Seeing the world through a theological lens...
Part 6 in a series on the Lord's Prayer
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
- Luke 11:4
This last portion of Luke's version of the Lord's prayer is very often how we begin our own prayers. When we feel desperate, or fearful, or worried, we turn to God for comfort (as we should- don't stop doing that). But we often start our prayers by asking God for something... now! Protect us, God. Keep us safe. Keep us from all difficulty; keep us out of trouble, keep us from wandering, and keep us from suffering...
That last bit is the main thing, isn't it? No one wants to suffer. No one prays that they might be brought into painful circumstances (times of trial) in order to grow closer to God, even though we've most likely lived though it and have come out stronger in our relationship with God in the end.
We have felt God's presence during the hardest days of our lives. We've experienced the love of God's people, ministering to us when we're in crisis. We've received God's mercy and grace when we've needed it the most. We know God will bring us through any storm.
Our faith is sure... well, most of the time.
Jesus instructs the disciples to pray, "Keep us from the time of trial," not because they will be able to avoid suffering, or conflict, or pain any more than we can. Just living out the ways of Christ will bring each disciple into conflict and confrontation with the people and powers of the world. They will at every turn, be tempted (as we are continually tempted) to turn away from the teachings of Jesus; to take the easier path, to compromise true love, inclusion, and compassion, and go back to the ways of the world. At times, temptation will win, albeit painful for the believer to admit and endure. That is to be expected as none of us is perfect, save Jesus.
Jesus instructs the disciples to pray, "keep us from the time of trial" instead, so that in the midst of adversity, the disciples might remember who they (we) are. That we might recollect the God who has cared for us in the past, and will surely not leave us orphaned. (John 14:18) In the midst of stress and strain, and even sin, that we would continue to see ourselves as God's children- loved- cherished, no matter what. That God's spirit lives in us.
And from that knowledge of who we are and whose we are, draw strength and perseverance to endure.
The prayer Jesus gives to us is simple. It offers opportunities to the pray-er for thanksgiving, praise, confession, and supplication. Pray it now with me if you like...
Father, (or whatever address you have chosen)
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
Peace to you,
Part 5 in a series on the Lords Prayer
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. -Luke 11:3
God offers us forgiveness. Unconditional, unmerited, unsolicited, forgiveness. Jesus modeled that kind of forgiveness in his life and ministry. There we no strings attached to the forgiveness he granted. Though he encouraged us to repent, to turn our lives around, to do things differently, to see God differently, repentance was not a requirement to being forgiven.
Don't believe me? Even from the cross Jesus offered forgiveness to those who put him there; who were neither sorry nor repentant for doing so. His encouragement to people like the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), to "go and sin no more" did not include an "or else," clause. There is no "or else," when it comes to God's love and forgiveness. God forgives.
That concept in itself may be overwhelming to us, because it is so contrary to what we may have been taught about forgiveness. Many of us learned that we need to pray for forgiveness, and then remain sinless, lest we lose God's favor. This could not be farther from the truth. We pray and ask for forgiveness so that we may move closer to God; that our relationship grows more intimate, more honest. To be able to tell God the things we've done, the hurts we've inflicted on ourselves and others, without fear of condemnation or rejection, also helps us to see ourselves in a different light. It helps us become more like the people God has designed us to be. It helps us become more like Jesus.
It Is this kind of forgiveness that we are to grant to one another. That thought also might be overwhelming; most of us need gesture of repentance from the one who wronged us before we even consider forgiving them, and there are a lot of reasons why. Yet, if we are to really receive God's forgiveness, unconditional, unmerited, unsolicited, then we need to work toward forgiveness of others in this same way. (As a not so small aside, forgiving others includes forgiving ourselves... sometimes that is the most difficult of all!)
It's not that God won't forgive us If we don't forgive others (or ourselves). It's that we are unable to receive God's forgiveness if we harbor grudges, hurt, judgement, and hatred inside. They act as a wall around our hearts, blocking us from living in the freedom of God's love that comes through forgiveness.
