Sermons

"Abba, Father, Your Kingdom Come," a sermon for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12, Year C

"Abba, Father, Your Kingdom Come," a sermon for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12, Year C

Jul 24, 2016

Passage:Luke 11:1-13

Preacher: The Rev. Claire Cowden

Series: Season After Pentecost

Category: Discipleship

Keywords: abba, father, kingdom, lord's prayer, prayer

Detail:

In the Name of God: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we have the joy of thinking together about the Lord’s Prayer - the classic Christian prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer is included in every single worship service of our Book of Common Prayer.
When we gather in this space for funerals, the Lord’s Prayer is the part of the service most confidently declared by the kind of religiously diverse group that attends funerals.
Our Eucharistic Visitors pray this prayer with our more frail church members when they take Sunday communion to them - and everyone present is moved by the faith of our elders who can still say the Lord’s Prayer, even if they cannot say much else.

The Lord’s Prayer is so familiar to so many. Such familiarity is comforting. Such familiarity is grounding.

Today we look once again at this beloved prayer given by our Lord to each of us as disciples and to the Church as Christ’s body.

The first thing to notice is Jesus’ response to the disciples’ request to “teach us to pray.” Jesus does not give the disciples a technique. Jesus does not say, find a quiet place…dust off your prayer bench…or after your daily chores are done…or even, before you begin your daily round… Jesus simply says, “say these words.” Say these words sincerely, where you are & as you can.

And the first word is “Father.” Father might sound to us rather formal, but the Aramaic word Abba is more intimate, like Dad or Daddy. For those of us with problematic father-child relationships, I encourage you to set that challenge aside as we think about what this familial term means.

When Jesus tells us to begin our prayer with Father, he is telling us that we are intimately related to the Creator of all that is - from the smallest flower to the largest galaxy. This Abba is not an absentee, scattered, or neglectful parent. This Father is our Dad, & the text is clear that this Abba is like a Daddy to us, his young, dependent children…this Father yearns to be in relationship with us & seeks us out… This Abba is sure & confident, a parent who takes the initiative & never tires or stumbles or hesitates. This Abba creates a relationship with us that is an indissoluble bond of steadfast, delighted, loyal love.

This Abba has the capability & power to effect change in this world…to bring about the kingdom in places where its reality seems faded.

When we pray, “Father, hallowed by your name, Your kingdom come,” we place ourselves more closely… more solidly into this relationship with God.

When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we are pledging that we will remain in God’s reality, the true & reliable reality of God’s love & loyalty which is actively at work for each of us & for all of humanity & creation;
we pledge to grow & mature in that love;
and, in places where the reality of the kingdom seems faded, we are to yearn for the kingdom’s fullness & actively cooperate with God to contribute to the kingdom’s vibrance.

The rest of the prayer is a series of demands: Give us our daily bread. Forgive us our sins. Do not bring us to trial.
Praying these imperative verbs, we acknowledge our dependence; our state of sin; and our vulnerability by crying out for food, forgiveness, and preservation.

Let’s look particularly at the last two demands Jesus instructs us to pray.

“Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.”
The Greek verbs clarify what in this English translation is hard to grasp. God forgives us of our sins…our brokenness…our involvement in things not appropriate for us & for others… and God does so in a way that is definitive…it is not a conditional liberation. We are freed by God our Abba from sin, freed from our shame & guilt, so that we can then forgive others afresh, anew, each & every day.

The Greek is clear that God’s forgiveness of us is definitive & definitively liberating. It is also clear that our need to forgive others is fresh every day…never-ending…a daily practice we can never outgrow.

The final petition looks a bit truncated in your Pew Sheets. Ancient manuscripts of Luke include the phrase in its entirety as we usually know it, “Do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from evil.”

This time of trial is NOT so much specific situations in which we are tempted to do evil or wrong or harm.
This time of trial is more like a time of crisis, a chaotic time, much like the time we collectively live in now, a time in which it can be difficult to see how faithfully to act & proceed.

In this prayer we are asking our Abba to give us the strength, the wisdom, the will, and the resources to see it through & recover. We are asking for resilience.

I talked earlier about the Kingdom’s vibrance. In case you’ve been wondering what the kingdom’s vibrance might look like, here it is, in these petitions, these demands:
∙Daily provision of nourishment for each person & creature which delivers more than vitamins & minerals. Our own Barbara & Jim Whitton are now in Ghana with the Hunger Project, celebrating the connection between dignity, hope, and communities who are self-sufficient in food. Or, consider the meals you provide & share with your loved ones. Along with nutrition & yummy flavors, you provide an opportunity to renew your mutual love & delight.
∙Kingdom vibrance is found in the divine gift of forgiveness which frees us from shame & guilt, enabling & invigorating us freely to forgive others - afresh, anew every single day.
∙Kingdom vibrance is found in the resources & resilience to make it through times that try our faith, so that we emerge more fully rooted in God’s Kingdom of Love.


If you are like me, you need more than one way to pray. You might also need to dust off your prayer cushion, or walk outside to greet the dawn, or lie down on a blanket in the grass at night & gaze at stars …. but all of us need this prayer, this gift given to us directly & simply by our Lord.

Praying this prayer, as individuals & together, enables us to grow, as Paul says to the Colossians, “with a growth that is from God” - the most stable & satisfying kind of growth there is…a growth that repairs people…a growth that contributes to the healing & resilience of the world.

Amen.

 

RESOURCES
Harper Collins Study Bible: A New Annotated Version by the Society of Biblical Literature, New Revised Standard Version.

Feasting on the Word, Year C, David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds, “Proper 12,” essays by Douglas John Hall & Matthew L. Skinner.

Living the Lord’s Prayer with Archbishop Rowan Williams & Sister Wendy Beckett (compiled by Su Box), (Lion Hudson, 2005).

Robert Tannehill, Luke in the series Abingdon New Testament Commentaries (Abingdon, 1996).