August 27, 2017

Lord's Prayer: Amen

Here we are at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. The final word in this, and nearly every other prayer is ‘Amen’. It simply means “Let it be”. We ask God that all that we have mentioned in the prayer be accomplished. Just as Mary of Nazareth said to Gabriel “Let it be according to your word” (Luke 1:38), we offer our petitions to God asking that they be done.

Recently I saw a special on the Beatles. Many will remember their song Let it Be. Although they always insisted that the ‘Mother Mary’ was not the Virgin, many hearers still hear her words in the lyrics. Whether the group meant to refer to Mary of Nazareth, or not, the words are a fitting end to our study of the Lord’s Prayer. They summarize the requests made in the prayer, and offer them up ‘Let it be’.

In light of a world where people are still at odds with each other, just as they were in the 1960’s, we might indeed echo “And when the broken-hearted people/Living in the world agree/There will be an answer/Let it be”.

Enter the Presence: Read Mary’s encounter with Gabriel in Luke 1. Put yourself in her sandals and say “Let it be according to your word”.

Are there things in your life where God is calling you to step out in faith like Mary? Can you open your hands and heart to say, “Let it be”?

Stand In Awe: It can be hard to say ‘Amen’ to some things that God asks of us. Consider the lives of some of those chosen by God, who didn’t have an easy time. Almost anyone in the Bible will fit that description. There is a saying that "God doesn’t call the qualified, God qualifies those he calls". Read through the list in this image and remember that God empowers each of us to do what we are called to do. Are you willing to ‘let it be’?

Involve your Heart: Read through the words of the Beatle’s song.  

When I find myself in times of trouble/Mother Mary comes to me/Speaking words of wisdom/Let it be

And in my hour of darkness/She is standing right in front of me/Speaking words of wisdom/Let it be

And when the broken-hearted people/Living in the world agree/There will be an answer/Let it be

For though they may be parted there is/Still a chance that they will see/There will be an answer/Let it be

And when the night is cloudy/There is still a light that shines on me/Shine until tomorrow/Let it be

I wake up to the sound of music/Mother Mary comes to me/Speaking words of wisdom/Let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be/Whisper words of wisdom/Let it be

Do a ZenTangle of the word ‘Amen’. Include things you are called to do.

Write a song or poem expressing your love for God and new understanding of the Lord’s Prayer*

August 20, 2017

Lord's Prayer: For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, the Glory

Since the beginning of June, we’ve been ‘unpacking’ each line of the Lord’s Prayer. We have explored heaven (June 18) and asked for our daily bread (July 16). We’ve looked at how to ‘hallow’ God’s name (June 25) and offered ourselves to bring God’s will to earth (July 9). We’ve seen that God’s Kingdom (July 2) comes partly through our ability to forgive and receive forgiveness (July 23, 30). The past couple of weeks have been devoted to praying for protection from temptation and evil.

Today we consider the final phrase of the prayer “For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever”. It is a summary of all the rest of the lines of the Lord’s Prayer. As some commentators note, it is a doxology of praise. In this last section, we return to praising God, as at the start. We acknowledge that God alone has the Power and Glory. Only God can accomplish all that we have asked. It is interesting to note that in the Luke version of the prayer (Luke 11:2-4) this phrase is absent. In some translations of the Matthew citation (Matthew 6:9-13) it is also absent with the note that this doxology was added early on by the church. Likely the early church fathers thought that the prayer should have some nice and tidy way to end.

Enter the Presence: This ending Doxology is a good reminder that to God do belong the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory. Saint Irenaeus, a second century bishop, wrote: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”

We are reminded in the Old Testament that “the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.” (Exodus 24:17) The New Testament encourages us to participate in that glory. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul says “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) The Philippians are urged to have “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:11) Our every action is to be a doxology of its own-a hymn of praise in action to God.

Of course, as Paul tells the Roman community “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Still, the Colossians are encouraged because we are those “to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) Because Christ is in each of us, we can in fact be human beings, fully alive.

Stand In Awe: How awesome to think that we are, as Saint Irenaeus said, “the glory of God”, and we are to live and confess God in that Glory. Take a moment to think about what it means to have the glory of God in you. Look around you, sit in your garden and listen, smell, hear, see all around the glory of God in birds, grass, flowers, sky, sound. Everything proclaims the glory of God, if we pause to see it.

Barbara Brown Taylor talks about this in her book An Altar in the World. She notes, “the last place most people look [for God] is right under their feet, in the everyday activities, accidents, and encounters of their lives.” She suggests letting yourself get lost and get out of the daily routines of the same routes. When you do, you “agree to become aware of each step you take, tuning all of your senses to exactly where you are and exactly what you are doing.”
Involve your Heart: “Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory” says the Lord’s Prayer doxology. Take some time to be really aware of God all around you. Get off the normal, beaten path, and try a new route, or a new prayer routine, or a new version of the Bible.