I'm not saying It's easy. I'm not saying that we may not have to seek help in learning to forgive those who have offended us, (or ourselves) or hurt us or the ones we love. Yet, we have the chance, an opportunity to do just that through God's help and the help of others we trust. Forgiveness opens the door to really living in the light of Christ; to experiencing all that God has for us!
We can forgive, because God first forgives us.
Peace and forgiveness to you this day,
If you have questions, or if you need help in working through forgiveness, please don't hesitate to contact me.
:Part 4 of a series on the Lord's prayer
Give us each day our daily bread. - Luke 11:3
Finally. A straightforward, easy to understand line of the prayer. Give us each day our daily bread. That God would bestow on us the basics of life; that we would have what we need, and as much as we need (not want, just need) to sustain us. Every. Single. Day.
Once I was asked, "What do you hope to hear God say when you get to heaven?"
I responded, "God would say, 'You were right, heaven does smell like a bakery!'"
Is there anything more comforting or welcoming than the aroma of bread baking? (Even the gluten free and low carb versions smell wonderful in the oven, so as not to exclude anyone from this delight.)
It's no wonder Bread has become a staple of life. It connects us to the land, connects us to one another when we "break bread" and share a meal, and reminds us that we are connected to Christ when we celebrate in communion.
Bread sits on the tables of the wealthy and the poor, the free and the prisoner, the evil and the good. Jesus uses 5 loaves of bread to feed 5000; to teach us the importance of sharing even the ordinary, basics of what we have with those around us. Bread blesses those who are hungry, and sustains those who have little else.
To ask In prayer for God to give us each day our daily bread, infers that we will have not just enough to fill ourselves, but to share with others. We are meant to be meeting with others, including others, and sharing with others, the bread we've been given. Every. Single. Day.
The place of Jesus's birth, Bethlehem, translated literally means, "House of bread." It is no coincidence that one who refers to himself as the "Bread of Life" would be born in the "House of Bread." He is the staple of our lives. He meets us, includes us, shares with us the revelation of God in ourselves and one another. Every. Single. Day.
When we pray, "give us each day our daily bread," we pray for the eyes to see the face of Jesus in every day things, in the staples of life, in every person, in all of creation; and the grace to share the Bread of Life, as much as we've been given.
Peace and warm bread to you this day,
This is part 3 of a series on the Lord's Prayer.
Your kingdom come. -Luke 11:2 b
We pray these words without thinking about or realizing what we ask, most of the time. What is the Kingdom, or in gender inclusive language, "kindom" of God, and why should we ask God to bring it about? Do we understand that for which we hope?
Jesus spoke a lot about it. One of the first things we hear about Jesus when he emerges from his time of temptation in the wilderness is, that he began to preach, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." Jesus frequently uses the phrase, "the Kingdom of God is like..." and goes so far as to remind us that, "The Kingdom of God is within you."
The Kingdom of God simply put, means an intentional recognition that God is King- um... sorry for the gender assignment there... I mean, Sovereign!
Oh, you knew that already, right? Of course, because God is Creator, and God has given us life and breath, and we will all someday pass from this world and return to God's loving arms, naturally, God is the One, Sovereign. God is in charge. When God's Realm comes, finally, there will be peace on earth. No more war. The lion laying down with the lamb, and all of that. "Thy Kingdom come." And it is a beautiful thing to pray for; it is our hope as people of God!
So now, think about what it will mean for the Kingdom of God to come about... (hint: The Kingdom of God is within you, so you already know this too, deep down...)
God as the One Sovereign means that we, as God's subjects, for lack of a better term, would need to live by God's commandments; live out God's design, live in God's way. It means that we would love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and our neighbor as ourself; forgiving, not 7 times, but 7 times 70 times. It means that we would reject any form of anger, hatred, prejudice, and violence; and give up retaliation and revenge.
