Opening Lines

opening linesI’ve been awful about posting lately. If you’ve missed my posts, my apologies for that.

I don’t have a whole lot to say right now, but I’ve found that the events this week line up in a way with one topic I’ve been sitting on a bit.

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to intentionally slow down and reflect on the Lord’s Prayer with some friends, two lines at a time. And for all the good conversation that came of that, I was most struck by the first set.

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

It’s interesting to break it up like this because you can focus on how the two lines interact with one another on their own. And when you’re asked to search for meaning in an opening line of a prayer, a line where you really just address God, it challenges you to think a little more about the effect that might have on someone.

Namely, I think that effect is comfort. Hope. Assurance.

Assurance that there is a God in Heaven, looking down at us, desiring us, and moving through us. And this is a God whose name is worthy of hallowing, keeping holy, praising. Maybe we take that too lightly. I say this prayer in assembly nearly every week, and yet I never take a beat to think about the fact that I am lifting up and acknowledging the great power God has in his name.

That second line is the funniest to me. I don’t know if I’ve said it before, but asking for God’s will to be done is a scary thing. God’s presence is scary. People will often ask for God to “show up” during some more enthused prayers, and it’s funny because any time God even sent an angel to someone, they collapsed in fright. Not to mention Moses on the mountain or Pentecost. Maybe we should think before beckoning to God to step foot among us.

Plus, what more convicting words are there than that? To ask God’s will to be done is to put it at the forefront of your priorities. It’s hard to ask God to use us and to move us because, regardless of what we know and believe, we are comfortable and don’t want to be pushed somewhere that seems unappealing to us. If that weren’t true, we wouldn’t be trying to get around Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler so frequently.

But when I read those two together, I found that if you read them in reverse order, there’s a decided tone of comfort and assurance. Yes, calling for God’s will to be enacted can be scary. But remember: there is a Father in Heaven whose name is above every name, whose name is hallowed. And that’s not for naught.

I have been shocked and awed by the response of Christians to everything happening in Ferguson this week. Some claim to be responding in Christian love, but that becomes particularly suspicious when you read the URL of the site that the article they just shared is from. More often than not, there isn’t even an attempt at claiming a loving response.

More often than not, there isn’t even an attempt at claiming a loving response.

Is now not the time for that to be a priority? Or are we willing to let that take a backseat in this matter because whatever political and social implications this uncanny unfolding of events may carry outweigh a consciously Christian response? And before you argue or go to be defensive, what comments have you seen? What is the end goal of the rhetoric, good and bad (but mostly atrocious), that’s being thrown around on posts and comments?

As far as who I “side” with, I will only say this: as a follower of Christ, I feel particularly drawn to the oppressed, drawn to seek to heal the damage done by that oppression and combat it in whatever way I can.

(Also, the second you declare in your head that a person or persons are or aren’t oppressed, throw on the brakes and take another lap or twelve and then spend a long time in discernment about that. What do you have to gain from deciding someone who claims to be oppressed isn’t, and weigh that against what they stand to lose. The disparity between the two might floor you.)

There are times I feel cowardly for apparently “sitting the fence” in order to call people to simply think and consider through a Christlike lens. But then again, if that is something I feel needs to be called for, then the absence of that action is far more dire than any political agenda or stance of my own.

Politics, by and large, we can pretty much gather from the Bible, Jesus didn’t give two turds about. Maybe that phrasing seems awkward, but hey, Jesus pooped, too. So I am comfortable keeping the questions broad, because I’ve seen a whole lot of people rushing in to a narrow point and ignore questions that, if we are to be a healing force for the Kingdom on Earth, Christians cannot afford to ignore.

Who is hurting? What can I do to bring Jesus into that hurt?

It’s hard to see the events of the past week and answer questions of justice. But with each unfolding headline, what if we repeated that second line of the Lord’s Prayer?

Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Does what we see happening on the news or in the headlines live into that expectation? If not, if we’re going to stand in church Sunday morning and say that prayer allowed and do a little more than pretend to believe it, we better sit down and intentionally assess what we’re going to do to bring that kingdom we love to talk about so much.

How much listening have we done in this matter? How much praying have we done, not for either “side” but for our own discernment?

What will it take for us to ask God if we’re on the wrong side, knowing that we might be?

Maybe it takes a little bit of assurance. Maybe a little comforting.

Maybe assurance that there is a big God doing greater things than we could ever imagine.

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be they name.

Maybe a little hope.

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