This Then…Forgive Us

4. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

• debt: something that is owed or due, a feeling of gratitude for a service or favor, obligation
• obligation: an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound;

A dictionary definition can bring up a less commonly used word like “obligation” as part of “debt.”  It’s a tool that helps me think about what I’m reading in a broader way.  That one word “obligation” reminded me of Romans 8:12: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.” That’s truth, right?

The terms of a debt are usually not ours to set but once agreed upon they are a contract.  We owe…we pay…”we have an obligation.”  What I’m pondering is why that truth is obviously grace when we pray Jesus’s words “forgive US our debts” but becomes an obligation to repay it when we add “as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  

We recognize our indebtedness. We want his forgiveness.  Our debt is too big to pay without it, but it’s easy to forget we’ve agreed to all the clauses of that contact.  That obligation is where Jesus’s prayer model meshes together with Romans to become the confession he meant it to be for us.  Lord help us to recognize your forgiveness of our debt has such an important relationship to our struggle to recognize our obligation to forgive.

This Then…Give Us This Day – That Mental Leap

3. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…
11 Give us today our daily bread

• Numbers 11: 5 We [the Israelites] remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
• Exodus 16:4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” … 19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”…21 Each morning everyone gathered as much [manna] as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.

It’s not much of a leap from this line of the Lord’s Prayer to the “manna” bread God provided daily for the Israelites. They ate it but they grumbled about it even though it was what sustained them during their wandering years until they reached the promised land.  Their grumbling was focused on the familiarity of what they had to eat but in reality their problem was what they “wanted” to eat. 

I’m not that different from the Israelites after all.  I’m not immune from grumbling about the “daily” aspect of the spiritual nourishment God has provided for me.  It’s hard to get up every day and want to look for fresh food in the familiar Book and the familiar Word when I could just flip on the TV.  I remember fondly the tasty spiritual meals I’ve already had and can easily forget they were just “enough for that day.” I confess I need to hear Jesus remind me “this then is how you should pray…give us today our daily bread” and then tell me “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 

I read and ponder daily because because Jesus is that mental leap for me that turns familiar bread into the bread of “wanting” what will sustain me until the banquet at end of my wanderings.  

This Then…123 Thy Kingdom Come

2. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…
10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

1. Kingdom: the spiritual reign or authority of God
2. Will: expressing God’s desire, consent, or willingnes
3. Heaven and Earth: used to indicate the whole universe. Genesis 1:1

It’s tempting to ask “what went wrong” instead of praying “thy kingdom come.”  It’s easy to forget two kingdoms were created by your will Father, heaven AND earth.  Earth is not an act of creation that went awry.  The reality is you are still in charge!  We are your act of creation that went awry. That’s an uncomfortable reality.

We pray your words not because we’re perfect but because as imperfect as we are, we’re expressions of your will right here on earth.  Romans 8:12 reminds us we have an obligation to be evidence of your desire to reunite those two kingdoms.  Many of us now find ourselves with one foot in your heavenly kingdom and the other planted firmly here on earth. Who else would know what it means to live with the separation of those kingdoms?  We persist.  We pray for your reality…“thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  

This Then…123

Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,

Hallowed: regarded as holy; venerated; sacred

This, then…
1. Abba, your name itself is holy.
2. Your name is the prayer.
3. Your name is sacred in the life of your creation…my life.
I’m grateful you have chosen to be an eternal presence in the world you made.  I’m thankful for your willingness to teach me my life is your blessing.  Teach me to see holiness through your eyes not through rules of my own making. 

A Gift Hidden in Brokeness

This idea came up Sunday morning in our adult class: the challenge for Christians is to find the perfect balance between grace and judgment in our lives and in our behavior toward others.

When it comes to the choice between grace and judgment, we’re broken.   We swing to the grace side grateful for the recognition of God at work in ourselves and others and then the next moment we’re slammed into that “other” less desirable side – judging ourselves sometimes, but mostly others, harshly.  We long to find that balance.  We long to be like Jesus, triumphant in both his grace and his judgment but instead we get caught in that pendulum of frustration at our own brokenness.    That led me to ponder what it takes to be like Jesus and what “triumphant” really looks like.  I don’t have a Scripture text today but…

This is what triumphant looks like
Grace…†…Judgment

Jesus was triumphant over death on a cross!  He is the only way we’ll ever begin to understand the perfect balance between grace and judgement.  Our responses will look different seeing them through THAT triumphant Jesus; the one who became a gift hidden in brokenness for us.

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God

Because I Was There

John 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 

Quote from Jean-Pierre de Caussade: “The duties of each moment are the shadows beneath which hides the divine operation.”

Could I look back and see the reality of the truth Jesus promised in John 16 and the ‘divine operation’ hidden under the shadow of my own duties?  The earliest shadow I remember goes way back to 1963 before I even recognized there was a journey of faith and I wasn’t on it. I was married.  I was a young mother.  I was in church.  I was in a Bible study.  I was ignorant…BUT I was there.  I’d married a preacher’s kid and you were “supposed” to go to church.  It was only a duty but they had free babysitting.  Isn’t that an interesting list of contradictions? 

I wanted to know how you could be an open person when life was teaching you to build a protective shell of “image” around yourself.  I knew about that!  I asked my question in that Bible study not realizing just how much it revealed what I didn’t know.  I didn’t know God would continue to work his divine operation hidden under the shadow of that one duty…because I was there.

I’m grateful for the discovery of that quote from Jean-Pierre de Caussade this week.  It’s true “the duties of each moment are the shadows beneath which hides the divine operation” and more importantly it confirms the truth of Jesus’s words, and the reality of his commitment: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” 

The Total Package

Dis·cern·ment – the ability to judge well.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Reality and healthy survival demands our being able to judge well to live well. That ability to judge well is what our Sovereign Judge, Resurrected Perfecter an Evidence of Truth have united to provide us. Defining the “division of soul and of spirit” requires more imagination than the grisly image Hebrews paints of a sword whacking through bone to reveal the living inner part, the marrow, that actually provides it needed nourishment.

Hebrews is saying the soul is like a boney structure we might identify as the biblical hard heart.  The penetration of that boney structure has to happen to reveal the marrow, the Spirit, inside that hard heart.  That allows the Spirit and the Word of God to become the needed nourishment of our growth, impact the intentions of our heart and teach us to judge well. It’s the total package.