Write the word ‘Glory’ or ‘Power’ or ‘Kingdom’ in the center of a paper. Add words or images that come to mind when you think of that word.

Color the tree of life image from Pinterest in this blog, or find your own image, and think about what being the Glory of God means to you.
This week focus on “Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever”. Next week, we will take a quick look at ‘Amen’.

August 13, 2017

Our Father: Deliver us from Evil

Our journey through the Lord’s Prayer is almost done. Last week we prayed to be delivered from temptations in our own actions. Did you have time to walk a labyrinth or other path?

Today we look at the request that God keep us safe from evil. There is evil in the world, of that fact everyone agrees. Watching the nightly news brings it right into our living rooms with scenes of war and destruction and hatred and violence. There have always been evil and frightening things. We know that God is our protector and shield. Psalm 28:7 tells us, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Sometimes though it can be difficult to remember that when assaulted by all the pain and problems and dangers in the world. With the ancient Scots we can beg,

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Enter the Presence: Paul’s letter to the Ephesians advises, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

An important part of the armor is the final verse. Paul admonishes the Ephesians to “Pray in the Spirit at all times”. In the Lord’s Prayer we are asking God to clothe us with this armor, as we enter God’s presence with prayer. 
Stand In Awe: The Deer’s Cry is a prayer or song attributed to St. Patrick. Legend says that Loeguire, the High King of Tara, resolved to ambush and kill Patrick and his monks to prevent them from spreading the Christian faith in his kingdom.  As Patrick and his followers approached singing this hymn, the King and his men saw only a herd of wild deer and let them pass by. The words remind us of the power of God in the heavens, fire, sea, and rock. It is God’s strength that keeps us safe as Christ is behind, below, above, and all around.  

I arise today through the strength of heaven
Light of sun, radiance of moon
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind, depth of the sea
Stability of earth, firmness of rock

I arise today through God's strength to pilot me
God's eye to look before me
God's wisdom to guide me
God's way to lie before me
God's shield to protect me

From all who shall wish me ill
Afar and a-near
Alone and in a multitude
Against every cruel, merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul

Christ with me, Christ before me
Christ behind me, Christ in me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down
Christ when I arise, Christ to shield me

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me

In fact, it is the Lord who is our armor. Paul’s advice to ‘put on the armor of God’ is to allow God to surround us.

Involve your Heart: Think about what each part of the armor of God means in your life. Draw a shield shape, and add these ideas to it.

Take time to listen to the hymn Deer’s Cry in this video. Let yourself rest in the protection of Christ above, and surrounding you.   

This week focus is on Deliver us from Evil. Next week we will come to the conclusion of the prayer. 

August 6, 2017

Our Father: Lead us Not into Temptation

Enter the Presence: In our adventure through the Lord’s Prayer, we are entering the last few laps. We’ve celebrated God’s glory as Holy and as Father. We’ve asked that God’s Kingdom be built and looked at our responsibility in building that kingdom. God gives us our daily sustenance, and asks us to join in him in forgiving one another, just as we are forgiven every moment of every day. Which of the exercises have you tried? Were they helpful?

Today we pray “lead us not into temptation”. We face the fact that we are tempted to do the wrong thing every day. With Paul every one of us can say, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Paul continues, “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” I’m sure each of us at some time has been driven to sob, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” We want to do the right thing, but it seems like the more we try the worse it gets. However, Paul reminds us, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15-25) Through Christ, we are redeemed from the wrong things we do.

In the Lord’s prayer we say, “Lead us not into temptation”. The truth is, God doesn’t give us temptations. We find plenty of those on our own. We may spend time watching cat videos instead of taking time to pray. It’s easier to join the gossip than to find something positive to say. Shaking our head over a problem is simpler than working for a solution. Every day we make choices. Some of them take us down the well-traveled road that everyone else takes. As Robert Frost suggests “I took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference”.
Stand In Awe: Consider some of the citations for ‘road’ in the Bible, like these.  

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psalm 16:11)

“A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it.” (Isaiah 35:8)

The scripture promises that following God’s way, will be the way of joy and holiness. Jesus tells his disciples, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

When we pray ‘lead us not into temptation’, we are asking God to show us the proper path, the right road to follow. Probably it will be the ‘road less traveled’.

Sit with God and imagine what that road looks like in your life.

Involve your Heart: Think through yesterday. When did you give in to temptations to take the easier road?

What is your greatest temptation, the thing that lures you away from God’s path-power, social media, being likable…?

If there is a labyrinth nearby, take time to walk it thinking about how the path guides you without you having to determine which way to go. In the same way God guides your steps when you let God be in charge.*

This week focus on the phrase “Lead us not into Temptation”