We are the Dreamers of Dreams

 Inspired by Genesis 37 & 50

“We are the music makers,

    And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,

    And sitting by desolate streams; —

World-losers and world-forsakers,

    On whom the pale moon gleams:

Yet we are the movers and shakers

    Of the world for ever, it seems.”

Those are the opening lines of Arthur O'Shaughnessy’s nineteenth-century poem Ode. In it, O’Shaughnessy explores hopes and dreams, past, present and future, and our own agency in it all, or lack thereof. Not unlike our Bible story that we have today from the thirty-seventh chapter of Genesis. Since last week we have skipped quite a few chapters, too many for me to sum up in detail. We skipped the rest of Abram’s narrative, all of Isaac’s, and most of Jacob’s. Suffice it to say, what we’ve skipped is one dysfunctional family story after another. It’s probably why we love these characters so much and how they have stood the test of time for the past few millennia. They are indeed relatable. Today, we focus on Joseph and his relationship with his brothers.

There is a lot we could talk about from this story. The Joseph narrative takes up more of Genesis than any other narrative. We could talk about forgiveness, family systems, jealousy, betrayal, favoritism, just to name a few topics. However, what I’d like to focus on is the power of dreams. And when I say dreams, I could just as easily say hopes, as I don’t just mean the kinds of dreams that we have when we sleep, but also of what we dream of during our waking hours as well. The hopes and dreams that can just as quickly lead us to despair as they can perseverance. Though Joseph’s dreams came during his sleep, they were representative of something larger at work in his family, not to mention the entire region. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a closer look at the story itself.

The story gets kicked off with a dream that Joseph had in his sleep. When he shares this dream with his brothers, to them it sounds more like a nightmare. Because in Joseph’s dream, his brothers end up bowing down to Joseph. Now, this is significant because in the ancient world, being the first-born was everything! The first-born got the inheritance, became the new head of the household when the father dies. So, for Joseph to imply that things would actually be the reverse in their family, was nothing short of insulting at best. Insulting to his brothers, his father, to their very way of life! Now, we could go on about what or who was the real culprit here in the disintegration of Joseph’s relationship with his brothers, surely Jacob was not innocent either here, but it’s the dream that I want us to keep central—the perseverance of that dream, the enduring quality of that dream, the life-giving nature of that dream.

That is something that no one in that family was aware of. To them it was all about pride, inheritance, family, status, ego, you know, all that human stuff that get’s in the way of what the dream was really about—life. In their defense, they were human, and we humans often can’t see beyond the tips of our noses. But God can, and did, and so there were bigger things at work here than anyone could have imagined. Regardless of that fact, Joseph’s brothers were so incensed, that they succumb to murdering him. Upon further reflection, what ends up happening is that they sell him into slavery, and tell their father that wild animals must have eaten him. At this point in the story I imagine a whole new set of dreams begin, dreams of the other sort, the daydreams of a father who longs for his dead son, the daydreams of sons who long for days when they don’t have to look into their father’s broken-hearted eyes, the daydreams of a mother who longs for simpler times, the daydreams of Joseph who longs for freedom and family. Dreams from so much pain and brokenness, and yet, those are some of the most powerful dreams we have.

Outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., there is a plaque commemorating the site which reads, “They said one to another, ‘Behold, here cometh the dreamer…let us slay him…and we shall see what becomes of his dreams.’” A direct quote from our story for today, and obviously a reference to his famous speech delivered on August 28th, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.. It is in the middle of that speech when he begins to use the metaphor of a dream with these words, “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”

Unfortunately, Dr. King did not live long enough to see his dream become a reality. Neither have we for that matter. Regardless, the dream is still alive and just as powerful as ever, in spite of the pain and brokenness, in fact, because of the pain and brokenness that it springs from. Of course, Dr. King was not the only dreamer. So many in our history have dreamed dreams that have made an impact on our futures, whether they got to see their dreams become a reality or not. People like Stormé DeLarverie, Dorothy Day, or Harriet Tubman. Not to mention these Dreamers of our present day…

Thirteen chapters later, at the end of the book of Genesis, Jacob dies, and Joseph’s brothers are stricken with fear all over again. Since that time that they threw him in that pit and sold him into slavery, a famine hit and they had to go to Egypt for food only to find out that Joseph, in a series of extraordinary events, had become the ruler of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. So, there they were, bowing before their brother, just like that dream of Joseph’s so many years before. Because of Joseph’s wise rule, Egypt was the only place in the region that had food to spare. And so, the life-giving dream becomes a reality right before their eyes. However, fearful that Joseph might want vengeance, especially now that their father is dead, they cry for mercy. Joseph responds with one of the most grace-filled words in the Bible, “Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I God? You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today. Now, don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.”

