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Category Archives: Spiritual Truths

And When You Pray: The Times of Temptation

(a sermon for August 6, 2017, the 9th Sunday after Pentecost; sixth in a series, based on 1 Corinthians 10:1-17 and Matthew 6:9-13)

Well, not counting my time away, now we’re six weeks into this sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer, and I have to tell you: speaking both as a preacher and as a hearer of God’s Word, I have been amazed by just how many big questions we’ve had to address as we’ve gone along!

I mean, from the very existence and nature of God (“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name…”) and his unending grace and providence (“…thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”), to the gift of both sustenance (“…our daily bread”) and forgiveness (“…forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”),  this seemingly little prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples not only touches upon many of the central issues of our Christian theology but also encompasses just about everything we hold dear about our faith; and friends, that’s a lot!  In fact, it can all be a bit overwhelming; and I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that even in preparing these messages I’d find that for every one of these big questions I’d hoped I was answering for the sermon and for myself, I’d discover that there was another question to take its place (and trust me, that’s not something you want to happen late on a Saturday night!).

Honestly, sometimes it’s enough to make your head swim (!); but then, that’s sort of the nature of a life of faith.  What’s the expression about the unexamined life not being worth living?  Well, I’d suggest to you this morning that the unexamined faith is, well… impossible!  We reach out our hearts to God, knowing that God’s Spirit will intercede for us “with sighs too deep for words;” (Romans 8:26) but then we are left to prayerfully discern what the nature of that intercession and its meaning for our lives might be!   We seek to live, as the old confessional puts it, “a godly, righteous and sober life to the glory of God’s Holy name,” but then we have to wrestle with what that actually means in today’s world.  And we know that ought to be in accordance with biblical truth, however that happens to apply and based on what we’ve come to understand about scripture, and absolutely it needs to adhere to the teachings and the example of Jesus Christ.  But then in trying to do that we make a very interesting discovery: that it’s not so much what we don’t understand about scripture or about Jesus that raises up the bigger questions for us; it’s what we do understand about our Christian faith that gives us pause, leaves us confused, and sometimes, absolutely scares us!

You see what I mean?  Big questions, one right after another…

I tell you all this today because now we’ve come to the next to last petition of this “Prayer of Our Savior” that arguably raises as many questions for us as it answers:  “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Now, on the face of it, this is pretty straightforward language that represents a necessary shift in this prayer to a tone of stark realism.  Mickey Anders writes that this has to happen in the Lord’s Prayer, because ultimately “life is about more than lofty language about God’s kingdom, God’s will, daily bread and even forgiveness.  There is [also] the reality of temptation and evil, call it what you will… [and] we face the temptation to evil every day.”

Now, I love that quote; but I still have to ask, what does all this mean?  I mean, ordinarily when we talk about temptation we’re apt to be speaking about the need to avoid those worldly enticements that are bad for us and which keep us apart from God; ranging from the temptation toward eating too many sweets to being unfaithful in one’s relationships.  It’s all about ethics and morality, self-care and righteousness before the Lord; and while that’s most certainly a part of it, this prayer to God to “lead us not into temptation” really does seem to go much deeper than this.

And while we’re on the subject, are we really praying that God not “lead” us into temptation?  Why would the Lord who loves us beyond limit and who wishes us to be in a relationship with him ever be leading us into temptation to begin with?  If God is good, then why would God ever deign to tempt us to do evil, especially as we’re praying that he deliver us from said evil?   And here’s another question:  is it even possible to forever be led away from temptation?  That’s a question that’s at the heart of our reading this morning from 1 Corinthians, in which Paul – lifting up the example of generations of the faithful who had come before – says to these new Christians, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind,” or to quote one very apt paraphrase, “If you think you are beyond the reach of temptation, be careful,” because nothing that comes your way is any different than what others have had to face!  Bottom line is that none of us are totally beyond the reach of temptation; quoting Mark Adams here, “All of us are tempted. The monk who lives behind cloistered walls wrestles with it just as much as the salesman out on the road.”

So… if temptation is an inevitable reality that all of us have to deal with; and if we understand that God’s would never be responsible for leading us into that place and probably cannot completely remove us from it; then what are we asking when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation?”

Questions…. Oy veh, the questions!

