Tuesday, November 20, 2012
video available now at www.sundaystreams.com/go/MilanVineyard/ondemand and audio available via RSS feed (see previous post) or iTunes podcast https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/vineyard-church-of-milan/id562567379
When you bring a baby home for the first time, you learn about needs and desires. On the one hand, your baby's needs and desires are very simple. They need food, and want to eat. They need a relief valve for gas build up, and want to burp. They get a certain squishy discomfort and need their diapers changed. And they get tired and cranky and need sleep. Sure, they need to breathe, and they need love, shelter, etc., but really you're focused most of the time on the big four: food, burping, diapers, and sleep. For you as a parent, it's a little like whack a mole. The different needs and desires keep popping up, and you're life at first is consumed with meeting them. Your baby cries, and the game begins. What is it? Food? Whack. Cry. Burp? Whack. Cry. A new diaper? Oh yeah, nice work buddy. Whack. Another cry. Sleep? Oh, oh. This one's the toughie. How do you whack this one, again? Something about the 5 S's? Swaddle, Side, Shush, Swing, Suck. Whack. So simple, needs and desires. Except. Except for one thing. Your baby is going to wake up soon. She's going to get hungry again. He's going to fill his diaper. And then she's going to start getting teeth. And a diaper rash. And outgrow his clothes. And eat 4 bowls of cereal for breakfast. And start playing hockey and break his arm. And want a cell phone to text her friends. And Well, you get the picture... Needs and desires are like bill collectors. They never stop calling. You can only put them off so long. [Frisbee & socks...?] Needs and desires keep on keeping on, like dandelions in your lawn. Jesus knows what it means to wake up with needs and desires staring you in the face. He lived in a sea of needs. A place to sleep the next night. Food, for him, for his disciples, for the crowds that followed him. Angry mobs. A counterintuitive, mission-critical message to deliver to people attached to a different way of looking at things, and doing things. He knows what it means to look around and not know how, or if, your needs are going to be met, if your desires will ever be fulfilled. So he teaches us to pray, from that place of uncertainty: "Our Father....give us today our daily bread." Which means, give us today the things we need for today. Not, give us today the things we need for the rest of our lives or the rest of the month or the rest of the week. The things we need for today. “God, as best as I can see it, this is where I’m at today and here’s what I’ll be needing. If you can think of anything else I might need today, I’ll count on you to provide that too.” Thesis: Because we are unconsciously ruled by our needs and desires, actively trusting our Father (the one in the heavens) to meet today's needs as we bring them to him in prayer can transform our experience of life. Specifically, by transforming our neediness from our master into our servant. Awareness of our needs is meant to serve us, not rule us. It is meant to lead us to life, not enslave us to things that only suck the life from us, leaving us for dead. We’ll unpack that in a minute, but first, consider this. All of our needs and desires are ultimately pointing at what we might call capital-letters LIFE. We may each define LIFE a little differently – for the extroverts, it’s fed by the social world around them, for the introverts by the internal world of their minds, for the teenage boy it’s fed by stimulation and action!, for the aging grandmother its fed by the wonder and beauty of her family thriving. [Colin’s observation about adults and kids physical play…] But no matter how we fine tune our definitions of LIFE, each of our needs and desires is in some kind of orbit around it, urging us towards it, more or less, depending on how well calibrated they are [the craving for a late night snack, for example…]. Love is the ultimate source of all true life. LIFE comes from love. From God, who is Love. From our participation in God's love. From loving others. From receiving love. We were made for love and out of love. Without love, the universe is a cold dead place. Without love, there is no true life. The universe is a massive self-giving love machine. The sun burns up to give us light and heat. The plants take it in and take nutrients from dead things to make oxygen and become food for other living things. The sun's heat evaporates water to move into the air, where it can be drawn together and moved around the globe, satisfying the thirst of living things everywhere. Giving and receiving, over and over and over, everywhere there is life. Love, love, love in action. God sacrificially gives of himself to give us life, so that love might be multiplied. So that we can give of ourselves in sacrificial obedience to and imitation of him, so that others and all of creation might have life. And in our obedience, we are caught up in his life, and love is multiplied and life blossoms. Giving and receiving, over and over, everywhere there is life. Love, love, love in action. Awareness of our needs is meant to call us to the intersection of giving and receiving, that place where love burns hottest and life blossoms. Your hunger is meant to lead you to food, so that from it you can have energy to love, to give of yourself. Your thirst is meant to lead you to water so that from it you can have life in order to love, to give of yourself. Every need that we have awareness of is meant to lead us to the place of intersection between giving and receiving where life happens. But for many of us, much of the time, our awareness of our need has ceased to function as a reliable servant leading us to life. Instead, the awareness of our need has become undisciplined, and too big for its britches, and it becomes an ogre ruling our life. It makes us worry, not trust... It makes us hoard, not give... And as a result, we stop obeying and imitating God in love; instead we retreat to the slave masters that falsely promise to provide