Some have interpreted this story to mean that God caused Joseph’s suffering in order to bring life in the end. I wouldn’t go that far. I just don’t believe in a God who causes suffering. However, I do believe in a God that can overcome the evil of this world. I do believe in a God that can make lemonade out of lemons. I do believe in a God who is more powerful than any bad decision that any of us humans can make. Meaning, I believe in a God that can use anything, even the evil that we bring into this world, for our good. Why? Because God is the greatest dreamer of us all! But God doesn’t sit on God’s hands and waits for those dreams to become a reality. No, God is constantly at work in the world doing what God can to make them a reality—and calls us to do the same—as Harriet Tubman said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

My friends, we live in perilous times filled with fear, anger, pain, and brokenness. But for the sake of so many dreamers who have gone before us, so many dreamers who stand among us, and for the dreamers yet to come, we cannot give up dreaming. I’d like to leave you now with the end of that poem I began with from Arthur O'Shaughnessy, as you continue to chew on this old story, as you continue to dream of the future.

“But we, with our dreaming and singing,

    Ceaseless and sorrowless we!

The glory about us clinging

    Of the glorious futures we see,

Our souls with high music ringing:

    O men! it must ever be

That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,

    A little apart from ye.

For we are afar with the dawning

    And the suns that are not yet high,

And out of the infinite morning

    Intrepid you hear us cry —

How, spite of your human scorning,

    Once more God's future draws nigh,

And already goes forth the warning

    That ye of the past must die.

Great hail! we cry to the comers

    From the dazzling unknown shore;

Bring us hither your sun and your summers;

    And renew our world as of yore;

You shall teach us your song's new numbers,

    And things that we dreamed not before:

Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,

    And a singer who sings no more.”

Thanks be to God. Amen.


Promises in the Dark

Audio is split in two so you can watch the video clip (below).

Inspired by Genesis 15:1-6

Our Bible story for this week, which comes from the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, began with the words, “After these events…” So, some of you may have been wondering what those events were that the author was referring to. Well, last week, we read from chapters two, three, and four, so, we’ve skipped a few stories as we will in the coming months because there’s just too many for us to get to them all. We skipped The Flood, which we read in year one of the Narrative Lectionary, the Tower of Babel, when God first reveals Godself to Abram which is also when God first revealed the promise of a great nation from Abram’s line, a note that will be important later. Abram then journeys to Egypt to escape a famine, where he gets in trouble because apparently, his wife Sarai was so beautiful that he thought they’d kill him to get to her so he tried to pass her off as his sister only to bring a plague on the Egyptians who quickly kick them all out. Oh, silly Abram. Then, he and his nephew Lot, whose family and possessions had been with Abram this whole time, decide to go their separate ways to avoid any conflict between their clans. Abram settles in Canaan, where he prospers, and Lot in Jordan but then Lot gets captured in a war. Abram then mounts a rescue attempt with his own army and was successful. So, these are the events that the author is referring to and that brings us to today’s story.

This story, though short, provides the foundation for, well, for the rest of this book to tell you the truth. God reiterates the promise of a family to Abram, the one thing that Abram wanted but didn’t have. Actually, it’s the one thing that most any man would want in Abram’s day because it said so much about who you were as a man. A man without a family of his own was not really seen as much of a man at all then. A man with no one of his own bloodline to pass on his traditions, religion, possessions, land, was really a lost cause in the eyes of the ancient world. More than that, it was a sign that the man’s god was either displeased with him, or that his god was not a very powerful god to begin with! So, there was a lot at stake here for Abram, his identity as a man, as a follower of God, as a successful businessman, were all under the spotlight, all because he could not produce any offspring.

