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Our Father

August 6, 2012

There are days I stumble along, trying to make sense of why I am a Christian and why I follow God.  I search for ways I can be God’s hand and feet, praying that God will make something known to me.  Usually, I encounter silence.  I can’t even find stirrings in my heart much less a grand idea of how I can change the world.  I think this is one of the reasons why I read so much.  I read so I can see myself in others struggles.  I read so I can see how others weathered the quiet of God and came out on the other side.  I read so I can get a grip on what to do with this very divided, not terribly united country we live, where we debate things like who deserves healthcare, whether or not to eat at Chick-fil-a, and why people don’t go to church more.  The church is even divided:  evolution or not, who should be allowed to join, who gets to preach, what songs to sing, when and how to be baptized, the role of the church and state, and whether God’s grace is available for all versus just those who were born in the right time and place.

So I read, with all this noise going on around me.  I read to learn more about God in hopes that by doing so I will know more God.  I read to learn how to pray better and how to play better.  I read everything within my reach–three or four blogs by incredible women (almost all of which are younger than me, yet so much wiser!), spiritual memoirs, guides on spiritual practices, daily liturgy, daily devotionals, suggestions on interpreting the Bible better, and the Bible.  (Seriously, I have read all of that in the past 2 weeks).  Unlike the spoken word, I can almost always find something to gleam from what I am reading.  I am happy with just being able to internalize one sentence, one glimpse of wisdom, one facet of God.  A lot of times the books build on each other, the spiritual practices books overlapping, the daily Bible readings and a blog I’ve just read.  Other times, the words I’ve read seep through cracks in my mind unnoticed until I am driving home by myself one even and bam!   It all comes together.

That’s what happened the other night.  I was driving home from a time with my dear women and besides thinking about my daughter, I was also thinking about something else that had been working its way through the cracks in my mind.  In her book, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, Lois Tverberg analyzes Hebrew words and the many nuances one word may have.  This is the section that wouldn’t leave me alone.

By contrast, Judaism throughout the centuries has declared that “life is with people.”  Religion, in their thinking, is inherently communal…In his article, “You Can’t Be Holy Alone,”  Ismar Schorsch explains the premise behind this practice:  when people gather to worship God, his presence among them sanctifies the place.

…All by myself I was praying these ancient lines that were exclusively framed in terms of “we” and “us” and “our people” (as is the Lord’s Prayer, of course).  A few days later I attended a large Christian worship service.  There the focus of every song was on God and me;  “I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice”…”Just as I am, without one please”…”Here I come to worship, here I come to bow down.”  Hundreds of us were worshipping side by side, a sea of voices resounding together, and every one of us was pretending to be alone.

(Bold emphasis is mine).  I glossed over that paranthesis the first time (as is the Lord’s Prayer, of course) and didn’t think about it until the drive home.  For the first time I noticed the pronouns.  Our Father, who are in heaven.  Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  Forgives us our trespasses as we forgive our trespassers.  Lead us not into temptation, but delivers us from evil.

All of a sudden, the Lord’s Prayer had changed for me.  I wondered, surely I’ve heard a sermon on those pronouns before, but if I had I couldn’t remember.  (I am guessing I’ve heard several and just never heard what the Pastor was saying even though I thought I was listening).  When I say the Lord’s Prayer, I am not just praying that God provides for me, but that God provides for everyone.  I don’t just pray that I am forgiven, but that God forgives everyone, no matter if they went to Chick-Fil-A or boycotted Chick-Fil-A on a certain August day.  We pray for God to deliver us all from evil, which would include even the evil doers, I think.

In that moment, a stirring from God came to the surface.  I felt responsible for my neighbors in Austin, in Texas, in the US, and in the world.  We are called to be God’s hand and feet.  How can we pray that God will give us all—democrats, republicans, Christians, non-Christians, those with enough, those who don’t have enough–our daily bread and not do anything to help that happen?

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