for our needs, even though we know they have no interest in giving us life... Jesus wants to liberate his followers from that ogre of need-awareness run amok, and set things right in us so that we can receive life again and participate in love again. And it starts as we pray, "Give us today our daily bread." Background... When Jesus' first students heard him teach about praying for daily bread, they would have thought not about wonder bread or cinnamon toast or eggo waffles, but about manna. [exodus from Egypt ...unleavened bread running out, worry setting in ...if only we had died! ... promise of meat & bread. . . ] Exodus 16:13-31(3 clicks) God doesn't give them all these restrictions on how much and when, etc. because he wants to control his kids with arbitrary rules. No, in fact, God gives them these specific instructions not to control them, but to set them free. God is teaching his kids a truth about daily bread that will set them free from the worry that produced their complaint, from the fear that almost drove them back into slavery. God knows that Israel's problem wasn't a lack of food. They had plenty - sheep, goats, etc. Their problem was their relationship to the food they had. They were depending on it for life. And when they saw that they only had a limited amount, they worried about would happen if it ran out. They were so afraid that they would be stuck in the desert with nothing that they almost turned back to Egypt. Their awareness of their needs had become an ogre that convinced them that their life depended on their limited supply of food. The ogre was lying to them. You can't depend on stuff for life. Stuff doesn't love you. And stuff isn't dependable. Life doesn't come from stuff. You'll never get the life you need if you're trying to get it from stuff. And you'll never be able to rest, either, because you can never ever have enough of something that might run out and isn't capable of satisfying you anyway. The truth God was teaching Israel through the manna was that Life comes from him, and him alone. If you put your trust in God instead of stuff, you’ll always wake up to enough from God. And you’ll be free to rest, too, because he’ll miraculously preserve what he’s given you so that it keeps fresh while you’re resting, as long as you’re receiving and resting in obedience to him. [day off freedom] So, in effect, Jesus is saying to his students, Remember how Israel depended on YHWH for provision in the wilderness, before they entered the promised land? That’s how you are to depend on him now for provision as you learn to live as God’s children, as disciples with me on this kingdom mission. Some religions teach that desires lead to death, and we are meant to grow beyond desires, or that desires are inherently bad and should be annihilated. Buddha: desire, then, is like a tree whose branches are greed, bad will, and anger. The tree's fruit is suffering...removing desire from our lives is one step on the path to Nirvana. Jesus is teaching his students something different; our desires are meant to lead us to our heavenly Father in prayer. If our desires lead us to the Father, we can rest with our desires in his hands. Our Father is totally dependable. We can place all of our confidence in him. Our confidence does not, of course, come from any natural abundance we see around us. Like the Israelites, we are surrounded by wilderness. Uncertain employment, cars that could break down at any moment, health that seems fragile at best, college tuition that will surely break the bank, bills that keep on going like the energizer bunny, friends or family that may move to another part of the country any day. Our confidence comes very simply from practicing dependence on a Father who loves us. We asked him to meet our needs yesterday. He did, didn't he? Well Father, here we are again today. Give us today our daily bread. Practical Tips: 1. Make a daily "shopping list" that includes all your needs and desires for the day. Write down everything that comes to mind that if God provided it for you that day, you'd go to bed with a full stomach, metaphorically speaking. Jesus means daily bread representatively - he wants us to ask for more than just food, for everything that we might need. And then pray, while holding it, very simply, "Give us today our daily bread." Use the plural us, as a reminder that your needs are just a part of the needs of all of God's kids, so that your desires always find their place in the context of community, not divorced from it. Your needs joined together with your neighbors' needs. God's provision to you also his provision to them. Optional [We don’t have to clean them up before we present them, either. He’ll clean them up as he receives them, and as he satisfies them. Our heavenly Father will satisfy them in his way, in his time. That's the trust part of the thing. Certainly, it’s a foreign way of life for most of us, and raises some questions. For example, what about the stuff we’ll need for tomorrow? The future may be uncertain, but we generally know enough about it to have a laundry list of short term and long term needs, don’t we? There are certainly things that would really be nice for God to provide now, so that I don’t have to worry about them tomorrow, and so that I can make some decisions today that depend on what tomorrow is going to look like. Ah, but now we’re getting right back to where we started from. Today we have a loving Father. He will take care of today’s needs for us today. Nothing about tomorrow is secure for us, nothing except the unchanging fact that tomorrow we will have a loving Father. Tomorrow he will take care of tomorrow’s needs. So what things are off limit to ask God for, and what stuff is O.K., and what if we forget to ask him for something? Jesus doesn’t say. I think he doesn’t say on purpose, because prayer is primarily about relationship, not about finding the right formula so that it works. Enter the place of prayer as we’ve described, “our father in the heavens…” and offer to the Father every desire you still find in your heart by the time you get to the daily bread part. It’s not about technicalities. Should you have insurance? How about groceries for the rest of the week? What about 3 months savings? Retirement savings? Probably all those things are good things to have as you are able. Has God provided for you to be generous towards people in need and do those things as well? If so, then do them. But are you depending on those things you’re accumulating instead of depending on God? If so, very simply you’re missing out on the freedom of life in the kingdom.] 