Actually, part of the problem here has to do with translation.  The Greek word that’s used here for “temptation” is “peirasmus,” and this is a word that just as appropriately can be translated as “enticement or temptation,” or (and listen to this!) “a test or trial.”  That’s how in a number of biblical translations, including our own NRSV, this verse in Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer can be read, “And do not bring us to the time of trial.”   This might seem like a subtle change, but for me it brings this prayer from seeking refuge from a place of hopeless repetition of inevitable mistakes to… a way of enduring and triumphing over the trials and tribulations of life; in particular the life of faith. For me, you see, what we’re praying for is a way to confront the struggle we all have with this thing we refer to as temptation, but which is in fact the effort that it takes to face up to the reality of evil and live that “godly, righteous and sober life” in a fallen world: “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” (we’ll get to that second part in just a minute…)

So… here’s yet another question: what is the nature of temptation; what is the time of trial we you and I will so often have to face?  Actually, to answer this I always come back to a verse from Romans – and by the way, friends, if there’s any verse in Holy Scripture that seems tailor made to make one’s head spin, this is it – “…for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (14:23)

Let me just repeat that just one more time so it can sink in:  “…for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

Now, understand that Paul is saying this in the context of admonishing the Roman Christians to not be a stumbling black to those whose practice of the faith might differ from their own (specifically, what is permissible to eat under the canon of law).  In other words, this is a stern message not to let one’s faith become a means of arrogance because if your actions and attitudes aren’t wholly attuned to your faith then it’s no longer faith but sin.

Opens up a whole bunch more questions, doesn’t it?  What that means is that even our most well-intentioned behaviors, as good and even  as “religious” as they might well be, end up not proceeding from faith at all if they are not rooted in our “own conviction before God.” (v. 22) Worship, outreach, mission, stewardship, the things we do for the church, the things we do for the world, the things we do for each other, to say nothing of our own personal piety; the applications to such a truth as this are literally endless!  I remember back in seminary, when we had to “exegete” this particular passage in our systematic theology class, our heads pretty much exploded (!); and if that’s your reaction when you go home today and start thinking about all this, I’m truly sorry; although, if it ends up in some spiritual self-evaluation, then so much the better!

But I also have to tell you that this very difficult assertion from Paul ends up connection with this every Sunday prayer I pray that my God “lead[s] me not into temptation.”  If, in fact, there is so much that apart from my faith is sinful behavior, then I need God, in Jesus Christ, to save me from it; to lead me beyond the barren and empty temptations of the world so that everything that God has given me and has empowered me to do and to be in this life can work to deepen the relationship I have with God, and to strengthen me to be more fully a disciple of Jesus Christ in my walk through these days of, to say the very least, confused situations.  I need my Lord to save me from this time of trial; understanding I can avoid it, but I can triumph over it.  It won’t be easy, for the evil in this world is real and relentless, but I won’t be alone in the effort either.

That’s where the second half of this petition comes in:  “…but deliver us from evil,” or, as our gospel reading puts it, “…rescue us from the evil one.”  Now whether one takes the view that the “evil one” depicted here is quite literally the figure of Satan, or rather a representation of the whole curse of a sinful humanity from back in the time of Genesis (now there’s a big question for another day!), the meaning is nonetheless the same: there is ever and always going to be the temptation before us to succumb to the evils of this world.  And lest we forget the story of Adam and Eve, evil can come in very attractive and enticing packages; even sometimes in what looks all the world like goodness and light.  We need to be delivered from that kind of evil; and that only comes in walking arm and arm, heart in heart with God himself!

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  A hard prayer this is; but a necessary one.  And, might I add, nothing new for any of God’s people past or present.  Remember that passage from 1 Corinthians?  “Our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank from the spiritual rock tha followed them, and the rock was Christ.”  And it was not always easy; the way was very often filled with temptation, and very often they failed in the midst of trial, to the point, Paul says, “that God was not pleased with most of them.”

But they persisted on the journey, seeking to live unto their faith in the Lrod their God… generation after generation, from age to age, through countless challenges and in the midst of a thousand or more big questions;  and today they are part of a communion of saints of which you and I are part and which we celebrate at this table set before us; indeed, “there is one bread, [and] we who are many are one body.”

Let us today allow this holy meal, and those with whom we share it, be our inspiration as we walk the walk of faithful discipleship in Christ’s name, having been lead beyond the times of temptation… and delivered from all evil.

