I continue looking at prayers that have both pulled me and others through personal trials and struggles. In the last several posts I have looked at the Lord’s Prayer itself.
Here are the words of the Lord’s Prayer, as included in my United Church of Christ Book of Worship:
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Today I continue to continue considering “thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen”.
On first glance, this is just a beautiful doxology, words of praise to God. In fact, I have to admit that often when I pray through these words I do so barely noticing their meaning. That said, I think truly in these few words, a lot is sound about God.
In fact one could say these identify God’s presence with three realities: “the kingdom”, “the power”, and “the glory”.
An analogy for me is how when as a little child I was taught very young to memorize my address and my parent’s phone number. I do not remember ever using this knowledge in this way, but I remember being told the reason why is if I am ever lost, I can know my way home by saying that address and number. Sure. I might not be able to find the road back on my own, but I can tell a grownup like a police officer where I’m going and they can help me find my way.
In a way doxologies like this ending to the Lord’s Prayer not only praise God for who God is but also act as an address for God. Throughout our lives, both when the longing for meaning, purpose, and connection that as a Christian I feel comes in part through communion with my Creator is fanned into flame and also in times of crisis, stress, and anxiety, when become deeply disoriented like children caught alone in the woods in a storm, we can feel uncertain where to turn to find God. Prayers like this one point us to where God is experienced, the addresses in our life we can go to encounter God.
Numerous other texts do the same. Luke 4 which describes how the Spirit’s presence is expressed in good tidings being brought to the poor & marginalized, in those with disabilities like blindness being given more full access to our common life whether through regaining sight (the literal meaning of that text) or (as is often the case today) having our communities broaden our inclusion to accommodate their ways of moving & communicating, where those held captive figuratively and literally are set free, where the day of Jubilee (ie, of the Lord’s favor) is practiced as today so that people experience their literal and figurative debts being payed… One can not only conclude that one can be grateful to the Spirit for such experiences but also, if one wants to know the Spirit and experience Her presence in your life, perhaps it is best to lay aside the theologizing a bit and go to these places in life. Perhaps if one can be join the poor & marginalized and be a part of the glad tidings coming to them, one can experience the Spirit and know Her better. Perhaps if one can get to know as people not projects people with disabilities, hearing their stories, and being a part of them having their communities become more accessible and embracing of them as equal partners in life, you might find yourself in that experience also fully surrounding by the Spirit. And this is true for everything Luke lists, and Isaiah whom Luke quotes lists, as flowing from the anointing presence of Holy Spirit. We do not have to ask where God the Spirit is, for Luke and Isaiah have told us. To fully embrace the Living Presence in and life-giving liberating energy flowing through such situations is to experience God the Holy Spirit.
I’m a bit of a mystic. Recently I was talking with a really interesting person, a fellow minister, about our spiritual journeys. They shared about a mystical experience they had, one of the few they really could describe, and I shared a few of mine. “Wow,” they said, “I wish I had all those mystical experiences”. I dismissed that sentiment, and tried to explain why. For me, passages like this line in the Lord’s Prayer and the passage in Luke on the Spirit suggest to me that mysticism or lack of mysticism in the sense of these phenomenal transcendent experiences are not really what counts. What counts is what opens us up to joining God in the places God promises to work, becoming partners with God as God is at work there.
So to have as many visions, moments of transcendence, experiences of inner calm, as you want doesn’t matter in terms of really embracing the spiritual life unless it leads you to begin to join God in the knitty gritty of this world among the poor, the disenfranchised, the hurting, the outcast of Luke 4. Or, perhaps, to go and become present in and engaged with the work of the Kingdom, the sharing in the glory, becoming a vessel for the power.
I think some of us need these transcendent moments in order to have the awareness of how interconnected we all are which helps cultivate compassion for other people, for ourselves, for other living things, and for this earth. But I think some people do not need such transcendent experiences to cultivate that awareness and compassion but naturally find it in other ways. What counts is not how you come by it, but that you do. And in doing so, you put yourself into the position in which you can encounter the Spirit. In fact, I think you can really argue you that even the journey itself from self-absorption, from blindly following the patterns of and values of this world, to seeing the world with eyes of compassion, a heart of justice, is itself an experience of Holy Spirit, of God in, with, under, and through your life, even if you don’t use religious or spiritual language to talk about that experience.
I hope in the next few posts to talk a little about what these locations in life and in God’s world called “kingdom,” “power”, and “glory” are and how we can go to these addresses, coming to know both the God we pray to in the Lord’s prayer and ourselves more deeply.
Until next time, let’s continue with this journey together.
Your progressive redneck preacher,