2. Do some liposuction. Identify something you have today that you don't need and give it away. Become part of the Father's answer to someone else's prayer. Do that every day for a week as you pray this prayer. 3. Shift your dependence from money to Papa. Give away some of tomorrow's money today. If you have any. Extra money that is. By extra, I mean the money you have set aside for unforeseen circumstances. The money that is supposed to make you feel safer in the face of an uncertain future. Not the money you already have a specific plan for, or that you've already committed to some purpose. Money that's just there for "in case you need it tomorrow." See how much that is, and ask Jesus how much he would have you give away next Sunday at church as an act of dependence on God's desire and ability to give you today what you need for today. Then write a check to the church, write "daily bread" in the memo line, and bring it next weekend. We'll collect it during the offering, and give it to Agape Apostolic Church for their needs. Or, if you're too new to the church to trust the church with your money, go to the grocery store after church and buy someone else's groceries for them. Maybe especially someone who looks like they could use it. Their whole shopping cart. Whatever it costs. If they ask why, tell them it's because God gave you some extra money today that he meant for you to use to buy their groceries. Because he loves them. Or maybe you want to do both. It won't hurt. If it does, it's just the ogre dying. It's just the growing pains of your soul stretching out to God.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 11/11/12
Drawn by the Holy Spirit,
accompanied by our savior and brother Jesus,
we come to our loving, powerful Father in the heavens,
settled confidently in the place of prayer,
longing for everything in our own life,
in our families, in our communities,
in our world to be set right,
starting with Papa’s reputation growing glorious again
as he fulfills his promises to us and through us.
Ah, sounds beautiful right?
Not necessarily our experience, not at first... (reality check...).
But as the spiritual practice of praying as Jesus teaches us does its intended work, our souls will come to anticipate prayer as this kind of experience.
Further up, further in: Jesus teaches us to pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Thesis: when we pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” Jesus means for us to be asking for real things to happen, in the real places that we live, in the real lives of the people we live with. In our own real lives.
Specifically, we are asking that God would
release his captive children,
defeat evil in every corner of our lives and this world,
and in the end, be in charge of everything everywhere,
because as he does we will experience true freedom and love,
we will know peace,
and our the purpose of our lives will come into view.
[Reminder of purpose of Jesus teaching on prayer, participating with Jesus in his liberation mission, learning to live lives that make sense in light of the good news of the kingdom……what exactly does it mean for God’s kingdom to come, for his will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven? We’ll only know as we pray and see how God answers. This part of the prayer is a little like a knock knock joke:
Jess me, open the door!
Hope for today is simply that we would be convinced to get involved daily in the asking, whatever the answers may be]
Ever been subject to bad authority? A bad teacher or coach…? A bad boss…? [Horrible Bosses clip, gam gam…
Bad authority is impersonal, incompetent, and oppressive. Ever had to fight a bureaucracy unsympathetic to your needs…? Experienced racial or other discriminatory oppression…? Grown up in a family with parents who were over their heads, or had some chip on their shoulder towards you, or were simply preoccupied with other concerns, work, addiction, emotional disorders…? The longing we experience in those situations has the same root as the longing we have for God’s kingdom to come, his will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
[Monty Python and the Holy Grail clip, chapter 4, 8:50-12:00]
Human beings are withered, crippled, and suffocated by impersonal, incompetent, and oppressive authority.
We have a deep longing
to be recognized as valuable within our communities,
to live in secured order,
to have breathing room to grow and create… [examples]
When Jesus taught his followers to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, he was speaking to people who were sick and tired of the powers that be.
The people Jesus was teaching to pray were longing for a new king. The Roman emperors were a curse to Israel. The Herodian kings were a cruel joke.
Jesus’ students, and in fact most of Israel, clung to the promises given through the great prophets of Israel that YHWH would establish his kingdom, taking up the throne in Jerusalem, defeating and displacing every other king. YHWH’s kingdom would be bathed in beauty and love, its goodness would be unshakable, and the children of God would bloom in the radiance of his favor.
Isn’t our longing the same too, sometimes? Or at least, it would be, if we knew what it would mean for God’s kingdom to come.
The promise of God's kingdom Israel was clinging to had three main parts: (1) release from captivity for Israel, (2) the defeat of evil, and (3) the return of YHWH to Zion, to the throne in Jerusalem. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray in this way, he was already implementing each of these three aspects of God’s coming kingdom, although in radically different ways than expected.
