Monday, March 31, 2014

Looking Forward to April 6, 2014 -- Lent 5, 4th in the Lord's Prayer Series

The Scripture Readings this week are
  • Luke 4:1-12
  • Romans 8:26-39
The Sermon title is Lord, Teach Us to Pray: Lead us, Deliver Us

Early Thoughts: "Lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"

In the end I wonder how realistic this line is.  Life is a constant stream of temptation, life has times when we are confronted by "evil" in some form/to some degree or another.

So what do we mean when we pray these words????

It would be nice to think that we can be lead away from temptation--but Scripture defies that understanding.  Even Jesus is tempted.

Some versions of the Lord's Prayer have "save us from the time of trial" here.  Does that mean we pray that God would ensure we never have times of trial?  Again that would be nice but seems more than a little simplistic.

But I remember what I think are the most important words in the United Church Creed (aka the New Creed).  We are not alone.

Really that is what I hear Paul reminding us at the end of this passage from Romans.

And really I think that is what we are praying for in this section of the prayer.

We are not alone.  So when temptations lies before us we are not alone as we sort out how to respond (because a temptation only works if it looks like a good choice, and there is a proverbial road paved with good intentions).  So we ask God to provide leadership/wisdom/guidance as we sort out our choices.  Lead us not into temptation.  [Admittedly that might be a bit of a stretch in what the words actually say]

We are not alone.  So when we are in the time of trial, when life is difficult, when evil things happen we don't deal with it alone or by our own strength.  Deliver us from evil (or deliver us in evil/times of trial as has been suggested to me more than once.

At least I think that is where I am headed this week....

Monday, March 24, 2014

Looking Forward to March 30, 2014 -- Lent 4, Lord's Prayer Series #3 -- Forgiveness

The Scripture Reading this week is Matthew 18:21-35

We will also hear a reading from page 141 of the book Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf.

The Sermon title is Lord, Teach Us to Pray: Forgive as We Forgive  

Early Thoughts: "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us"  I have heard multiple people suggest that this is the line from the Lord's Prayer that causes them the most struggle.

Forgiveness is central to our life as Christians.  Both accepting and offering forgiveness is essential to life in community.  And yet forgiveness (both accepting and offering it) is often a real challenge for many of us.  Dare I say for all of us?

One of the threads that is running through my mind as I begin to prepare for this Sunday is what I wrote in this column that appeared in the Daily Herald Tribune last Friday.  The big question about this phrase is, as it was last week about "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done", do we really mean that? Do we really only want to be forgiven as well as we forgive?  Do we really think we forgive that well?

The other thread in my thoughts this week is about a very practical exercise in forgiveness and truth-telling.  At the end of this week (March 27-30) many people will gather in Edmonton for the 7th and final National Event for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  In the end the TRC process is closely tied to our understanding of forgiveness.  Is it possible without the truth being told, acknowledged, and known?  Is it possible at all given some of the stories that have been told at past events, and will be told this weekend?

Our time for all ages this Sunday will talk about the Residential Schools (hopefully I can find the story book I want to use but have not used in many years).  And then we will see how I can weave the TRC into the sermon.

Come and find out how good a job I do!!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Looking Forward to March 23, 2014 -- Lent 3, Lord's Prayer Series continues

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Isaiah 11:1-10
  • Jeremiah 22:1-3
  • Mark 6:34-44
The Sermon title is Lord, Teach Us to Pray: Daily Bread, Kingdom Sign

Early Thoughts:  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.  We say those words every week.  What would happen if they were true?

The Kingdom of God is central to the ministry and message of Jesus .  In Mark's Gospel the first words Jesus utters are "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news".  Elsewhere Jesus responds to critiques of his work by saying that if it is by the power of God he can do these things then the kingdom is being revealed in their midst.

But what does that mean?  One possibility is in the idea of daily bread.

Every culture has its base staple food.  Bread is one of those.  So the prayer is asking that each day we get what we need to survive.  Right after we pray that God's kingdom will come, that God's will will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (leaving aside for today the debate of where/what "heaven" is) we pray that we will get what we need to survive.  Does that say something about the kingdom?

Certainly many scholars (often those who have a bit of a socialist bent) would say so.  If the kingdom of God is here among us, if God desires that God's children have life in abundance, then yes, everybody getting what they need to survive is a sign of the kingdom.  Jesus and the prophets challenged people to look at the world with different eyes and different priorities.  They called their listeners (and continue to call us) to look with kingdom eyes, to look for how God would have us living together.

And so I would argue that each week when we say the Lord's Prayer we make a rather revolutionary request.  Because if we are honest we know that the kingdom of God has not come in all its fullness.  If we are honest we admit that in order for the kingdom to reach full bloom the world, our culture, our way of life, will need to be transformed.  And yet we ask for that every week.

Do we really mean it?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Looking Forward to March 16, 2014 -- Lent 2, Beginning of the Series on the Lord's Prayer

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Matthew 6:7-15
  • Luke 11:1-4
The Sermon title is Lord, Teach Us to Pray: Our Father...

Early Thoughts:  We begin our series at the beginning of the prayer.  With the first couple of lines "Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name"

And there are lots of possible tacks to take here. But I am drawn to the opening and the ending.  Hallowed be Thy Name, Our Father.  Who is the God we are addressing in this well known prayer?  How do we image God?

We have learned that language matters.  We have learned that the metaphors (and EVERY image of God is a metaphor) we choose to use to describe the Holy One shape our attitudes.  If God is white, or male, what message is attached to that?  How do our images of God impact our images of life?  How do we respond to that awareness?

OK, so obviously that is more than one sermon.  But maybe we can take a stab at starting the discussion.

And what is God's name?   Art?  Harold?...