So, this promise of God’s to Abram, a promise of a family, a family of his own, from his own blood, means more to Abram than anything else that God could have promised. And this promise was a doozy! Not only was God promising Abram a little family of his own, which I’m sure Abram would have been quite content with, but God had even bigger plans for Abram. God promised to make a whole nation out of his bloodline, a nation that would end up being a blessing to the whole world, as God mentioned back in chapter twelve! God tells him to look up at the night sky and count the stars, claiming that was how many descendants he would end up having! And Abram took God at God’s word. This scene always reminds me of a scene in The Lion King. Take a look.

Those last lines are everything here. When Simba says, “But I can’t see them, Dad.” And Mufasa says, “Keep looking, son. Keep looking.” Which brings me to where I think the gospel is to be found in this old story, remember gospel simply means “good news.” And the good news happens not at the end of this story, not with the amazing promise that God gives to Abram. No, grace can be found with those opening lines of God’s to Abram, when God said, “Don’t be afraid.” And if you think about it, it’s kind of an odd thing to say. Why would God say that, particularly at this point in the story? Abram just got back from defeating an army to save his nephew Lot, he somehow escaped the wrath of Pharaoh after he learned that he’d been lied to by Abram, not to mention the fact that he was doing quite well now in his new homeland of Canaan. What would Abram be afraid of? And why would God saying, “Don’t be afraid” be filled with so much grace?

Well, it’s not the words themselves, so much as it’s the fact that God is talking to him at all! In her commentary on this story, Kathleen O’Connor calls this chapter, “Dialogue in the Dark.” And this chapter is rather dark, in spite of the celestial promise given to Abram! But it’s only dark if you can hear this story from the perspective of Abram. If you can slip your feet into his sandals for just a moment, you will see that Abram is indeed in a very dark place. Like Simba, he just can’t see this promise in the stars. Keep in mind that three chapters ago, when Abram first met God, he was already seventy-five years old! At this point, he might be around eighty, not that it matters, right! At seventy-five, he’d already given up on a family! Then God comes along and promises one, only for years to continue to pass by without the pitter-patter of little feet in the tent! So, here is Abram, at ground zero, without a hope in the world for a family. He’d already given up on that old promise of God’s. How do we know this? Because he’d already selected which one of his servants would be the heir to his estate. Some guy by the name of Eliezar. Not only had he given up hope, but he had already gotten his affairs in order. A dark place indeed for old Abram.

And what is God’s response to the unbelieving, unfaithful, doubting, hopeless, Abram? “Keep looking, Son. Keep looking.” Oh, wait, that was Mufasa! But the same sentiment applies because, like Mufasa, God doesn’t give up on the faulty Abram, but instead encourages him to not give up, to keep hold of the hope that he once had, to just trust God. And the real grace here is that God is not like other gods who give up on humans at the first sign of unbelief! The real grace here is that not even Abram’s unbelief can keep God from working in Abram's life. The real grace here is that not even Abram’s hopelessness can keep God from walking with Abram. The real grace here is that nothing, nothing is more powerful than God’s love, not even our unbelief. Belief is not a prerequisite for God’s love. As always, as we will see in these old stories this Fall, it is in the dark that God shows up, to walk with us, to encourage us, to tell us to keep looking, keep looking. Thanks be to God. Amen.



 Separated into two parts so you can watch video (below) in between! 

Inspired by Genesis 2:15-3:24

Today we begin year three of the Narrative Lectionary. This is the year of Luke, which we will read through beginning the end of Advent, but before we get to that we will be reading through the Hebrew scriptures, beginning with our Genesis reading today, and then continuing with a selection of stories that have been key in molding God’s people for the last few millennia. Some of these stories will be well known to you, and some not so much. One of the things that I love about this lectionary is that these are stories that a pastor normally doesn’t get a chance to preach on! So, for me it has an exciting and adventurous quality to it, and hopefully that comes across to you too. Today’s story comes from the second and third chapters of Genesis. We will be focusing on the third chapter but I felt it necessary to read the last half of chapter two because it gives us some key background for the scenes that occur in chapter three. Those scenes of course are The Fall and the Expulsion from Eden.