The first great symbol of release for captive Israel was the Exodus story (recap); Jesus told a new story, a story about a son who leaves his Father’s house for the lure of life in a pagan country. His listeners would have understood that son to be Israel in exile, wasting its inheritance and ending up with pig slop. But the astonishing end to Jesus' story is the son returning in repentance and shame to the Father’s house, only to be welcomed by the Father running towards him with open arms, embracing him, giving him new clothes, the family ring, sandals on his feet, and throwing a huge feast. By eating with sinners, healing outcasts, calling misfits to be his disciples, Jesus was saying that the release from captivity has begun, the new and final exodus is at hand. God is, at last, through Jesus, welcoming home with open arms those who have been enslaved in a far off land.
Similarly, Jesus was defeating evil, but not in the expected way, the way of the mighty conqueror. Instead, by every form of self-giving love, all the way to death on a cross. Along the way, healing the sick, forgiving sins, casting out tyrannical demons with freeing authority, overwhelming the condemnation that comes with sin through his gracious welcome.
And finally, Jesus was coming to Zion (just another name for the city of Jerusalem) but again, not in the expected way. As a shepherd rescuing lost sheep, with gentleness and grace. In Jesus, YHWH had returned to Zion, lifted up first before the nations on a cross, “King of the Jews” nailed above his head, and then three days later in his glorious resurrection body.
For Jesus’ students, to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” was first a prayer that Jesus would succeed in his mission of releasing captive Israel, defeating evil, and taking up the throne in Jerusalem. And after the resurrection, it became a prayer that that Jesus would succeed through them and through his Holy Spirit in bringing his resurrection life to bear in every corner of the earth, until the day of final resurrection for all of humanity.
So what does that mean for us to pray “Your kingdom come…?”
We don’t have an oppressive king, at least not literally. But if we examine our heart of hearts, we share with Jesus’ first followers the conviction that things are not yet as they should be. Something is off in the order of the world we live in. Whether that offness is in the world’s political systems, or off in our society, our workplaces, our relationships, our families. Sometimes, perhaps even often, the offness is most clearly felt in our own poor governance of our own out-of-control lives.
Like Jesus’ students after his resurrection from the dead, who continued to pray daily that God’s kingdom would come, his will would be done, on earth as it is in heaven, we live in the time of tension between God’s kingdom that has already come and God’s kingdom still yet-to-come in its fullness. Release for the captives has been secured, but many of the captives continue to live in a far off land. Evil has been dealt a death blow, but its dying breath is vile as ever. Jesus has been raised up as the true king, but we live in the time of mercy when subjects of other kingdoms can still renounce their tyrants and declare their allegiance to him before the final judgment comes.
So when we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we ask the Father that his in-breaking kingdom would in fact break in through Jesus, here and now.
That the extravagant welcome of the heavens for the exiles would be felt by those of us who have been in a far off land, by our families, by our neighborhoods, by our workplaces, by every human being on the face of the earth through the compassion of Jesus.
That the evil in our own lives and family and neighborhood and workplaces and world would be borne on the shoulders of the suffering servant, taken to the grave, and destroyed in the pure light of the resurrection.
That every place of power in our own lives and family and neighborhood and workplace and world would receive the humble king who rides on a donkey, the weeping king who grieves for those who reject his peaceful rule and continue to live and die in strife.
As the Father faithfully answers our prayer, we, and in time, the whole earth, will experience the freedom that comes from being full citizens of God’s kingdom. That comes from being deeply valued by the one whose community of divine love is in fact our community. That comes from the settled order of life exalted over death, good exalted over evil. That comes from the benevolent rule of the Servant King whom we are growing to be like, in whose purposes our created lives become gloriously creative.
1: Start with your body. That's the bit of earth that we have the most direct responsibility for, our bodies. That’s where Jesus started. His body was received with welcome by the Father at his baptism. His body warred with evil in the wilderness, the truth of God’s word winning out over the lies of the enemy. His body was ravaged by evil on the cross, but restored and glorified by the Father in the resurrection. He entered the kingly city bodily on Palm Sunday, he maintains a presence in the newly won territory of this earth through his body, the church, and will take up the throne in the new city in his resurrection body.
Father, release the parts of my body that are captive, enslaved to desires that are not your desires. May the will of my earthly body become your will for it; may it be surrendered to your saving purposes as Jesus’ body is. Help my body to experience the welcome of your embrace, in all its brokenness and shame, that you would give it dignity and purpose, that it would be an agent of your authority, that it would be nourished by the best from your table.
Father, defeat evil in my body. Show your power to be stronger than that which has afflicted me. Heal my sickness and hurt and anxiety and weakness and bad habits. Be the prince of my body’s peace.
Father, establish a throne in my body. Exercise your kingship over every part of it, so that it bears witness to your presence in its every action. Quicken my senses to your presence, that I would recognize you and praise you with it whenever you come near. Make it responsive to your voice, to your touch, to your leading. Strengthen it by your presence and authority. Your kingdom come, your will be done, in my body as it is in heaven.
