Lenten Lord’s Prayer
SERVICE Feb 21, 2021
(There is no Service video this week. See footnote)
It’s easy to tell that the government and the churches are not in sync right now. This is the first Sunday of Lent and traditionally the time when people give things up. This is also the week when we, in this area have changed from Lock-down to Red which means we can go shopping. Somehow those two things don’t go together.
I recently read of a theological college where they decided to dare each other as to the extremes to which they would go to outdo each other in giving up things for Lent.
They began with certain foods. Then it was Television; then social media; then bedding, but finally the college authorities stepped in when one of the student proposed they should give up clothing for the 6 weeks. You just have to admire the intense religious fervor of that student.
Another focus of Lent is that it is a time to meditate and ponder on your faith. Ministers often use a theme to enhance the process. Several people have mentioned lately that they would like to hear more about the Lord’s Prayer, so I have elected to use that. It is a prayer that is easily broken into segments and I will emphasize one of those each week.
You will notice as well that each week we will sing a different version of the Lord’s Prayer. This week it is the one that was written by Sister Janet Mead and used in Godspell the musical. You can listen on the Youtube link.
It is also interesting to see the images of Jesus from 50 years ago.
As I mentioned the Lord’s prayer is easily broken into segments. It is a Jewish prayer that was written according to a formula.
Formulae are common for public prayer. When I went to theological school (with my clothes on) we were given a pattern to make writing prayers easier. The most common one is A.C.T.S.S. which stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication and Silence. I find the silence part the easiest. The idea being that you spend a few words in each area so that you get a more general coverage.
We start today with the first part of the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father who are in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” Often this is called the Adoration section.
It is good to start any prayer and indeed any conversation on a positive note. Business uses this technique. If you are at a seminar and you ask a question the initial response from the presenter is “That is a great question” even if it isn’t. Basically it starts the discussion on a constructive note.
For some people they like to start a prayer on a complimentary emphasis because they are going to ask God for a favour. This is not the point of prayer. If prayer was a guaranteed request list, I would not be sitting in my office looking out at the snow.
The reason to start a prayer with respect is to establish recognition of who you are talking to. It sets the mood.
That brings us to the first line of the prayer. “Our Father, who art in heaven,. Hallowed be thy name” Out of the first six words, three possibly four, have come under discussion. At times it has been very energetic discussion.
The first word “Our” has not figured highly in the controversy but some replace it with “Oh” as they feel it is too possessive.
The next word “Father” has certainly come under a great amount of debate. Some people will not use the term “Father” as they feel it is too sexist and exclusive. When Jesus used the term “Abba” I don’t think his emphasis was to be exclusive but it does indicate the common view of the time, that God was a male. I think Jesus was trying to indicate a relationship. In today’s world we are much more conscious that spiritual beings have no gender. Thus the God we worship is neither male nor female. There are many alternative phrases which can be substituted, such as “O Holy One” O Creator” “God our Sustainer”. It really is a point of personal preference.
The words such as “art” and “thou” are old English words and many more modern versions of the prayer do not include them.
Finally under the disputed section. we come to the phrase “in heaven”. Again this has been challenged as the image of heaven has changed. No longer do we understand heaven as a place above the earth.
Apparently the “Epic” which landed on Mars this week has a drone on board. To get from here to Mars, did it have to pass through heaven? Can you imagine the excitement in heaven if they suddenly got their first drone? That may seem irreligious but it points out the two realities.
Also the idea that God is off in heaven somewhere can lead to the perception that God is not with us.
Staying with old language can be comforting but it also can lead to misunderstanding.
I am not going to take the prayer apart word by word but this opening has caused people to stop using it. Let us move on.
To me the second half of this phrase is important. “Hallowed be thy name”
The term Hallowed immediately implies respect. It is one thing to honour someone for something they have done but to “hallow” someone goes way beyond that. For us to “Hallow” God’s name indicates worship. It demonstrates that God is far above us intellectually and spiritually. This is an important concept.
If we are going to learn and grow we have to realize that we are not the brightest beings in the world. We often think that we have all the answers but, there is more knowledge and wisdom in the spiritual, physical and natural world than we have even begun to understand. There are ways for us to live. There are ways for us to share and to be at one with each other and the world that we have yet to discover. If we hallow the creator, then we hallow the creation. That includes all of us. The name of God is written on everything just as the name of an artist is written in every stroke of the brush.
When we hallow the name of God we humble ourselves and we are ready to learn.
The opening sentence in this prayer has been put there on purpose. It is to help us prepare for the next part by establishing a relationship and an awareness of God and ourselves.
Take a few minutes and think about your image of God and then consider what it means to “hallow god and creation”. What responsibilities and benefits have we been given.
Part two next week
(Footnote: The service was not videoed this week due to caution. I was involved with a family this week. who needed my presence. The next day I received a phone call that one member had tested positive with Covid. Everyone was masked so I am not worried but decided not to expose the worship team to any possible chance.)
For the prayer this week I would suggest that each person take some time and follow the 5 steps with their own ideas
Adoration – giving praise to God
Confession – between you and God
Supplication – asking for help
Go now in Peace
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen
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