It means we would not bow down to or follow any leader, government, or national creed not in accordance with God's design, because we are citizens of God's realm first. That our first and full allegiance is to God's Kingdom, where there are no sides, no political parties, no weapons or military, no greed or wealth.
I know, it's a lot to take in. It's a lot to give up. It is almost the exact opposite of the world we presently inhabit. To bring about whole-ness, means a whole-lot of sacrifice...
"The Kingdom of God is within you." Though it may seem like it is beyond our reach, we are all given everything we need to participate with God in bringing this about. We have Christ's teachings, the Spirit within us, and God's people around us to help us "seek first the Kingdom of God," (Mt6:33) so that we may know real peace.
Praying one prayer at a time,
He said to them,
“When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name.-
The first line in the Lord's prayer in Luke's gospel addresses the creator of the universe and author of life in the most intimate of terms... father. Many people, including me have problems with assigning God a gender. Surely God is bigger than male or female, beyond a human form with human characteristics. We've moved past the "old man in the sky in the white robes" haven't we?
I certainly hope so.
But there it stands- the word, "Father- Abba- Daddy." And whether we translate it from Greek or Aramaic, there is no getting around it. I'm actually glad, for all it's gendered and misgendered problems, that the translators and editors and redactors have left "Father" as it is; because it is so radical for Jesus to have said it!
Before this, no one had dared to pray to or call God their own father. This was not the custom of any rabbis or spiritual teachers of the time. Think of it, when the very name of God was so sacred that it was barely spoken aloud, Jesus called on the Almighty as "Abba," the way a child might call on their "Daddy". Jesus used this very intimate form of address, which must have shocked and even angered the religious community, showing the depth and trust and openness of their relationship. What's more, he taught the disciples to do the same.
You might have another name for God that you use when you pray that draws up the same image as "Father" did for the early Christians. You may not have had a great earthly father, and so the term may even be painful and even damaging for you, especially in envisioning God. That's ok. You can choose any name that evokes feelings of hope and trust for you, even just "God." What name brings to mind comfort, reliance, strength, and at the same time, sacredness?
Sacredness is important, for the second stanza, 'Hallowed be your name,' is another way of saying, "Your name is holy, God." This means not simply that God is holy, but that all things created in God's name and by God's word are also holy, or hallowed. There is a sacredness to all of us, all of our situations, all of creation, that goes back to the Creator.
But they are more than words of praise. In praying "holy is your name" the one who prays commits oneself to acting in a way that shows the holiness of God’s name. That we live according to God’s teaching. In praising God’s name, we are also committing ourselves to honoring God in all we do, all we think, and all we are. Praising God's name, we ask God for the strength to do just that.
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
We're entering our first full week of Lent and its about the time that some of our best intended Lenten practices begin to fall by the wayside. Whether it's a devotional book, journaling, giving up sugar, or swearing off swearing, it is difficult to keep our disciplines, well, disciplined. It's not that our intentions are not sincere. In both our hearts and heads it seemed like a 40 day spiritual journey would be good for us. But sometimes life happens; we get thrown off our schedule and what we had hoped to do, write, avoid, pray... doesn't happen.
It's in these times that I am grateful for what is commonly called, "The Lord's Prayer." Even when I have forgotten my daily practice, I can stop what I'm doing for a moment, and pray this prayer, no matter what time it is or where I am. I know it by heart. I memorized it as a child. We said it every week in church and almost every time we prayed in Sunday School, Youth Group, and church events. We said it around my father's death bed. We've prayed it over my sick children, at communion ceremonies, and even at civic events.
As a pastor I've been in churches where this prayer was part of the liturgy each week, and I've also relied on it as the go to prayer at funerals and other solemn events. (1)
There's a reason it's THE prayer for Christians. Jesus wrote it. The disciples wanted instruction. "Teach us to pray like John taught his disciples to pray..." And it's easy to understand why. The disciples, like us, both want to say the right words when we pray. We want to express our needs to God with phrases that will yield the best result. We also want God to know we are sincere when we pray in the hope that God will listen, really listen, and be moved enough to act on our behalf.