[then begin to cooperate with his kingdom coming; listening, speaking out loud to God, singing, kneeling, opening hands, raising arms, fasting…also, public steps like baptism, communion]
2. Pray for your emergency contacts. Pray for God's kingdom to come in your most important relationships. The people who once were on your list, or whose list you might be on. Pray for release for the parts of the relationship that are captives. That God would defeat evil in them. That he would establish a throne in them.
3. Pick 6. As the Holy Spirit leads us, we can pray in the same manner for our for our neighbors, our classmates, our co-workers, etc. Pick 6, and pray for them, mostly every day. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 11/04/2012
Our Father in the heavens, hallowed be your name… (etc.)
Observation: some see God-interested parts of the Lord's prayer (hallowed, kingdom come, will be done...), and self-interested parts of the prayer (feed, forgive, free...). (show of hands?). Try this perspective on for size, see how it fits: it’s all self interested at first, and only becomes God-interested as we become God-interested. Specifically, that ‘hallowed be your name’ is inherently self-interested, to start. Because Jesus is no fool; he knows exactly who he is teaching to pray, and what kind of people we are to start with. This is a real prayer, for real people. And the ‘hallowed be your name’ portion of the prayer is a portion worth praying whole-heartedly, whole-mindedly, a petition that deserves all the strength we can muster, the full attention of our soul.
When Jesus teaches his students to pray in Matthew 6, he's training them to be children in God's kingdom. Starting them off on a path on which you need to be like a child at first, in order to find your footing.
We're relatively sophisticated and worldly wise when it comes to living in the world right in front of our eyes. Like fully grown adults in this grown up world around us. It's become second nature to look out for ourselves, to see the threats around the corner, to know how to stand up for ourselves, to continually strive to get ahead. None of which are especially transferable skills when it comes to kingdom living.
When Jesus announces his coming, present, near, already and almost Kingdom, all that worldly maturity we've developed goes out the window.
Look out for yourself? Nope, that will only keep you from looking out for others with generosity in each hand.
See the threats around the corner? Nope, that will keep you from being open to God’s invitation to walk with him into fearful places with peace.
Stand up for and defend yourself? Nope, that will only keep you from trusting in God to defend you as you go about his business with joy.
Strive to get ahead? Nope, that will only make you miss out on opportunities to serve others while trusting God to lift you up as he desires.
Instead, we must become like children again when we receive his good news, when we put our feet on the path of his new creation. [playing "21" with Ronni's family]
Perhaps we should let those first words be a reminder to us: "Our Father..." This is a prayer for us: new children learning to grow up in a new family.
And now we are at the starting point of our conversation, the starting point of our activity together: “Hallowed be your name.”
“Hallowed” isn't word we use a lot, is it? Hallowed grounds, hallowed heroes, hallowed halls. All Halloweds' Eve (Halloween). It comes from a cool Greek word: "hagiastheto". All our English translations use "hallowed", because it really is the best single word, but it might really work better for us to use a bunch of different words combined together to translate it, even if it comes across a little less elegantly. Here are some plainer English words that reflect more clearly what Jesus was driving at:
· May your name be treasured and loved
· May your name be made holy
· May your name be made great
· May your name be honored
· May your name be uniquely respected
And by name, we’re talking more than just the word or title by which we refer to God. We’re including ideas like reputation, authority, underlying reality. More like what we’d mean when we say, “She dragged my name through the mud...” Or, “Richard Petty and Roger Penske are two of the most respected names in auto racing.” Or, “Stop! In the name of Love...", or alternatively, "You give Love a bad name..." (I played my part, and you played a game...).
Kid's are deeply attached to and affected by the reputation, the Name, of their parents. [Receiving line at visitation for my mom…]
“Your mama” jokes touch this place in kids. “My dad is better than your dad” contests come from this place.
At root, the desire for your parent's name to be treasured, loved, respected - "hallowed" - is a healthy desire. Parents are a child’s world, a child’s foundation. They need to be good, sufficient, have a certain level invincibility, for a child to have the confidence needed for learning to love others, for taking risks, for developing a healthy self-esteem. [Ken Wilson's Legendary Exploits...]
[calling mom a name...my dad understood that...]If a young child’s parents are pre-maturely perceived as weak and insufficient, the child’s world becomes uncertain, confused, scary. Opens the door for a child to be shaped by fear, not love, and fear wreaks all sorts of havoc down the road.
Taking that a step deeper, just as a child’s well-being depends on a recognition of the goodness and greatness of its parents, the human race’s well-being depends on the goodness and greatness of its Father. Our Father is the world’s foundation, its creator, its ultimate source. Learning to love others, taking risks that produce growth, developing a healthy self-esteem depends on our Father’s name being great.
