried

Read John 18:15-40.

Observation: After reading this passage, go back and read aloud or write down all the questions.  What motivates each of these questions? 

Application: Read these questions aloud meditatively and let yourself be addressed by them.  Which question speaks to you most?  How do you respond? 


Jesus betrayed and arrested

Read John 18:1-14. 

Now we're leaving the extended meal time conversation and returning to "plot."

Observation: How does this passage relate to what Jesus said in 10:18?  What is Jesus referring to in his question in v. 11? 

Application: Read vs. 10-11 again and imagine yourself as Simon Peter.  When have you done something that seemed right at the time, but later you learned that it was not best?  How does Jesus' response to Peter help you?


That they may be one

Read John 17:20-26. 

This will be the shortest of the daily readings through John's gospel. 

Observation: Who is Jesus praying for now?  What does he pray for three times?  Why is it repeated? 

Application: What will help the world believe (vs. 21 and 23)?  What does that have to do with you?


Jesus prays for his disciples

Read John 17:1-19. 

V. 3 had a profound impact on me when I was a teenager to help me discover that a Christian is one who has a relationship with God and with Jesus. 

Observation: Based on this passage, what does Jesus want for his disciples?  What is the relationship between word/truth and his disciples? 

Application: What one piece of Jesus' prayer would you want him to pray over you right now?


Joy that cannot be taken

Read John 16:16-33. 

This is a continuation of the meal time conversation that began in chapter 13 and continues through the end of chapter 17.  I believe John leaves out the institution of the Lord's Supper because he knows the other gospel writers have already covered it. 

Observation: Search this passage for examples of contrast (for example "weep" and "rejoice").  How do they help you understand Jesus' message? 

Application: What is one situation in your life where you need to rely on Jesus' words in v. 27?