Our Father who is in heaven,
uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom
so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
Give us the bread we need for today.
Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.Matthew 6:9-13
This has been one more difficult month! Only 28 days, maybe, but February 2021 has still packed in more than its fair share of challenge.
It makes sense, then, that my Practical Christianity Sunday morning class is considering prayer. We’re on Week Two of our “Lord’s Prayer” study, paralleling the ongoing Lenten sermon series from the pulpit at WFPC.
The following sentences are not complete or conclusive so much as part of my “thinking out loud” in preparation for class.
Our Father… in Heaven:
Our focus this morning is the phrase: “Our Father who art in Heaven.” What does it mean when we refer to God as “Father”? And what/where – if anything – is “Heaven”? When we talk about God, and concepts fundamental to our faith, it helps to know what it is that we are talking about, to be clear on the definitions.
First, Jesus reference to God as “Father” was never intended to be a direct alignment with the contemporary model as experienced in Western culture, and North America in particular. There is no male-centric bias in the Godhead, there is no patriarchy in the Trinity, and there are certainly no restrictive gender-stereotypes in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is not limited by gender and God is not defined by our misrepresentations; God is not anything so small as “he” or “she”.
Instead, I think by saying “Father” Jesus is pointing to God as our progenitor spiritually. “Father” – when Jesus uses the language of 1st-Century Judaism – evokes the sense that God is the one who originates, institutes, and sustains our lives as spiritual beings.
Not “my” but “our”!
Also, I cannot help but notice that Jesus uses the word “our” in front of Father instead of “my”.
Why is this significant?
It is significant because Christianity values and promotes community. We understand and live this experience of following Jesus best when we do faith together.
We were imagined, designed, created, and born onto this good Earth for the purpose of experiencing community. Community is central to the Christian faith.
“Heaven” is, essentially, where God dwells (with us, in community), and God is not limited by time or space or our understanding. Jesus refers to God’s kingdom as “within you;” so there is no “otherness” about heaven, as if it exists in some alternate reality, or as if heaven is physically elsewhere – beyond the reach of our senses.
God tends to be exactly where God is welcomed and worshipped and embraced and followed. The originator and sustainer of my life as a disciple is within me, God surrounds me, God guides me. God also calls to me and invites me into a deeper faith with a more complete experience of transformational love.
Our Father in heaven. The originator and sustainer of my faith, who longs to infuse me with divine light and love…
…Hallowed be your name. – DEREK