Thanks be to God.

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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And When You Pray: Debts or Trespasses?

(a sermon for July 16, 2017, the 6th Sunday after Pentecost; fifth in a series, based on Psalm 32, Mark 11:20-25 and Matthew 6:9-15)

It’s just a little scene that, pastorally speaking, has repeated itself time and time again over the years.

Maybe it’s at a funeral, sometimes at a wedding where I’m the officiant; or for that matter, it could be a regular service of worship, particularly one where there are people present from different churches or faith traditions.  But it’s always the same thing:  everything’s going along just fine, and then you start to pray the Lord’s Prayer and everyone along with you; and it continues to be fine… at least until you get to that one line, that piece of the prayer that we’re looking at this morning:  “And forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors.”  For it is at this moment that even the most spiritually unified of congregations will become strangely disoriented; hesitating, stumbling and looking up from their prayerfulness, suddenly unsure of what they’re supposed to say next:  is it “debts” or “trespasses?”

This may seem like a small matter, and in the greater scheme of things, I suppose that it is; however, I also have to say that I’ve seen more than a few times of prayer disrupted, if not unraveled, by the lack of a shared and appropriate translation!  I mean, which is it:  are we to “forgive our debtors,” or “forgive those who trespass against us,” which not only sounds and feels different to say, but is also a bit longer; which matters, especially if you’re in a “mixed group,” so to speak.  I remember once leading a graveside service where I prayed, as I’m familiar, using “debts and debtors” but those who were gathered prayed as they were familiar, saying “trespasses;” which is fine and wholly appropriate, except that when I paused just a moment to let them say, “…as we forgive those who trespass against us,” their voices quickly faded away to nothing (!) and they literally looked up to me for guidance, as though when I stopped speaking, that meant they were supposed to stop, too (or at least until the moment I started again with, “And lead us into temptation…”)!

Now, this actually speaks to something that we’ve been referencing throughout this sermon series: the danger of our letting such an important part of our worship as the Lord’s Prayer become little more than something we say out of habit; or more to the point, the tendency we have of praying these petitions unto the Lord without really understanding what it is we’re actually asking!  So maybe it is a valid question after all, this matter of “debts” versus “trespasses,” especially when it comes down to that which is at the center of this part of the prayer that Jesus has given us: our request for and our need of… forgiveness.

And the thing about it is, at least where the question of “debts or trespasses” is concerned, scripture doesn’t really give us a definitive answer.  Matthew’s gospel, from which we read this morning, very clearly refers to debt, which then, as now, suggests a financial indebtedness; and that’s not by accident.  For the Jews of Jesus’ time, you see, financial indebtedness was akin to the worst kind of oppression and slavery; there was no greater crime, so to speak, than to have failed to pay back what they owed And so to pray, “Forgive us our debts” was to acknowledge that one’s unrighteousness and sin was the debt incurred to a Holy God; in other words, every time we violate the laws, the principles and the will of God in thought, word and deed we are creating for ourselves a mountain range of moral debt unto the Almighty!

Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, on the other hand, is a bit more to the point: “…forgive us our sins” (11:4) is how it’s translated there.  And here’s a fun fact; trespasses?  That particular word isn’t really part of the Lord’s Prayer at all (though it’s a word that does turn up elsewhere, and in fact, as part of our readings today): our use of “trespasses” in the Lord’s Prayer itself dates back to William Tyndale’s translation of the Bible into English in 1525!  But regardless of the translation, the meaning ends up exactly the same:  we are each and all of us debtors… sinners… trespassers; for we have broken God’s loving laws time and time again.  And when we come to this point in Jesus’ prayer of asking God to “forgive us our debts” (or our trespasses, or our sin) we are both confessing this to be true about ourselves, and asking that somehow, someway by his grace and love God might forgive us that huge mountain of debt we’ve built up.

I’m reminded here of an old colleague and friend of mine from my seminary days who in a class one day confessed to us that perhaps the hardest thing he ever had to do as a newly minted student pastor and preacher at this little church in Maine was to stand in the pulpit and look into the eyes of that beautiful, wonderful elderly lady in the third pew with the kind and gentle soul – pillar of the church, dontcha know (!) – and, holding fast to the biblical truth of our faith, to say to her and everyone else in that congregation, “You are a sinner .”   Now, in this particular tradition of faith, we’re not exactly “hellfire and brimstone” in our approach to such things; but I have to say that this is a truth that haunts me as well, and nowhere more so than when I look in the mirror.  This is the sad truth of our existence, friends: we are all sinners; by our unrighteousness we are so deeply indebted to the Holy God that there is never any hope at all of paying off that indebtedness n our own.

