Monday, March 16, 2015

"Pray in This Way" - A Lenten Exploration of the Lord's Prayer

For the season of Lent we will be focusing on the Lord's Prayer.
Your Will Be Done, On Earth as in Heaven
It should be clear by now that this prayer is no ordinary prayer.  The Lord’s Prayer is a Kingdom prayer – a prayer that affirms the presence of the Kingdom come NOW in Christ; a prayer that turns the expected on its head; a prayer that is downright radical.  When we pray this prayer this is what we are affirming: God, Our Father, Abba, is nearer to us that we are to ourselves; God, Abba, has named us and we belong to God who has given us the name of the Son, Christ Emmanuel – God with us – as a promise.  God has gone even further by going ahead and inaugurating the Kingdom of God in our midst now.  No need to wait for some kind of future event, God is so anxious to give us the Kingdom that he has brought it into being now in Christ and we live as citizens as a part of the, as yet incomplete, Kingdom which will be brought to its glorious fullness in the time to come.
Set in this context then this petition – your will be done – is not prudent resignation or pious capitulation, nor is it some kind of spiritual anesthetic, it is rather a joyous affirmation that God’s will is being established in spite of and in the midst of the darkness. 
Ok, so then what exactly is God’s will?
To answer this question we need to go back to the creation story in Genesis.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the creation was good, TOV, fantastic because it was perfectly balanced and all creation was one with itself and the creator.  And the crown of creation was the creation of humanity – men and women.  And again, all of the creation was in harmony, creation and creator coexisted in Shalom or wholeness and unity. But then we humans tried to stage a coup, we wanted to displace God and take over and become the masters of creation, to become like gods ourselves, and so creation was broken by human self-centeredness and the creation began its slow plunge towards its ultimate destruction. 
But then God does something unique, something unexpected, something incredible – God enters into human life and is born in Jesus in order to begin to bring the creation back to its created wholeness; God enters into human life and is born in Jesus in order to bring all of God’s children into perfect unity with God and with the creation.  THIS then is the will of God: God’s will is that we are restored to wholeness and unity with God and each other, and when we experience this in any way, even if it is a fleeting experience within a moment, we nonetheless have experienced a taste of the Kingdom Come.
So, what then is God’s will?  God’s will is joy, healing, wholeness, love and unity for all the creation – for you and for me.  All that is opposed to this is contrary to God’s will; evil, suffering, death, selfishness, hate – these are contrary to God’s will.  God does not will human suffering.  But yet, there is much suffering because we still live in a broken and fallen world where human self-centeredness and evil still are active and present.  This is contrary to God’s will, so then what is the response?  Does God ignore it?  No, God deals with the presence of evil and human suffering and death by entering into it; by staying right by our sides throughout everything no matter what and creating and bringing life from death, joy from suffering and good from evil.  This is the meaning of the cross.  When we look on that cross it should remind us that God has entered into the darkness of this world and turned on the light.  And this is the promise that we can hold on to: that no matter what, God’s Will that the creation be restored to its original state of Shalom or Wholeness will prevail, and in the meantime God is present with us in the midst of the ups and downs of our lives.
“Your will be done on earth as in heaven.”
This is a difficult petition for us.  It is even a dangerous petition.  For it is easier for us to simply see this petition as pious submission, for that demands nothing of us.  But this petition in the context of this prayer is in fact an affirmation that it is God’s will which will ultimately prevail.  And that it is God’s passionate desire that the creation be whole and that unity will be restored.  When we pray this petition we are also opening ourselves to God’s will and putting aside our own will, our own desire and need for control and asking God to continue the work of helping us all to be brought into conformity with God’s holy will and to help each of us to continue the work of the Kingdom of God – allowing us to experience and to be an open vessel of the Kingdom Come.  SBD+
The audio for the preached sermons is available at this site - sometimes they are very different from the text:

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