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Monday, 24 January 2011

The Lord's prayer - an essay

Apologies for the hiatus...

The Lord's Prayer; an essay

The prayer opens with, 'Our Father'; not 'my', nor 'yours', but 'ours'. Jesus puts himself on the same footing as us. He and we are equal in our standing before God. This is a radical development from the Old Testament, from a God 'hiding' behind the ceremonial curtain in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. A God who could only be approached directly once a year, by a High Priest elected by lot, on the Day of Atonement. Jesus is already drawing back that curtain, offering an intimate, familiar relationship, strongly implying that this is the true state of things. God isn't hidden; He is revealed as Father. Our Father.

Many women have been hurt by their fathers. Some have been abused. Some women have had men hurt them again and again and pound them down to an emotional nothing. Men are the enemy, and if God is Father, they cannot relate. Of course, 'Father' does not necessarily exclude 'Mother'. The original Aramaic spoken by Jesus has been preserved in the Syriac gospels. Jesus' phrase, 'Abwoun d'bishmaya' is capable of being translated several ways including, 'O Birther! Father- Mother of the Cosmos '1 . Jesus also calls his Father, 'Abba' which is 'Daddy'. Our Father God is closer than our very breath!

'Who is in heaven'. As well as being very close, our Father God is also transcendent. When we go on to say "who art in heaven", we're saying Heaven, God's place, God's home is also our home.
"Our citizenship", says St Paul in one of his letters, "is in heaven"; that is, heaven is where we belong. Yet the full reality of heaven is beyond our limited human understanding. Where is heaven? Is it here? In bare Winter branches, in bird song, in the chimes from a church? Yet Jesus also says, 'The kingdom of heaven is within you '2 . So even our limited humanity is carrying a piece of heaven? This is a cause for wonder, not boasting! We envision and prepare for the new creation, for our ultimate Home.
Next comes, 'Holy is your name' as a prayer that people may regard God's name (which is his Word, his presence) as holy, as something that inspires awe and reverence, and that we may not trivialize it by making God a tool for their purposes, to put others down or make ourselves feel safe. A church building is set aside for worship. Arches point upwards, encouraging thoughts of holiness. By invoking God's name, we make a sacred space in which to pray. Hopefully, we remember not to be trivial. The Father wants to seal us with his Name so that we will be united with him, like the Father and the Son united by the Holy Spirit. We are affirming God's holiness and reminding ourselves, that we may we treat His name as holy.

'Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven'. God's will, not ours. Whatever part we have to play, whether large or small in the world's eyes is according to the will of God. So, our task is to surrender. This will probably take a lifetime! Not just ourselves, but our hopes and fears; our loves and our desires. The angels and other heavenly beings do God's will instinctively, naturally, all the time. Everything in this world that is created and subject to time depends on another, uncreated world, where time does not exist and which is nothing less than the mystery of God. There the Father sees the universe unified in Christ and his will fulfilled and glorified by all. We struggle and fail, however our call is to also do God's will. 'Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty' 3. One day, Jesus will return.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

'Give us this day our daily bread'. Just for today; enough. God is similar to a business partner, everything we need to live our life fully is available through God's investment in us and his support.
Jesus said, 'If you believe, you shall receive' .

If you believe, you shall receive
There is no trouble or care that Jesus can't relieve
Oh, he is just the same today; all you gotta do is trust and pray
Believe, you just believe 5

But receiving springs out of gratitude. We give thanks for all the little things we have already got. The thanksgiving prayer at the Eucharist is a preparation for the consecration which follows. The one may help enable the other! Wild creatures find daily food. Humans may be nourished by nuts and fruits on trees, by regular food, as well as the weekly Eucharist. The beauty, noise and silence of the world may nourish us.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.6

'Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors'. This is possibly the hardest part for many people, especially if they have suffered mental or physical abuse. However, holding on to the anger, hurt, resentment or disappointment only hurts ourselves. We are all wounded or imperfect in one way or another, so we can easily lash out in our pain and distress. The shop assistant, the bank teller, the cabbie, the neighbour, the friend. All of them are doing the best they can most of the time. This calls for deep compassion, especially to ourselves! The whole world does not revolve around us either! After all, the prayer says, 'forgive us OUR debts'. We work on ourselves, with God's love and assistance. Jesus asks us not to judge others. The only person we can change [with God's help] is ourselves! We are flawed, but we can help each other along the way. Perhaps, 'Leave us serene, just as we also allowed others serenity'.

'Bring us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil'. Apart from any outside influences, there are plenty of things humans wittingly or unwittingly put in place as a barrier between them and God. The biggest one, arguably, is ego. Anything that puts us 'above' God, 'above' our fellow human beings, 'above' God's plan for us. How can God fill us if we are too full of ourselves? How can we possibly help anyone else if we think of ourselves first? Wars have been started by people overdosed on ego and fuelled by the same. Think of any recent dictator; not in judgement, because there but for the grace of God go you and I. If you can, be compassionate. That dictator is stuck, lost, running on ego. He – or she – is trapped by and in the very regime which tries to control others. Sadly this has also happened in the church too. Working on this will take a lifetime, but we can make a start, right now. Remember our loving Father is in charge and loves all of us equally. God can guide us along the Way. He also prunes us of anything diseased or dead, so that we can flourish afresh.

'For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours; now and forever. Amen'. We return to the creative visioning of God, of him being above all and in all. Our song of praise returns to its Source. This is God's kingdom, not ours, although we are part of it by grace. What He says, goes. What He bids, we seek to do. This is His power, not ours. We cannot depend on our own power. This is God's glory, not ours. For it is when He is glorified that the world makes sense, that we find the heart’s yearnings finally satisfied. We end with the 'amen'; the 'Yes, I agree', the 'and so it is'. This seals everything which has gone before. Ivy and other evergreens in the parks outside are always green. A natural sign of the greater eternal.

Green grow’th the holly
So doth the ivy
Though winter blasts blow ne’er so high
Green grow’th the holly
Gay are the flowers
Hedgerows and ploughlands
The days grow longer in the sun
Soft fall the showers

Full gold the harvest
Grain for thy labour
With God must work for daily bread
Else, man, thou starvest

Fast fall the shed leaves
Russet and yellow
But resting buds are smug and safe
Where swung the dead leaves

Green grow’th the holly
So doth the ivy
The God of life can never die
Hope! Saith the holly

1 [Syriac Pershitta Gospels/Prayers of the Cosmos by Neil Douglas-Klotz]
2 [Luke 17: 20, 21]
3 [Anne Herbert, probably!]
4 [Teresa of Avila]
5 [Chorus, writer unknown]
6 [Johnson Oatman Jnr]
7 [Attr. King Henry VIII]
Other sources used:
The Source of Miracles by Kathleen McGowan
Christian Community Bible

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