And it would seem hopeless, except that there is good news; and that good news is that ours is a God who desires mercy more than judgment, and who will be faithful, just and above all, forgiving to those who would acknowledge their sin, who, in the words of the Psalmist, “will confess [their] transgressions to the LORD,” and thus have their sins be covered.  As The Message translates it, “Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be – you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. Count yourself lucky – [for] God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him.”  This is true forgiveness and a gift of true grace, and all of it begins, simply and profoundly enough, by our coming humbly to God and saying from the heart, “forgive us our debts…”

However, all this said, there is a catch… well, not so much of a catch as an understanding.  And it comes in the other half of this particular petition of prayer:  “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…” “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  It’s one little word that makes all the difference – “as” – and in the words of Charles Williams, “No word in English carries a greater possibility of terror than the little word ‘as’ in that clause.”

Yes, it is true that we are all sinners; but it is equally true that we are all sinned against; we are not just the perpetrators of sin, we are the victims of sin; we have been hurt and sinned against, betrayed, abandoned and made to feel far less than what we are.  And so as such, then, we not only are debtors, we have debtors as well.  And the question is – the question always is – what do we do about that?  What kind of attitude are we to have toward all these debtors in our lives?  We may well struggle with our answer to that, but make no mistake, God’s answer is clear, and it’s right there in our prayer:  “…forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

There is a correlation, you see, between the way you and I treat our debtors and the way God treats debtors like you and me.  Since we’ve been including Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday through the weeks of this sermon series, I’m sure by now you’ve noticed that as Jesus comes to the end of this teaching on how we should pray, there is something of a caveat:  “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  It’s also there in our text from Mark, in which Jesus reminds Peter and the other disciples that the power of prayer is such that even mountains can be “taken up and thrown into the sea,” but then adds, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

And for any of us who would be looking for loopholes where this is concerned, rest assured that this same principle is confirmed throughout scripture. The measure of mercy that we extends to others will be the measure God extends to us; or to put it another way, no one can truly love God and be un-forgiving to a brother or a sister. Are we to take this to mean that our forgiveness from God is earned solely on the basis of how we forgive other people?  No; remember that our forgiveness is a gift of grace; but, to quote pastor and blogger Ken Baker, “If we choose to hoard the forgiveness granted to us by failing to forgive others, not only do we disobey the Lord’s teaching, but also we miss the full benefit of forgiveness, [for] God’s purpose in forgiving us is that we might be reconciled to him and to each other.”

To be forgiven so that we might forgive; in the end, you see, it’s all part of the same gift.  Divine forgiveness strengthens and empowers us to share mercy that would otherwise be beyond our ability; forgiving others their “trespasses against us” is what brings us into a closer relationship with the one who fills our lives with deeper purpose and a fuller love.  This is central to everything we know to be true about our faith; and it’s been made real in the life, death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus:  we forgive “as” we have been forgiven… friends, for us to neglect one part of that equation cannot help but diminish the other!

And so when we pray this prayer of our Savior, this is what we say: “forgive us our debts (or trespasses) as we forgive our debtors (or those who trespass against us).”

I trust that each one of us in this room today can easily claim the blessing of forgiveness for ourselves; but I ask you this morning, beloved: who is it right now that we need to forgive?  Who are those who right at this moment stand amongst our debtors? Maybe it started as just a small thing; a minor slight, a misspoken word or hurt feeling; but now here’s someone to whom you are estranged.  Who has trespassed against you? Perhaps the one you thought you could trust and with whom you risked a relationship, but who ended up breaking a confidence or who betrayed you in a way that you feel is irreparable?  Maybe it was the one who took advantage of your good nature or your generosity and left you feeling empty and used?  Or could be it was someone who withheld from you the affection or the caring or the kind of blessing you so desperately needed at some given time of your life, or even now?    Or maybe it’s that ever growing mountain of offenses, either real or perceived… but which cumulatively has begun to tear you apart from the inside out, and which has ever so slowly but surely changed you and put a wedge in the center of your relationship with God…

Whoever it is, whatever it might be, it might be good for you to remember today that there is great power in forgiveness; like love itself, forgiveness has the power to move mountains… and us, as well.

