Archive for June, 2017

Living the Lord’s Prayer

Posted: June 15, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

In case you haven’t already heard my confession, I grew up in an Anglican church. I realise now that we were so low that we were practically falling out of the bottom of the church, but we still used certain patterns and prayers in our worship. The repetition of these meant that I learnt them at a very young age, and they still come back to me very easily, even after twelve years away.

As much as I value the freedom of more informal worship, I still have a great fondness for those patterns and prayers, as they were significant in shaping and expressing my faith. They taught me that there were many ways of speaking with God, and gave me words when otherwise I would have had none.

At the heart of our worship was always the Lord’s Prayer, and so I have prayed it many times. I have also prayed it many ways, and am building quite a collection of different translations and interpretations. And yet nothing has brought home what it means to pray it so much as the meditation that Ruth offered as she led us in worship on Sunday night.

The prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples is a bold prayer that demands more than simple assent. It must move us to action and transform our attitude, or it is nothing but noise and wasted ink. It must be the spirit in which we pray all our prayers, and as we seek a life of prayer, it is the spirit in which we must live all our lives. Of course I already knew that, but it hit me with greater force than ever before on Sunday night.

I began by talking about my childhood in the church, because I have been thinking recently about what patterns and prayers I will bring my own child up with, and these threads of reflection have become tangled together. The Lord’s Prayer has to be at the top of the list, but I want him to understand the fullness of it and live in that understanding, not just say the words to please his parents.

But I cannot want that for my son and not for myself. I too must understand the fullness of it and live in that understanding, and so I will be dwelling in this meditation in the coming weeks, until I have absorbed it as completely as the words it reflects on. I offer it to you now as Ruth offered it so us on Sunday, with an invitation to dwell in it with me, that we may not just pray the Lord’s Prayer but understand and live it too.

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I cannot say “OUR” If my religion has no room for others and their needs.
I cannot say “Father” if I do not demonstrate this kind of loving relationship in my daily living.
I cannot say “WHO ART IN HEAVEN” if all my interests and pursuits are in earthly things.
I cannot say” HALLOWED BE THY NAME” if I, who am called by His name, am not holy.
I cannot say “THY KINGDOM COME” if I am not willing to give up my own sovereignty and accept the righteous reign of God.
I cannot say “THY WILL BE DONE” if I am unwilling or resentful of having His will in my life.
I cannot say “ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN” unless I am truly willing to give my life here and now to His service.
I cannot say “GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD” without expending effort for it or by ignoring the genuine need of others.
I cannot say “FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS” if I continue to harbour a grudge against others or anyone.
I cannot say “LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION” if I choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.
I cannot say “DELIVER US FROM EVIL” if I am not prepared in the spiritual realm with the weapons of prayer.
I cannot say “FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM” if I do not give the King the disciplined obedience of a loyal subject.
I cannot say “FOR THINE IS THE POWER” if I fear for what my friends and neighbours might say.
I cannot say “FOR THINE IS THE GLORY” if I seek my own glory first.
I cannot say “FOREVER” if I am too anxious about each day’s affairs.
I cannot say “AMEN” unless I can honestly say, cost what it may, “this is my prayer”.

(Written by Ruth Bortner and Lela Wegman)

On the Eve of an Election

Posted: June 7, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

Today is June 7th. That would be a perfectly innocuous statement except for the necessary implication that tomorrow is June 8th. And that means tomorrow is election day.

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Politics has a way of bringing out the worst in us at the best of times, and the heightened atmosphere of an election only compounds the problem. Anger. Suspicion. Tribalism. It makes for quite a heady brew, and it can be difficult to know how to avoid drinking it in the first place, or how to sober up once we have.

In my last blog, I suggested that the Sermon on the Mount may have something to teach us about how we ought to approach the Bible. That came out of a conviction that it says so much about character and conduct that it really ought to speak into every area of our lives. If my hypothesis is right, it should have something to teach us on this election eve, so here are my thoughts on how we may approach tomorrow in the light of the Sermon on the Mount…

 

I suspect that most of us will have already decided which box we will be ticking tomorrow, and I trust that our decisions have already been shaped by our prayer and our discipleship, but the pencil has not hit the paper yet. As we prepare to cast our votes, we must remember that Jesus’ words are the surest foundation on which we build (Matthew 7:24-27), asking how we may act with wisdom and use our democracy to advance the kingdom he preached. We may also take heed of the advice that “by your fruit you will know them” (Matthew 7:16), paying attention to the actions and not just the words of our elected and would-be-elected politicians.

But it’s not just about us marking a piece of paper in a little box, because voting is a participation in our society, with all it’s differences and disagreements. When it comes to dealing with those whose political beliefs do not line up with ours, we must remember that Jesus calls us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to resist pronouncing judgement on others (Matthew 7:1-2), holding our convictions with a humility that allows us to listen to and seek to understand others.

And it’s not just about tomorrow, because on June 9th we must all decide how we respond to the results of the election. If things don’t go our way, me must take hope from the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and from the assurance that we do not need to worry (Matthew 6:25), trusting that we follow a God who can turn things upside down and there is no situation that cannot be redeemed. We must also continue to act as salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16), keep praying for the kingdom (Matthew 6:10), and never cease from asking and seeking and knocking (Matthew 7:7-8), because we are a people of hope and perseverance.

 

I end with a prayer from this reflection published by Baptists Together.

God of every time and season,
Whose reign and rule extends beyond any earthly realm;
In the midst of the uncertainty,
The debate and expectancy of a forthcoming General Election,
Help us to centre ourselves afresh on you;
Not to escape the issues and argument,
But that we might be engaged
With wisdom and faithfulness
That reflects our identity as your people.
 
Protect us from indifference
That we might promote attitudes of grace
And seek to uphold the narratives of truth and goodness.
And may we not become so consumed
With the agendas of our own concern
That we forget the lives and needs
Of a world that extends beyond our immediate horizons.
 
We pray for those who seek office
And those to whom this responsibility will be given
May we never take for granted
The service that they offer
Or the freedom we have
To determine those who govern us.
 
Help us to act wisely;
To listen prayerfully;
To debate honestly;
To disagree graciously;
And to seek the ways of your Kingdom
In the decisions we make together.
 
Through Christ our Lord and King,

AMEN