Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lord's Prayer part 6


Forgive us our debts/trespasses/sins as we forgive our debtors/those who trespass/sin against us.

Forgiveness is one of those words within the Christian faith that has a long, complicated history.  I myself can barely say the word "forgiveness" without hearing my mom's voice sternly saying, "Now, say you are sorry."  All of the sudden I am six years old and just broke my brother's favorite toy growing up.  Forgiveness has become synonymous with such emotions as guilt, embarrassment, resentment, and frustration.  Sometimes forgiveness has an "ought" quality to it.  We know we 'ought' to forgive that co-worker for stealing our idea or throwing us under the bus at the last staff meeting, but really we'd rather stay angry for just a little while longer.

Of course, a lot of good work has been done around forgiveness too.  We say that forgiveness does not mean forgetting the pain that another person caused us.  Forgiveness means more than saying 'sorry', there needs to be reconciliation.  Or we talk about forgiveness being a process day by day.  

But this line of Lord's Prayer is about a particular kind of forgiveness. Actually it is about two kinds of forgiveness. The first part of the sentence has to do with someone or perhaps God forgiving us.  Let's face it, that might be the hardest kind of forgiveness.  I am much better giving forgiveness than I am receiving it.  When someone says to you, "I forgive you," we get all aflutter.  Wait, you think, what did I do that was so wrong?  And while I am at it, I think I should be forgiving you for that thing you did...that's right...that thing... I think you know that thing you did.  When we seek forgiveness we realize we are not in control, we don't have power, and most of the time we really don't like that.  But, if I am being honest, most days I say some boneheaded thing or do something that I am not fully proud of.  And most of the time people are Midwest polite enough and don't embarrass me by saying they forgive me.

The second part is that we are suppose to forgive in a similar portion to which we are forgiven.  To be honest, I rarely want to reduce faith to some kind of mathematical equation, but it seems to work here.  I know I am forgiven many times (to be sure by God but also by the church members who I seek to be in ministry alongside).  So, why is it so hard for me to let go of the frustration I feel when I have been wronged?  Because of that power thing above...only now I have the upper hand and I get to say when and where and how the forgiveness will be granted.  

Maybe forgiveness isn't as hard as I have made it out to be above.  Maybe you find it easier.  For some people such graciousness is truly a trace of God's grace.  But for others (and this is where I find my tent pitched more often than I care to admit) forgiveness is a tough spiritual practice and we need community of faith to practice it.  To even mess up the practice of forgiveness so we can try again...and again...and again.  That is what church is...or could be about...if we take this part of the Lord's Prayer to heart.  And if we do, I suspect we would sense a trace of God's grace in our lives.

Blessings and peace

Note: the above painting is Rembrandt's Return of the prodigal son based on Luke 15 which is a great passage about forgiveness.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lord's Prayer - part 5


And give us this day our daily bread

Not more than a few days into the wilderness after fleeing Egypt and the Pharaoh, the mud on their feet from crossing the Red Sea still not fully dried, the People of God start complaining to Moses and God about being hungry. And God does not get upset and say, "I just help free you from enslavement!" God doesn't say, as I do sometimes in a proud parenting moment, "Can you just give me one minute?"  Instead God sends bread or manna, which is a fine flaky like substance, kind of like the frost flakes I used to enjoy as a child.  Manna is actually the residue left behind by an insect, sounds tasty, right?  I don't know if Jesus had Exodus 16 in mind when he offered this phrase, but when I pray this part of the Lord's Prayer it is in the back of my mind.  

I connect deeply with the Hebrew people.  Like them, I can get caught in grumbling and mumbling my way through life.  Like them, I can forget about the joyful, amazing things that happened yesterday (like crossing the Red Sea for example) when faced with the challenges of today.  Like them, I am not pleasant to be around when I am hungry.  

I give thanks that even before Maslow came up with his hierarchy of needs, God seemed to know that our physical needs hold the trump card.  If we are hungry, tried, sick, hurting, afraid, nervous, etc..., it is difficult to notice God in the midst of our lives.  But as our physical needs are met, it is like our eyes are open and we start to see others around us, we start to be able to see beyond ourselves.  Maybe that is why Jesus ate so often with people, so much so that people called him a glutton.  But maybe he knew that feeding people first was a way to live this prayer and open their eyes to the sacred.  Maybe that is why on Easter, when Jesus traveled the Road to Emmaus with two of his followers, it was only after he broke bread in their presence that they finally noticed him.

Part of the way the church lives this part of the Lord's prayer is to celebrate communion, which we will do at the church I serve this weekend as part of World Communion Sunday.  This Sunday we gather not only as one community, but we celebrate our connections to brothers and sisters around the world.  We put an extra leaf in the communion table, set extra chairs up so that we can truly say, "There is a place set for everybody." 

And yet, communion, breaking bread, and living this part of the Lord's prayer is not only an act we celebrate in the church, but also at every meal.  I encourage you to think about that tonight when you sit down for dinner.  How is the meal in front of you a response to this petition about daily bread?  How does that food help you connect with others around the table or maybe those who have no food at all?  May the bread you eat today sustain you.  And may the bread we break on Sunday be a tangible reminder of God's grace.

May the trace of God's grace be felt today and throughout the days to come.

Blessings!