Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Lord's Prayer. Part-1: Our

Consider for a moment the first word of the Lord's Prayer--Our: what a dear and--excuse the expression--precious little word. Perhaps the combination of its smallness and its comfortable familiarity causes us to not value this grace-filled word as we ought. Our family, our home, our neighborhood, our nation, our world, our solar system, our galaxy (and what a charming little galaxy it is!) our universe, our God. "Our" is both fantastically big and wonderfully small: our living room, our dinner table, our meal. And then there is our cat, our Christmas tree, our song, our memories. All these things can just as easily be preceded by the yet smaller little word,"my", but when we move to speaking and thinking in terms of "our" we step into a much larger and spacious realm.

The blessedness of "our" just keeps embracing us and bringing us into this larger life. This "our" of ours is a balm to our human tendency to fill our minds and souls with only "my." "Our" draws us out from that comforting but smothering cocoon woven from the four sticky threads of "I" "me" "my" and "mine". Human nature being what it is, it tends to the extremes where balance is lost and perversion--yes, perversion--sets in. People at one place and time embrace a perverted individualism and then at another are equally seduced by a perverted communalism. Yet it is the proper balance of both a healthy individual autonomy on the one hand, and a wholesome shared community on the other which is so needed--and which God offers us in his word. The "our" given us by the Lord Jesus is meant to balance our tendency to practice only a strictly individualized spirituality in our praying.

Consider the "our" we find in the book of Nehemiah as the people assembled to confess their sin and covenant to follow Yahweh anew. "We also accept responsibility, as is written in the law, for bringing the firstborn of our sons and our cattle and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks to the temple of our God, to the priests who are ministering in the temple of our God" (10:32).

In our fallenness our default position is often to a proud self-asserting autonomy which results in isolation, or I-solation. Often this proud posture results in a sullen aloneness which both resents its loneliness but at the same time rejects and resists togetherness. It is a sad sort of self-imposed catch-22 condition. In my job I deal closely with homeless men and women and see this loner streak in most of those I work with. The very first word of the Lord's Prayer addresses this sad aspect of our tragic human condition.

Some time back I heard a Bible teacher say that Jesus lived out a perfect balance in his social life. He was often with great crowds, but at other times was with smaller social gatherings, such as weddings and dinner parties. He was with his larger group of disciples and followers--both men and women. At many other occasions he spent time interacting with his twelve chosen ones. Then there were the three, Peter, James and John who he wanted to be with for special purposes. Finally, he would withdraw from everyone in order to be alone with the Father. The point is that Jesus would move from one to the other of these situations in a way which reflects a perfect social and soulful balance. We, apart from him tend to isolate and withdraw--even from our own Christian brothers and sisters. The "our" of the Lord's Prayer invites us to join with all our fellow followers of Christ in acknowledging Our Father...