Forgive us our debts, O God, as we forgive our debtors.

And let our thanks always be unto you, O God.

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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And When You Pray: Hallowed!

(a sermon for June 25, 2017, the Third Sunday after Pentecost; second in a series, based on  Luke 11:1-4 and Ezekiel 36:22-28)

In a quote that I must say resonates with me on this particular day, the Baptist preacher and author John Piper writes simply and beautifully that life is “a combination of spectacular things and simple things.  In almost everyone’s life,” he says, “there are breathtaking things and boring things.  Fantastic things and familiar things.  Extraordinary things and ordinary things.  Awesome things and average things.  Exotic things and everyday things.  That’s the way life is.”

In other words, for every day that we are celebrating glorious and life-changing events (!) there are just as many that we are pretty much sitting back and watching the world go by.  I was reflecting on this truth just recently on one of these very hot summery days we’ve had as of late, as Lisa, Sarah and I were all three sitting out in the backyard; lawn chairs surrounding and feet dangling in this little plastic wading pool our adult daughter keeps for just such afternoons.  And though it was hot, and as we like to say in Maine, “the air was thick with hum’dity,” it was… wonderful: soaking in the sun, feeling that warm summer breeze blowing through, and watching as that same wind wound through the trees and curled the leaves and branches above us; hey, we even got to watch our dog Ollie walking in circles around the wading pool for literally a solid hour, all the while diving for little bits of leaf and tree bud that had blown into the water!

Nothing special; just another summer Sunday afternoon in New Hampshire, but a good one, and a true blessing.  And, might I add, something very, very close to prayerful.  That’s something else that John Piper writes; he says that there is “a correspondence” between the content of prayer, in particular the content of the Lord’s Prayer, and “the content of our lives,” whether that involves the big or the little, the glorious or the common, the majestic or the mundane.  For you see, just as God is present to us in all of the wonders, both small and large, of our lives, in the act of prayer you and I are caught up in the great and glorious ways that God moves in and through it all!  As Piper puts it, prayer is “iridescent with eternity and woven into ordinary life” so that in each and every one of our days we might truly walk in tandem with the Almighty; perchance to be enriched, ennobled and empowered along every step of the journey.

At its heart, you see, this is what prayer is about: affirmation, adoration, dedication… and ultimately, a promise; and as Jesus would teach his disciples, and us, it all begins with these words: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

And that’s where we begin as well.  It’s worth noting, I think, as now we get into the parsing of all the particular verses of the Lord’s Prayer in this sermon series, that this is a prayer that can basically be divided into two parts: the first speaking of God’s presence and purpose in the world (in other words, we are praying about God’s name, God’s kingdom and God’s will), and the second, centering on our lives and living in relationship to God (our daily bread, our forgiveness and our lives steeped in holiness).  Two very distinct perspectives; but taken as a whole, a prayer in which we have this wonderful and transcendent intermingling of the divine presence and the human experience.  And it all starts with an amazing affirmation from which everything else proceeds: “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

What’s interesting, you know, is that scripture doesn’t spend much, if any, time debating the existence of God or answering the question of who is God; throughout the Bible there is simply the assumption that God is!  Right from the very first verse of Genesis, we are told, “In the beginning, God…;” and later on, when Moses asks about the divine identity to the burning bush, God’s answer is “I AM WHO I AM!” (Exodus 3:14) the word in the ancient Hebrew language that we know as Yahweh.  This is, in fact, the most fundamental truth in the universe, that God who God is, and far beyond our ability to wholly define, identify or hone in any way, shape or form; all of which makes it all the more significant that when Jesus bids us to come to this infinite, unidentifiable God with our prayer, he instructs us to call him “our Father!”

Think with me for a moment about the awesome wonder of this: here’s the Lord of the universe, the creator of heaven and earth, the God of all time and no time and we get to call him… Father!  Now, I hope we all understand that this is no mere patriarchal construct because the God who is the great “I AM” certainly exists beyond our human concepts of gender; moreover, the God of the Bible includes not only male images of the divine, but also a great many female characterizations as well. Moreover, we have to be careful not to equate this to the difficult and sometimes even destructive human relationships that all too often exist between a father and a child.  No, the relationship that’s being set forth here is that of an infinitely loving parent unto a much cherished child; a caring, loving and deeply intimate relationship that seeks for the best for that child, providing for that child in and all circumstances.

