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...
Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? I hope so. Yes, it can be annoying and sure, it can drive you crazy, but I have found that the songs that are stuck in my head get stuck there for a reason. Usually there is something within the song that Spirit wants to show me, a lyric or verse that I need to pay attention to. And every single time I find some relation to what's been happening in my life.
For the past several weeks the song has been a long time gospel favorite by John P. Kee titled "I Won't Let God." (I've put the video at the end of this post for you to enjoy and potentially work into your ear-worm)
There is no trial that He can't bring me through
There is no tunnel that He can't bring light to
Though I feel like giving up, in Christ I shall maintain
Because of my faith in God, my joy shall remain
Trials worketh patience and patience worketh hope
In spite of my situation, I won't let go
There is no problem I know that God can't solve
When I get into it, He's already involved
and then my favorite part:
You may be weary and feel you can't go on
My friend take courage, in Christ you must be strong
I think it's that last phrase "in Christ you must be strong" that gets me. Is it ok to feel weary and tired and rest in the comfort of God's embrace when we need to? I am sure it is- and I've been doing that a lot lately.
But it's also true that Christ living in me is the source of my strength. In Christ, whether I feel it or not, is unlimited strength.
There are days (perhaps you have them too) where I wake up and remember we are in a pandemic, and I feel like pulling the covers over my head. Yet it is Christ in me that helps me get up, it's Christ in me that gives me energy to meet today and every day!
Hold fast my friends!
I've been enjoying meeting, albeit virtually with many of you over the past six weeks or so of quarantine during worship, in small group zoom sessions, and over the phone. Each time we meet I feel the movement of the Spirit in our midst. I am convinced that the only way our congregation will emerge from this pandemic as strong or stronger than we were before is by gathering in small groups during this time. I know, that's a pretty bold statement. Yet, as I watch, listen, and reflect on our community of faith, it is our connection to one another that makes us who we are. We care for each other. We pray for each other. We talk with each other.
In premarital counseling, I frequently caution couples on getting so 'comfortable' that they begin taking each other for granted. I usually say something like, "each day in a relationship we need to wake up and say, 'I choose to love this person today;' and the day we stop doing that, is the day the relationship begins to fall apart." This is true for all of our relationships. When we stop being intentional about reaching out, or getting together, we begin to drift away from one another.
So- this comes as a friendly reminder to be intentional; call someone today. Look for information about new small groups that will be forming over the next few weeks- and join one.
But, this also comes with an invitation. Beginning April 29, I'm going to be hosting a small group called 'Oasis.' Along with checking in, building relationships and praying for one another, we will be focusing on the scripture passage(s) for the coming Sunday. We will look at the background, context, etc., but then just read and reflect together on the passage and how it applies to our lives.
My hope Is that this group becomes a mid-week time of refreshment in a time where we may be feeling spiritually dry. The group will be held via Zoom each Wednesday at 6:30 PM. If you would like to receive an invitation to attend, please click to sign up here. There is also a sign up on he fron page of our website. Class size is limited, so don't wait too long.
I look forward to meeting with each of you in this time of spiritual renewal and refreshment!
I pray this post finds you well, safe, and surrounded by God's presence. We are never alone! Our FBCM community of faith prays for one another, connects with one another, and supports one another. On days where it seems more difficult, or more isolating than others, I remember each of you- I remember that you are praying for me, and I for you. I remember the bond that keeps us and calls us, a people of God. And then I feel and draw on that strength! I am so grateful for this time together, yet apart.
I hope that you are joining us for virtual worship each Sunday whether on our FaceBook page or on our website. I have especially enjoyed seeing each of you who have created video spots for our services. It is SO good to see you!
We are now into Holy Week, a time for remembering and journeying with Jesus toward the cross. Feelings of sadness, mourning, and despair, even on a 'normal' year, are expected. We read the scriptures depicting the betrayal, the denial, the horror of Jesus's crucifixion, and I don't think we would be human if we didn't feel the depth of sorrow that goes along with those texts. It is a naturally reflective and dark time in the church year and may seem even bleaker in the face of COVID-19 and quarantine.
And as we read, meditate, and pray, there is a desire in us to run from those feelings, and immerse ourselves in something else to distract ourselves; to deflect or even ignore the pain of what we're experiencing.
We want joy to return. We long for light. In our heart of hearts, we yearn for resurrection! Come quickly, Lord Jesus! We need your healing spirit! We need the power of new life!
Those feelings of wanting to skip this week, and run toward Sunday are also real- also valid. But let me encourage you this week, to try to stay in/sit with some of the darker feelings that come up as you journey through the week. Bring those feelings before God through prayer. Name them. Reflect on where you are in those feelings, and also where God is in those feelings. Trust me God is there.
Once you have spent time in prayer, naming, reflecting, locating- then find someone you trust with whom you can share some of those feelings. Let someone know how you're doing and what you're feeling. Let others help affirm and reflect with you.
Paul tells us to bear one another's burdens, and in this way, we fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2) Reach out. Don't wait for others to call you, rather pick up the phone, or send an email or text. By doing so, you allow others to enter the dark places with you; and when you do, even your darkest place seems not quite so dark.
Please know that I and the rest of the ministerial staff are here if you want to talk, pray, or even just name the dark you may be feeling. You are not alone.
Peace on your journey,
As the news of COVID-19 escalates, our anxieties and fears tend to rise as well. How do we keep calm amidst the storm of minute by minute media coverage? How do we separate real and valuable information from hype? It isn't easy. We are told through scripture to cast our cares on God, the source of strength. That perfect love casts out fear. That we should be "anxious for nothing," Yet still we may find our minds swirling with "what if's," and worry.
I can't help but think about Jesus and the disciples in the midst of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. As the disciples scurried around the boat, fearing for their lives, Jesus slept on a pillow in the stern. In Hebrew, sleeping is a metaphor for trust. Isn't that beautiful - that though he is in the same storm with the disciples, Jesus chooses trust over fear. And that IS beautiful - if you're Jesus. But how about the rest of us? Let's look at the disciples.
In their fear, they felt the need to wake Jesus up. "Master, don't you care that we are perishing?"
At first glance, we may think of the disciples, (and us) as not having enough faith. Why couldn't they (or, why can't we) trust that God is in control - and let Jesus sleep? But I don't see the disciples waking Jesus as an act of fear - I see it as an act of faith! While the storm swirled around them and they had done everything they knew to hold things together, instead of relying on themselves and their own abilities, they went to the source of power and strength. They woke up Jesus! What a bold and faith-filled act! And what a fantastic model of prayer for us during times of anxiety.
So many times we approach God as pleading children - begging for mercy or protection or immunity from the storms of life. But God has given us a promise . . . that despite how it may look or how we feel, God's promise is sure; God will never leave us alone - not for one second. And so when storms come we can pray to God, not arrogantly . . . but confidently, and with boldness, and with surety in God's promise as did so many before us in scripture... "Wake up God! You promised to be with me and right now I'm not feeling it!"
Now, this kind of praying does two things (at least). First, it focuses our attention from the storm to the only one who will finally, still the storm. And second - it reminds us that the Christ in us continually connects us to God through the Holy Spirit. The Jesus (Christ) in us always "sleeps," always trusts. In faith, "wake up," the Jesus inside of you! In faith, call on that trust, call on that calm, call on that love. Stand up and rebuke the wind in your own mind - "Peace, be still." And rest in God's great calm.
Peace to you,