If we human beings don’t fully understand and recognize the “hallowedness” of our Father in the heavens, then the basic order and foundation of our lives fall apart. Disorientation and confusion set in, other forces vie for our attention and love, other forces that cannot deliver on their promise of life and security. The human compass, as Dallas Willard calls that part of us intended to orient us toward God, spins unpredictably, unable to find true north. Lostness is the inevitable result.
The world we live in is a world full of orphans, of fatherless children, of children of less-than-fathers.
Jesus is teaching us to pray, then, that our Father’s reputation would be restored. That our Father’s name would be held by everyone, everywhere, to be unique, supreme, holy. That our Father’s name would be held in higher honor than any other name.
note: we’re not praying that people would stop saying “God!” or that God would take a more prominent role in public life, etc. Churches have a difficult enough time giving God a good name, let alone secular institutions...
Rather, we’re praying that when people’s eyes and minds and hearts and souls (ours included!) are directed towards God, that they, and we, would have the true God in mind, the Famous one, the one who shaped us with his bare hands, who breathed life into our lungs through a holy kiss, the one who delivered the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the one who is a Father to the fatherless and a Husband to the Husbandless, the one who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. That when we think of God we would think of him as generous, full of favor, abounding in life and joy and happiness and strength for the weak and justice for the oppressed and stronger than every evil thing any of us might face, alone or together.
And not just for His sake, so he can walk through the universe to praise and acclaim. [As if! when God wanted to change his reputation, he came and hung out with sinners, got arrested, and died. There are more direct routes to praise and acclaim, if that's all you're after, aren't there?] No, it's important that our Father's name would be held in high honor, at first, for our sake. This is the sanest, most intelligently self-interested prayer a concerned citizen of the human race can pray. So that we can have a foundation again for our lives. So that we can become healthy, re-oriented, settled. So that we can RELAX. Go to sleep without anxiety. Wake up with confidence. Peace. Joy. Hope. Anticipation of good. So that we can be generous towards one another. Encouraging. Loving.
Because that, more than anything else in this world, is what we and God are doing together. Putting right what has gone terribly wrong in us. Putting right what has gone terribly wrong in this world.
[recap the Lord’s prayer, Our Father in the heavens…]
When you are a child and the rules are being broken all around you, to whom do you go? When you are a child, and you’re hungry, to whom do you go? When you are a child and you’ve been wronged and need things righted, to whom do you go? When you are a child and it thunders and you’re afraid, to whom do you go?
Papa, make your name so great in my life that when everything is falling apart, my first instinct is to run to you instead of trying to hold it all together myself.
Papa, make your name so great in my life that whenever I’m hungry for anything, I see what you’ve got in the cupboard for me before I venture out into the cold in search of food.
Papa, make your name so great in my life that when things are taken from me by people who can’t or won’t pay me back, that I’ll come straight to you with my claim instead of becoming a full-time bill collector.
Papa, make your name so great in my life that instead of running from evil into the arms of fear and despair, I’ll look forward to seeing what you’re going to do about it.
Our Father in the heavens, hallowed be your name. May your name be treasured and loved by us. May your name, Father, be made holy to us. May your name be the greatest name we know. May your name be the name we honor above every other name. May your name, Abba, be uniquely respected by our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our bodies.
1. When you pray, make it personal. Identify the important roles you have in your life. Dad/mom/employee/employer/student/friend/teammate etc. (for me, it might be husband, father, pastor, for example.) Ask the Spirit to empower you to carry yourself in a way that lives up to your true Dad's name. Not so that you can be a great husband, or dad, or pastor. But so that your wife can know what a great heavenly Father she has. So your kids can know what a great heavenly Father they have. So that your congregation can know what a great heavenly Father they have.
Pray the prayer this way: May your name be treasured and loved by my wife/kids/brothers and sisters because of the way I reflect you to her/them/etc.
1b. Act like you've got a great dad. Which really means: Stop acting like you don't have a great dad. You know. Showing off. Being afraid. Worrying about the little stuff. Getting defensive about yourself. Gossiping. Seriously. You've got a great dad. Start acting like it.
2. Become part of the answer. Identify a favorite thing you've come to know about your Father in the heavens. Identify someone you know and care about who would be blessed to know that the way you know it. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can cooperate with Jesus in revealing that aspect of the Father's name to the that person. Then do it, prayerfully. [My dad cares about the smallest things in my life, and he's bigger than my biggest enemies and challenges. I think it would bless my neighbors to know it...]
3. "Show me the money!" This one's for the men, especially those without kids of their own, or those whose kids are grown. Find a fatherless boy, and make yourself available to point him to the true Father in the heavens.
sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 10/14/2012
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Matthew 6 :9-13
Mystically Wired, page 5-6 (Our Brains Are Itching to Pray)...
When Jesus teaches his followers how to pray he tells them to start like this:
Our Father who is in heaven...