I don’t need to spend much time on chapter two, especially because I read and preached on that last year at this time. However, there are a couple of things that I’d like us to take note of, to keep in the back of our mind while we tackle chapter three. The first is this, God placed humans in the garden of Eden and stayed there with them, dwelled there, lived among them. Second, God gave them limits, in the form of a tree that they were commanded not to eat from. Eat from anything else, just don’t eat from this one. Just don’t do it. That was the limit that God gave them. Third, God cares for these humans, and we know that because God immediately surmised that all was not well in Eden. The human needed a companion, the animals were not enough, and neither was God. And so, out of care and compassion, notice that jealousy and rage were an optional response here from God, but no, out of care and compassion, God creates a companion for the human.

Julia Stankova, "Temptation"
So, keep those three points in mind as we continue toward the heart of today’s reading: God dwelled with them in Eden, gave them limits, and cared for them there. Chapter two ends quite harmoniously. Everything’s just hunky dory, that is until the woman screws everything up! Kidding! I’m kidding! You know me better than that! So, the woman has an encounter with a talking snake. Now, if you encountered this in any other type of literature, you’d immediately recognize this as a story, a tale, maybe even a fairy tale. But for some reason, people started reading this story as a historical fact, talking snake and all. Some have argued that it was during the Great Awakenings of 18th century United States, but that’s for another time. Point is, the Bible had not been read that way before that. And so, if you’re one of the many people who have a hard time embracing the Bible because of these fantastical stories that include talking snakes, it’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok, you’re in good company because the ancients did not take these stories literally, they knew they were stories, tales, legends. For them, it wasn’t a question of if these stories really happened, it was a question of what do these stories have to teach us today. More than that, was the acknowledgement, and the awe, of asking how God was still speaking to us today, through these old, old stories. I don’t know about you, but that makes me love the Bible all the more, that makes me have even greater faith in it’s power, not less. But I digress.

The woman has this encounter with a talking snake and we might be tempted to say, “Well, it was the snakes fault!” or “It was Satan’s fault!” First of all, it’s important to note that Satan nor the Devil is ever mentioned in this story. That’s an idea that we have inserted into it. But regardless of that fact, even if it was Satan, he didn’t make the humans do anything. They, not just she, but they knew full well what they were commanded not to do, and made the choice to do it anyway. Period. Now, scholars and theologians have debated for millennia about things like free-will or original sin or the sexism inherent in this story. Don’t get me wrong, all these topics are interesting and well worth our time and engagement in. But when I ask myself that age-old question that the ancients would ask themselves when approaching any Bible story, “What does this story have to tell us today?”, or put another way, “What is my takeaway from this story?”, I just don’t land on things like why we sin or why is there evil in the world or do we really have the choice to be good.

Where do I land? On the relationship. Chapter three ends on a bit of downer if you hadn’t noticed. The woman and man get handed their consequences of their sin, as does the snake, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they get expelled from the Garden of Eden. And off they walk into the dark sunset of their lives. Like I said, it’s a bit of a downer. But that’s not the end of the story, but first, I have a short film to show you. It’s a film that I have been waiting to use in a sermon for years! I’ve used it in Bible studies with both adults and youth but I’ve never used it in worship. It’s animated but don’t let that fool you. It’s certainly for all ages, in fact, it has been interesting to see what different age groups get out of it. The short film is called Adam and Dog, was created by Minkyu Lee, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2012. So, without further ado, this is Adam and Dog.

I hope you enjoyed that short film as much as I do. I’ve watched it many times and it never gets old. Now, why did I just show that to you. I shared that with you because it highlights what I feel is the main take away from this story of The Fall and the Expulsion from Eden. And that’s this relationship between God and those first humans, and by extension, with us. But for that to make any sense, we have to read a few verses into chapter four. “The man Adam knew his wife Eve intimately. She became pregnant and gave birth to Cain, and said, “I have given life to a man with the Lord’s help.” She gave birth a second time to Cain’s brother Abel. Abel cared for the flocks, and Cain farmed the fertile land. Sometime later, Cain presented an offering to the Lord from the land’s crops while Abel presented his flock’s oldest offspring with their fat. The Lord looked favorably on Abel and his sacrifice but didn’t look favorably on Cain and his sacrifice. Cain became very angry and looked resentful. Then the Lord spoke to Cain.”

