Just over a month ago, I spoke about trust being at the heart of our relationship with ourselves and with God. We spoke about the importance of seeing beyond someone’s role to the individual themselves, to see people as people, persons created by God in his own image, and we know what the Bible says quite explicitly about his creation. God saw it and he saw that it was good.
And then there was the referendum, and Oh so quickly the country forgot about all that trust stuff, and we have lined up in opposing camps looking distrustingly over at the other. On the day some people remembered the disgusting loss of human life that is called the Battle of the Somme, others found themselves in new trenches, looking over no man’s land in fear and shock and wondering what the other side would do. There has been a consequential rise in hate crime, a Pandora’s box has been opened and now people are trying to find ways of dealing with deeply felt beliefs and overcoming significant hurts. Not surprisingly, when we look at the first of our readings today we can often fall into the trap of thinking that God’s creation is anything but good. We can suffer the same error in our thinking if we look about us today and only see part of the picture.
Genesis today contains the slightly sublime story of Abraham looking like he is haggling with God. It looks odd to us because we have tended to grow up with a very western version of God, an image of a Chief Executive or Headmaster, someone who you don’t answer back and really don’t want to meet if you are being honest. Is that really healthy? Is that a picture of God that the scriptures provide us with? I don’t think it is either of those things. If God is kept at arms length, how can we develop a relationship based on trust and intimacy with him? If we take the time to look at scriptures, we see God talking to Cain both before and after he murdered his brother. God tries to avert Cain from killing, and then marks him to protect him after. God talks openly with Job, with Job taking him to task. Abraham here at first sight seems to be berating God for his lack of righteousness, is God really prepared to punish the innocent with the guilty.
And there is the point of the story. In typical scriptural fashion it is really laid on quite thick when you see it for what it is. It is a scene that allows God to say to us that actually he doesn’t pain the innocent with the guilty, he doesn’t presume everyone to be the same, he listens out for and takes care of his creation so that the innocent are spared the judgement of the guilty. God never wanted us to walk away, he wants us to be in a relationship of deep trust and intimacy, one where we can be open with each other. A relationship so open that the writers of Genesis painted a picture of the first humans as being Naked. No barriers between human and God. A relationship only perhaps seen in humanity between new lovers or between a Mother and her newborn baby in those first moments of bonding post delivery.
Fast forward a few thousand years and Jesus takes up the track of our relationship with God.
Luke has just spoken of Jesus’ personal prayer and in the preceding verses we have just seen Jesus’ viewpoint showing the importance of choosing to listen to his word, in other words, to seek a relationship with God. It therefore suits Luke to include his version of the Lord’s Prayer. It is NOT the same as Matthew’s but that is principally because we have two evangelists writing for two different audiences and they will therefore have constructed their argument (a) with that in mind and (b) depending on their own viewpoints. Much the same as when I sat down and wrote the notes for this message.
Does that mean that scripture is not inspired? Well, it depends how you might define inspired. I don’t think it mans that an Angel of the Lord physically sat there at the side of the evangelist dictating the Gospels, but by a process of prayer, thinking, thinking again and immersing oneself in scripture, the author can make themselves more available to “inspiration”, which comes via our own selves, that is, God’s own creation. It is complicated, I know and a bit of a head spinner, but probably worth taking a moment to let that sink in.
God calls everyone, and I mean everyone, to spread his message of love and forgiveness, and allows us to go out and deliver it in our own fashion, and by our own behaviour. That is how much we are trusted by God. Perhaps we should take that action of trust more seriously rather than walking away from responsibility at every opportunity.
The Lord’s prayer hallows (proclaims Holiness for) the name of God. The name. in the 1st Century was meant to represent the nature of someone – in this example, the love and mercy of God, so we pray that we may know him in the intimate way a child knows a Mother or Father’s love. The picture offered by the word Abba, which is best translated as Daddy, gives a picture of a small child cuddling up to their parent. That is the picture Jesus draws for us of what our relationship with God should be like.
We ask for the Kingdom to come, that the Kingdom which Jesus has announced may spread out and overcome evil more and more each day. Both now and at the fullness of time. We ask God to provide our needs and here is the hard part; to forgive our sins or debts in the same way that we forgive others. Oh Dear. Jesus is clear on this. God forgives us to the same measure that we are willing to forgive others.
If we are not willing to forgive others, will God be willing to forgive us?
Save us from the time of trial is often replaced in the traditional versions as “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. The time of trial may be seen as a time when we are at our lowest ebb, our weakest point. Consider how Jesus prays for Peter that he will be saved from the Satan; Peter’s weak point would be when he denied Jesus.
The verses immediately following are meant to highlight God’s overriding willingness to show love, forgiveness, mercy and patience compared to us. The events of recent days will help us all realise the sad truth of our state of affairs so often.
V 13; If you who are evil – Do you remember how I said that sometimes scripture lays it on thick, so that we get the point. Well this is another of those examples. It isn’t really saying all people are evil, but it is saying look at the difference between how you act and how God acts, look at the difference, that is how far you need to change.
We celebrated a thanksgiving in our service today, it’s a remembrance of our reliance on God, but which God will you be relying on in the weeks and months ahead? The lawmaker, the judge, the overbearing Chief Executive? Or will you be reaching out for the loving parent, the lover whom you trust your innermost secrets with, who also happens to be King of Heaven and Earth. How do you marry the two, your best and most trusted friend but also the King of Heaven and Earth.
How you get around that mystery is the story of the rest of your life.