Our model for this is Jesus himself, whose very life was one of intimacy with his Father and is reflected throughout the gospel story, from the time he was this precocious 12-year old in temple who knew he “must be in [his] Father’s house” (Luke 2:49) to those harrowing hours on the cross when he prayed on behalf of those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34) It’s particularly telling that so often in the gospels, when Jesus addresses God, he uses the word “Abba,” which in our usage is best translated as “Daddy.”  Think of it; in the words of Victor Pentz, “God is all powerful.  God is infinitely loving.  Jesus says, ‘Call God Daddy.’”

So right away in our praying this prayer, we establish this heretofore unimaginable relationship with the divine; when we pray, “Our Father,” we are affirming that God is right here, right now and for you and me ever and always!  However, that said, we also have to know that this relationship does not come at the expense of God’s authority or power: to pray to “our father” is not to diminish God in any way; and we know this because we also pray to “our Father [who is] in heaven.”

I’ve actually heard it said that this is the part of the Lord’s Prayer that gets glossed over the most often; as though it’s just some kind of throwaway line that expresses where it is that God dwells and by extension where we are as well; you know, the idea that God’s “up there” (as in, “the man upstairs”) and we’re “down here.”  But in fact, it’s much more than that; it actually establishes the full impact of what it means that we call God “Father.”  Actually, this is an affirmation that is not as much spatial as it is spiritual.   What we’re saying is that God, our Father, is in heaven, which is the seat of all authority and power and dominion and greatness; and so what we have is this infinite and majestic God who has the authority and the power to hear us and to come to us when we pray!

What this all means, friends, is that we are meant to be secure in the Father’s love!  We are always blessed to know that despite the vast, unbridgeable gulf that exists between a holy God and a sinful humanity we are nonetheless brought into a relationship with God that is as expansive as the cosmos and yet as close as our very breathing.  You and I are the recipients a loving embrace that stretches into eternity and that not even death can destroy; and it comes to us by the grace of “our Father, who art in heaven.”

But the question is…what do we do with that?  How are we to respond to that all-encompassing kind of presence?  What are we to pray that even begins to approach a fitting level of gratitude for what we are given in the kind of relationship that God extends to us?  It turns out that this is what the first “petition” of this prayer that Jesus teaches us is all about; as recorded in Luke’s version of the prayer: “Father, hallowed be your name.”

Of course, the word hallowed is not one that we use all that often in today’s language; in fact, I suspect that for most of us, this part of the prayer amounts to another word of praise to God, albeit written in the language of King James English!  But in fact, it represents much more than this; to hallow, you see, means to sanctify, or to make or treat something as holy; so when we speak of the name of God being hallowed or sanctified, what we are saying is that is that we wish to treat God as being wholly holy (!) in our lives and for our world.  It means that we believe God is our Father in heaven, that this understanding has consequences for everything else we know to be true, that every direction of our lives will shift simply by virtue of this understanding, and that as a result we will honor God in the very ways that we live and move and have our being.  To quote John Piper one more time, “[We] hallow the name of God when [we] trust him, revere him, obey him, and glorify him.”

Isn’t it interesting, beloved, that in affirming the name of God, who is our heavenly Father, we also make a promise to live unto the truth of that name?  And isn’t it even more interesting that it’s only a very small step between letting God’s name be hallowed in our lives and to letting God’s kingdom come forth in the here and now, and to let God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” (but I get ahead of myself… that’s for next week!).

For now, let us rejoice in what we’ve been given.  Life is indeed a combination of the spectacular and the routine, the easy-going as well as the nitty-gritty, the utterly earth-bound and the gloriously heaven sent; all of it imbued with the presence and power of God. But in this daily mingling of the Eternal and the Everyday, and as we pray, we discover that in all things we are the people of a God who loves us beyond measure; who, in the words of our Old Testament text for this morning from Ezekiel, gives us “a new heart… and a new Spirit” within us, so that we always know that we are his people and that he shall always be our God.

He is our Father, and may we seek today and always to hallow his Holy name with lives of adoration and faithful service.

And in all that we say and most importantly, in all that we do…

… may our thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017 Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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