Luke weaves in what we call the Lord's Prayer directly after the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the story of Mary and Martha. So when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, he gives a distraction free, no frills, "better part" prayer.
You might notice this version is a bit different than the other gospels. It is trimmer in content. It leaves out, "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"and concentrates more on the here and now needs of the people. Each day this week we'll be looking at a different line of this prayer, as each one deserves unpacking. Each phrase honors God, and also instructs us in how to live "on earth" and in Christ.
For today, why not leave a comment... what does/has the Lord's prayer mean/meant to you?
(1) Saying the Lord's prayer together often serves as a way for grieving attendees to participate in the service and express their sorrow. Many find it comforting as well.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus[c] said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
- Luke 9:57-62
I love reading stories of people who gave their whole lives to Christ. They are heros, in my mind. Dorothy Day, Corrie Ten Boom, Martin Luther King, Thomas Merton, Mother Teresa... I could go on and on. They all said Yes to God, and meant it. They, like the disciples, left everything and followed Jesus. It's awe inspiring.
And sure, they weren't perfect, all you have to do is read an autobiography or two to realize that most people don't give up their humanness just because they've said yes to following Jesus. We can see that even in the lives of the apostles! But still, dropping everything and taking up a new vocation, knowing that following means suffering, following means rejection, following means sacrifice- it's a big step of faith!
It's not difficult to see why the people in the passage above, the 'would be' followers of Jesus needed a minute. All they wanted was a farewell to the old life; time to get their affairs in order before they committed to following Jesus to Jerusalem. Understandable, for sure.
To our ears, it sounds as if Jesus responds harshly to each of those "wanting" to follow. 'Why so unsympathetic, Jesus? Shouldn't we be able to say our goodbyes, to bury our dead, to want some type of closure before we drop everything to follow you? And, can't you let us know where we will be going, so we know what to expect, just so we can pack correctly, or prepare for the journey, or at least have that last...(you can fill in the blank with your vice of choice) ... before we start? Gimme a minute, Lord! I just want to finish up here first. Then I'll be ready- Ill be all yours. '
It reminds me of starting a fitness challenge. How many Decembers have we said, "I'm starting on January 1. No more sugar, no more drinking, I'm going to work out every day, join a gym, cook at home, all healthy, all the time." And then quickly think, "Hmmmm, so until then, I can have the rest of the Christmas cookies, finish the wine or that last pack of cigarettes, and continue binge-watching that show on Netflix."
Sound familiar? We often think in terms of black and white, all or nothing, failure or success. Especially when it comes to ourselves: we've either done well, or not. We're good or bad. In or out. Positive or negative.
We know it's not helpful to think that way; we know deep down that we are not either all bad or all good, that life is about balance, and grace. But that means most things are more grey than we'd like to admit, and that's not how we're taught to live- we're supposed to jump in with both feet- and "just do it."
I don't believe that Jesus was chastising or trying to discourage the people who sought to follow him. On the contrary, I believe he was letting them know that the God life is one that embraces the wholeness of life, in all of its ambiguity, and all of the grey areas. That we don't have to wait, or get our affairs in order before we decide to follow God, because God is already IN all of our affairs. Once we decide to follow, our awareness of God's presence in every area of our lives becomes clear. Every area of life becomes an opportunity to worship. Every action becomes a chance to glorify God. Every word, every thought, every prayer, becomes a gift of praise.
Following Jesus is not like a fitness challenge- you don't have to finish up anything, or wait one more minute to start. And the best news of all? You can't fail at following Jesus. Sure, you'll have set backs, and slip ups and times you feel like you've absolutely done the wrong thing. But you will not ever fail. How do I know? Because the God who calls your name, and promises to be with you and cherish you until the end of time, never fails; and loves- you no matter what.
