Monday, July 26, 2010

The Lord's Prayer

This week, I can't exactly post my sermon...

Instead of a traditional sermon, I led an interactive Bible Study on the Lord's Prayer. Luke was our text, but the Lord's Prayer most people use is based on Matthew's version.

Here's a side by side look at Matthew and Luke. Common words are in black, differences are in red:

Most Biblical scholars believe that, in addition to having the Gospel of Mark in hand, the writers of Matthew and Luke share an additional source (Q). "The Lord's Prayer" likely comes from this source.

Combining the material, eliminating "added" text, and making educated decisions as to which version to use (from The Jesus Seminar's The Five Gospels), we can point towards an earlier version of the prayer:

Hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our debts
As we also have forgiven our debtors
And do not bring us to the time of trial.

"This" instead of "each" because, as a whole, Jesus seems to focus on what is needed for the day, trusting that God would provide for future days.

"Debts", in addition to surviving in the second half of the Luke phrase, seems to reflect Jesus' interest in the reconciling of the poor. Expanding this to trespasses makes a lot of sense for the church, but debts is likely more original.

Our interaction produced a great number of observations about the text. You sort of had to be there to get it all.

Fortunately, James Wallace (in Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol. 3, p. 289) offers a really insightful and concise look at the prayer:

We approach God as "Father," one who we relate to intimately.

"Hallowed be your name" and "Your kingdom Come" call on God to be God. They implore God to truly take charge of life, our lives, to bring justice and peace to our world, something only God can bring about.

The remaining petitions concern three basic needs: food, forgiveness, and fidelity. These petitions name what is essential for the life of our individual bodies, the life of our communal body---be it society, the church, or the world---and the life of our ongoing relationship with God. These are the gifts of the kingdom, which will not be refused, because they flow from our being united with the very being of God, who sustains, forgives, and is faithful to us.

It was also noted by someone in the congregation (at both services) that the ability to be forgiven seems to hinge on our ability to forgive.

It was a great way to spend our sermon time this past Sunday morning!

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