Friday, November 20, 2009

Lord's Prayer and Last Things

The first half of the Church worship year looks back in thankful celebration for God's action in human history, in particular the life and earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. The second half emphasizes the Church's continuation of Jesus' work, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This coming Sunday, the last of the Church year, is called Christ the King. As I will preach, it is emphatically forward looking. It looks out beyond the confines of time with hope for an eternity of unmeasurable abundance and joy, of life so perfected in love that there is no room for anything less.

It is a good time to remind ourselves of the forward looking first half of our hastily mumbled Lord's Prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
We are exercising a citizenship that makes us aliens in our world. In the Kingdom of Heaven, everything recognizes and responds to the love of God. But we live in a creation where large parts ignore, reject or actively rebel against this love. When we speak allegiance to the Father in heaven, we assert our primary loyalty and subversively seek to expand the authority of that kingdom.

Hallowed be thy Name.
As we will hear in Sunday's lessons, God is "Alpha and Omega," the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. God is the whole enchilada, kittenkaboodle, or any other perfection and completion beyond our earthly measures. In Sunday's Gospel, Pontius Pilate cannot make sense of Jesus - the worldly power and authority that Pilate understands are inadequate to understanding the one who stands before him. God "was and is and is to come," not limited by any of our concepts of time. All we can do is wonder and worship.

Thy kingdom come.
We ask for it every time we say this little prayer. We don't passively wait for some magical numerology of dates, or the Mayan calendar to end or the enlightened space aliens to come or any of the other scenarios of a "rational, scientific, post-Christian" world. We ask Christ to return as King and make all things new. It is a blunt petition that ends with a period. Nothing more, nothing less will do.

Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.

We are willing to let go of our self-will and vaunted autonomy to enjoy citizenship in that perfect kingdom, which cannot be created by human striving but only by unadulterated response to the will of God. We want the whole world - the whole cosmos - to be restored to this perfection.

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

Sunday's lessons tell us that Christ has made the Church a "priesthood" until he returns to make all things new. The Church is the "steward of the mysteries of Christ" until the kingdom comes. Priests live on voluntary offerings - the Church depends on the "daily bread" that God provides. Priests are to pronounce God's mercy to people - the Church must be made up of people who are thankful for God's mercy and spread it in daily life. Priests intercede for the people - the Church must be in constant prayer for the kingdom to expand and liberate more and more from the power of sin and death.

As we will hear in Sunday's lesson from the first chapter of The Revelation to John:

“To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

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