Hold the phone! What is God doing out there with them, outside the Garden of Eden? Imagine, if you can and know that this is hard, but imagine hearing this story for the first time. Imagine your family is new to this religion and knows only about the gods of other nations like Egypt, Greece, and Rome. If this story was being told in those places with those gods, the Bible would be a short book indeed! It would have ended with the humans getting kicked out of Eden! Those other gods didn’t have time for a pair of unruly, unworthy, measly little humans! But not so with this God. This God didn’t remain in the paradise of Eden and wait there until humans were good enough to come back. No! God went with them! God didn’t just expel them out of Eden, God expelled Godself right out of Eden! Just like the dog from our short film.

Now for those of you who think I just compared our God to a dog…you better believe I did! Anyone who knows me knows just how much I love dogs. For the majority of my life I have had a canine companion. I know of no other being on God’s green Earth that loves as unconditionally as a dog. I’d go so far as to say that the love of a dog is the closest thing we’ll ever get to God’s love here on Earth that we can actually give a hug to. The dog in our short film was given every reason to leave those humans. After forming a close bond, a close relationship with the human, he was betrayed, abandoned, and forgotten. But in spite of all that, the relationship is what was core to the dog, it had already taken root, and so, it was a no-brainer when it came to the decision of staying in Eden, or going with the expelled humans, who didn’t even have a thing to offer him. Off he went, into an unknown sunset with those first humans, relationship intact, as it always had been, at least, from the dog’s perspective.

And so it is with God. We have given God every excuse to leave us. We ourselves have betrayed God, have abandoned God, have forgotten God, with both our actions and our inaction. And yet, just when we think God has had enough of our foolishness, lo and behold, there God is, right by our side, a constant companion, ever faithful, always willing to move forward with us, no matter how bad our behavior was the day before. I believe that morning broke that first day outside of Eden, with God by their side ready to make a fresh start, as God does with each of our mornings. This old, old story, is our story. As we move ahead through the Hebrew scriptures, this Fall, journeying with God’s people, we would do well to remember this story, and how, as bad as things got, as bad as we were, God continues to walk with us, continues to include us in the story. Thanks be to God. Amen.


Don't Let Us Fall!

Inspired by Luke 11:4

So, we have come to the end of our short little series on the Lord’s Prayer. When I started this I thought, how in the world am I going to create three sermons with so little text to work from. Well, now I realize that I could have spent two months on this little prayer and still not have enough time to do it justice. It is easy to see how this prayer has made such a profound impact on the world. It has been so ingrained in societies that just a few years ago it made headlines when a county in Delaware was told by a US district court that it couldn’t begin council meetings with it. Apparently, it never occurred to the county officials that it was a distinctly Christian prayer because it never mentions Jesus! They just figured that anyone would want to pray it no matter their faith, obviously disregarding atheists, but that’s besides the point. The point is, this little prayer that Jesus taught two thousand years ago, has left quite an impact, and it’s easy to see why.

Today we have two petitions before us, the first being, “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” And the second petition is, “lead us not into temptation.” However, I believe these two petitions are closely tied together. You may remember that week one of this series was all about God, week two was about us, and this week is all about our relationship with each other and the world. And though I said these two petitions are closely tied together, let’s first talk about the forgiveness petition. Now, I’ve preached on forgiveness in the past on more than one occasion, I’ll link to at least one of those when I post this online in case you want a refresher, but in a nutshell, it’s important for us to remember that forgiveness is not a feeling, but it’s the empowerment to say that the brokenness between two people or groups of people, will no longer define that relationship, therefore allowing all parties to move forward. And sometimes moving forward means parting ways, if that’s the healthiest course of action. So, that’s my own take on forgiveness in a nutshell. I don’t want to spend any more time on that but please keep it in mind as we explore forgiveness as it relates to the Lord’s Prayer, especially because it’s so easy to return to confusing forgiveness with a feeling.

That being said, in this prayer Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Like last week’s reading, “Give us each day our daily bread”, this is another demand. It’s not in the form of a request is it? There isn’t even a “please” thrown in there. “Forgive us.” And if you think about it, do we even need to be asking this question or making this demand? I don’t know about you but I believe that our sins were, are, and forever will be forgiven, whether we pray this prayer or not! In fact, our Lutheran understanding of grace teaches us that there’s nothing, not even a prayer taught by Jesus himself, that needs to be said or done for us to be forgiven. It’s just a gift freely given by God. And surely Jesus knew this! So, why would he teach us to pray this daily prayer, asking God to forgive us?