Our Father who is in heaven is here and he is now. Near, as close as our next breath. Even now, his arms encircling our sinful selves in loving embrace. And he's a Father, in the best sense of the word. A dad who couldn't be happier that we are his kids, a dad will stop at nothing to ensure we experience and are shaped by and become competent at love, a dad who moves heaven and earth for us and is moved at his core by us.
But for us, this text is loaded with all sorts of landmines that could distort Jesus' meaning; both about fathers and about heaven. For starters, 34% of children live absent their biological father, and 50% of those have never set foot in their father's home. And our conceptions about heaven are more often shaped by Hollywood movies than by the Holy scriptures.
First, let’s tackle the original wording of the text, and then consider what Jesus might be trying to teach us about this Father, and how to approach him.
πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς
PAH-tair | hay-MOHN | ha | en | tois | oo-rah-NOICE
father of us the [one] in the heavens
The classic translation, Our Father, who art in heaven, doesn't help us very much. It's like we're talking about a distant Father, one who is way out there. In our most common religious imagination, heaven is mainly a place we go after we die. In other words, although there’s nothing to rule out the ‘now-ness’ of the place (after all, we all know people who’ve already died, and figure they must be someplace), we tend to think of it as a future place. A later place. A down the road sort of place. Assuming the road we're on leads there, of course.
Wolfram Alpha query: Where is heaven? Result: Heaven is a metaphysical place people with certain virtues go in their afterlives according to various religions and spiritual philosophies.
But that's not what Jesus is talking about here. Thank God.
A little background might help.
οὐρανοῖς Nearly always a plural word. Generally referring to places inhabited and ruled by God. All Hebrews had at least 3 conceptions of heaven (some Rabbi’s 7, thus ‘7th Heaven’)
The third heaven: the domain of God that is spiritual but nonetheless a definite place. God’s home. The place angels call home. The place where Jesus said he was going to prepare a home for us. A place that is meaningfully different than this earth; it is God soaked, God glistening, reverberating with worship, trembling with power, glorious.
The second heaven: what we might call outer space. A place where God’s presence and majesty are evident in the wondrous stars and planets and moons. A place orchestrated by and bearing witness to God.
The first heaven: what we might call the earth’s atmosphere, from the exosphere, to the thermosphere, the mesosphere, stratosphere, troposphere. The air that holds the clouds, that moves the leaves of the trees, that ruffles our hair, that carries the sound of my voice, that fills our lungs when we draw breath. Everything that we think of as empty, the Hebrews thought of as filled with God. A heaven infused with God’s living presence, in which he moves, from which he listens, and out of which he speaks.
When Jesus instructs us to pray to our Father, the one in the heavens, he's saying prayer begins by coming to our heavenly Father - not a distant Father in a land of harps and thrones, but the divine Father who is as close to us our next breath, surrounding the whole of our bodies, sensitive to every word that passes through our lips, even the faintest whisper.
[spin out the implications of a Father “in the heavens”… in the place of power, in the farthest reaches, and all around us.]
However, one of the challenges we have with Jesus' prayer is that many of our associations with the word “Father” are negative, not positive.
[Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone clip]
How difficult would it make it to pray if when we think of praying to "our Father" we imagine a papa like the one in the song?
Absentee. Someone who cares more about himself than about his kids. Someone undependable.
Or maybe, a strict disciplinarian. Emotionally distant. Someone who has the highest expectations for your life and the lowest tolerance for failure. Someone who’s pegged you as a no-good good-for-nothing.
Or maybe, someone who only cares how you make him look. Someone who will only be pleased when you’ve got a haircut and a new job. Someone who just doesn’t get you, who wants you to fit his mold.
[Donald Miller story, from Father Fiction, pg. 9-10...]
That's not the kind of Father Jesus is inviting us to come to in prayer.
He's talking about YHWH God, the one who met Moses at a burning bush when the Hebrew people were in slavery, and told Moses that he had a message for him to deliver to the Pharaoh, the god-man who was enslaving the Israelites:
And you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus said the Lord: My son, my firstborn, is Israel. And I said to you, Send off my son that he may worship Me, and you refused to send him off, and, look, I am about to kill your son, your firstborn.
Now, that's a dad, isn't it? Hey you, Pharaoh. Yeah, you. Hands off that one. Why, you ask? He's my boy. His name's Israel, and he may have gotten mixed up with you for a while, but enough's enough. He called me and said he wants to come home. So that's it. Let him go. I'm telling you, keep messing with Israel, and I'll mess with you.
Setting theological implications aside for another conversation, isn't that the kind of dad you want when you're in trouble?
First, he's a dad who claims you as his own, no matter what kind of situation you're in.
When Jesus tells his followers to start prayer saying, "Our Father, the one in the heavens..." he's telling us that that same dad who rescued Israel from Pharaoh is our dad, too. And it's because God has chosen to call us his son, not for any other reason. That's what the good news is all about.