Take a step of faith! What would you do today as a disciple of Jesus, if you believed you couldn't fail?
And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.- Luke 9:52-56
Have you ever been told you're not welcome somewhere? If you haven't, well, you can stop reading right here. For the rest of us, isn't it true, that whether someone has told us or not, we know when people want us around, and when they don't? We've learned the places we can go to feel accepted, and also those places to avoid. Usually we surround ourselves with people who enjoy our company; who offer us hospitality; a place at the table where our voice is not just heard, but valued. You know, the people who know all our quirks and beliefs and opinions and agendas, and still enjoy our company. As my friend Pete used to say, "people who know the punch line, but still stick around for the show."
Samaria was one of those places Jesus knew he would not be welcomed. Samaritans and Jews didn't mix. There was a longstanding religious competition between the northern kingdom of Israel (the capital was Samaria) and the southern kingdom, (Judah- capital, Jerusalem) about the right place to worship. Since Jesus's "face was set toward Jerusalem" the Samaritans most likely figured, 'why bother to put up with him and his lot?' Theological differences are the worst!
The disciples are so offended they want to burn the place down.- actually, they want to call on God to burn the place down. Sounds about right.
Jesus, of course, isn't going to condone bringing fire down upon anybody, and he rebukes them.
I know the word rebuke means to correct, but I like to think, when Jesus does the rebuking, that he waves his hand in a dismissive manner and says "oh please" with a Jersey edge. "Fuhgettaboutit..."
Did this mean he didn't care about the Samaritans? On the contrary, Jesus' is all about bringing in the nations & peoples who have been excluded, marginalized, and demonized; God is an inclusive God, after all. In fact, in the very next chapter, Jesus chooses a Samaritan to be the hero of the parable!
But right now, Jesus needs to keep the group moving to where he is being called. The next part of his mission will be accomplished in Jerusalem. It's an amazing show of discernment on Jesus's part. He could have gone through Samaria anyway; he could have tried to do ministry there, could have tried to show them God's love despite their reservations- he could have told them the truth about God- surely Jesus would have won them over, surely they were worth the time.
Of course they were worth it- but Jesus gives us a great example here of staying focused on what God is calling us to, today. There will always be people and places we pass by on our way to where God calls us. But not every person or every place is for us to stop and minister. God's path for each of us takes us to specific people and places; the breadth and depth of our ministry, no matter who we are, can not possibly include every person and every place. That's where discernment comes in. It's where obedience comes in. It's where defining our call and listening to the Spirit's direction comes in.
When we're obedient to where God is calling us, even if our call is difficult, we will experience God's peace; it's how we know we are in the right place. God's grace and love will surely reach everyone, but not all through you.
Where, and to whom, are you being called to minister today?
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. - Luke 9:51
We often refer to the season of Lent as a journey, or a pilgrimage. It is a time of preparation to open ourselves and ready ourselves for the events of Holy Week. This period of time is a gift. It’s an opportunity offered to examine our lives, examine our hearts, our beliefs, and our faith. During Lent we pause to ponder:
These are big questions, and we certainly can’t answer them in one sitting. Yet it is important to take the time to really think about each one, pray about each, perhaps journal or talk to another Christian about each. What beliefs to you have now that have changed over the years?
At the Transfiguration, the disciples saw that the appearance of the face of Jesus became other; it was ‘was set toward Jerusalem.’ What this meant for the disciples was that this journey with Jesus, should they be willing to live by his teachings, was going to lead them to the cross. This revelation rocked their world, and though their instinct was to return to what they knew, or what was safe, they decided to continue to follow Jesus. They examined their faith. God was bigger than they had imagined and was calling them to something bigger than they had dreamed.
If you allow yourself to take a look at what you believe, where might that journey lead?
Leave a comment about your own journey with Jesus...