I think it’s more like a rhetorical statement, if you will, than it is a straightforward plea. And this idea of a rhetorical statement will come up again in the next petition so hold on to that, but in this one, it’s kind of like when a five year old is learning how to ride her bike and the parent is holding on to the back of her bike running along side, waiting for her to find her balance and the child yells up to her mom, “Don’t let me fall!” Now, any child that has a loving parent surely knows that the parent would never let her fall, right! The child doesn’t say that to a parent as an accusation. The child is not expressing her lack of faith in her parent’s ability to keep her safe. Not at all! But that doesn’t stop the child from exclaiming, “Don’t let me fall”, does it! Same with this demand to, “Forgive us our sins.”

There’s something even deeper than a clever rhetorical statement here. And that’s an admission of guilt. Praying, “forgive us our sins” is an admission, in and of itself, that sin is present, always has been, and always will be, and in spades! When we pray “forgive us our sins” we are making a bold statement to God and to each other that we are sinful human beings, in need of forgiveness. And this has a very grounding effect, humbling effect. This puts each and everyone of us on a level playing field, with no one being above or better than anyone else. It’s no coincidence then that a regular part of Lutheran worship is to begin with confession! It’s the great equalizer! In this simple phrase, this humble demand, we are in fact confessing that we are needy human beings, “beggars” as Luther would put it.

And speaking of statements, the next clause of this petition is, “for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” That’s a bold statement! More than a statement, that’s a commitment that we make, each and every time we pray this prayer! We don’t pray for help in forgiving others, we don’t pray that we’ll try to forgive others, we pray that we are forgiving others, everyone in fact, who is indebted to us. Like I said, that’s a bold statement! That’s a bold commitment! Did you know you were making that commitment each time you prayed this prayer? Not to worry, you’re not alone. Have you ever been given a gift with expectations? Now, I don’t mean a gift with strings attached. And I also don’t mean a gift that has to be earned, otherwise it wouldn’t be a gift then, would it! For instance, let’s say someone gifts you with a full scholarship to college. You didn’t earn that gift and they’re not asking for you to pay it back once you graduate, but…isn’t the expectation that you use that gift to get good grades and a degree? It’s the same with this forgiveness business that Jesus teaches us to pray in this prayer. God’s forgiveness is free, is unearned, is pure grace, but…it also carries with it the expectation that it will be shared with others, specifically, anyone who finds themselves indebted to us.

This brings us to the last petition, or at least, the last petition in Luke’s version of this beloved prayer. Luke ends with, “lead us not into temptation.” Again, like the last petition, this is more of a rhetorical statement because we all know, that God is not in the temptation business. However, I also believe, that in the back of Jesus’ mind when he taught them this petition, was the painful memory of his own temptation in the wilderness back when his ministry began, where the Spirit did in fact lead him into. I imagine Jesus’ mind wandering just a bit, as he’s standing there thinking of what they should include in this prayer, and thinking to himself, “Oh yeah, one more thing, ‘lead us not into temptation.’ Trust me, this is an important one!” Not that Jesus believed that God would do the same to them, but I think he taught them to pray this out of love and care for them, because of his own painful experience out in the wilderness for those forty days. And maybe more than that, it’s another confession, that Jesus is the Christ, and we are not. In other words, “Don’t lead us where you led Jesus. He’s the chosen one, and we know we are not.”

I’d like to leave you with some homework, which we will continue to explore at Wednesday’s online Bible discussion, which I’d encourage you to participate in. And the homework is this: what does it mean to pray this prayer as a community, rather than as individuals, the way we usually pray this prayer. Even when we are together, I’d bet that most people are still in the habit of praying this prayer individually, just in the same room with one another. But how is it changed when we pray this together? When we pray for God’s name to be holy, how do we make it holy as a community? When we pray for daily bread, does that have an effect on us as a church? When we pray “forgive us our sins”, what sins have we committed as a community that we need to reconcile and with whom? This seemingly simple prayer is anything but! It has such huge implications for our lives together with each other and the world. My prayer for us is that we continue to explore how we can be coworkers with Christ in answering this prayer for the sake of the world. May we have the will, the courage, and the perseverance to make it so. Thanks be to God. Amen.