We're not like puppies in the pet store, hoping someone will adopt us. We come into prayer to a Dad who has already chosen us, for reasons that have nothing to do with our cuteness, or the tricks we can do, or how well we heel, or how housebroken we are.
And we're not a burden to him, not an inconvenience. Our Dad - the one in the heavens - longs to be our Dad, no matter what it costs him.
It’s just a fundamental fact of your reality, Jesus is saying. It’s not up for grabs based on your most recent behavior... Every student of Jesus comes into prayer with the privilege of a beloved son or daughter of Papa in the heavens. We begin our prayer, us frail, fragile, fickle human beings, declaring and depending on the one unchanging fact of our existence. God is our Father. Period.
Secondly, when we call God Father, we’re talking to the father who moves heaven and earth to take care of his kids. When we enter the place of prayer, Our Father is already acting on our behalf.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
No ear has perceived,
No eye has seen any God besides you,
Who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
We don’t have to wake God up, rouse him to action. We’re coming to the Father who unleashed his wrath against his kids’ enemies. The Father who softened the hardest of hearts so that his kids could go free. The Father who split the sea to make a way out of exile for his kids. The Father who brought water out of a rock so his kids’ thirst would be satisfied in a dry land.
And, as the resurrection of the beloved son Jesus reveals, we come to a Papa who, far from being a rollin’ stone, is rollin’ stones away.
“From then on, to call on God as ‘Father’ was to invoke the God of the Exodus, the liberation God, the God whose kingdom was coming, bringing bread for the hungry, forgiveness for the sinner, and deliverance from the powers of darkness…The ‘Lord’s Prayer’ as many call it, is therefore not just a loosely connected string of petitions. It is a prayer for people who are following Jesus on the kingdom-journey.” -Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone
Prayer is relational before it is functional. No doubt about it. But prayer is not relational instead of functional. The two go hand in hand. Our Father is letting us in on the action. The relationship with God in which we are involved is one in which he is inviting us into his purposes: for our lives, for the lives of others, for the whole world.
When we step into the place of prayer, in the way Jesus teaches us, we are intimately intertwined with a Father who is transforming us from people who have lived as slaves into free people who have an inheritance in the promised land. A Father who has liberating designs on every life, in every corner of the world, for every corner of the world.
Dallas Willard describes Jesus-style prayer as “talking about what we are doing together”. This cooperation is implicit in the idea that we come to God as a child comes to her Father. We are not simply overwhelmed by God’s activity, while our own will, desires, personality are rendered irrelevant.
Let's dispel the classical idea of God as the “unmoved mover....” Our prayer matters. God is moved by us, by our prayer. God actually responds; it’s not a charade.
The universe responds to desire & will, the nature of the Trinitarian universe, founded on personal relationship. God is strong enough not to be moved, should he choose not to be, but he allows himself to be moved by his children. That is true greatness. He has a greatness so great that he can be moved and still accomplish his purposes. The Father Jesus invites us to come to in prayer might be called, in truth, the “most moved mover”.
[flexibility continuum, allowing kids to move us...]
Finally, the truth is, this Father / child thing that happens in prayer predates us. Our Father has always been a father. God was a Father before we were his kids. Jesus is just inviting us into something he's been experiencing since before the dawn of time.
To call God “Our Father” is to join ourselves with Jesus in his relationship with the Father. On our own, few of us would have any confidence to call God Father. Sure, God called Israel his son. But none of us, at least not on our own, is Israel. Few of us are even in the line of Abraham. We always come into the place of prayer with Jesus, brothers of his because of the good news and our response to it; we are never there without him. “Our” Father.
He in his resurrection body fully inhabiting the material world, and the material world inhabiting the heavens. Us, through faith, in him, together with him sons and daughters of our Father in the heavens. That's how prayer begins. Not a bad start, eh?
1. WRITE & BURN. Write down what comes to mind when you think of a father. Read it out loud in the place you pray, and then burn it. Let the smoke make visible the air around you in which your heavenly Father is present. Invite him to show you what a true father is all about - to receive and heal your perceptions that have been formed badly, to receive and shine light on and amplify the perceptions that have been given to you as gifts.
2. PICTURE THE LOVE. To use a previously adapted phrase from my dad, there’s already “good vibrations” going on in the place of prayer. Jesus and the Father loving one another. The Holy Spirit, capital ‘L’ Love, the proper, personal noun Love, emanating from them.
Helpful to picture that as prayer begins. Me and Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit. [‘Being in a room exercise’ experience]
3. SAY IT OUT LOUD. Love flourishes in an atmosphere of confident trust. Take a risk, let the syllables slip off your tongue, tumble over your lips. Papa. Daddy. Father. Simply saying the word to God will be a cooperation with the Spirit of Jesus that the Father has given you, the Spirit of Sonship that calls out “Abba”, Father.