The Lord’s Prayer: OUR and US

 A friend of mine reminded me the other day how communal the Lords prayer is. It is filled with the words “Our” and “Us”.

We know that the Spirit of God is at work when there are more signs of community, mutual understanding, and a turning towards God and one another in peace. 

This echoes of the prayer of Jesus in John 17 that “we might be one”. 

One doesn’t mean uniformity. 

One doesn’t mean we agree. 

To live out the Lord’s Prayer is about attending to our spiritual lives and worldly, embodied realities.  It means that we seek to become people who follow Christ with our words, actions, and attitudes. 

Sadly, we are so polarized in our country and filled with a sense of contempt for the “other side”.  

But since we are children of the Light, we keep seeking a deep and abiding intimacy with Jesus.

In the small town of Guadalupe, California, photographer, Lindsey Ross, took photos of women from the area and installed this mural on the side of a historic building. For more information, see:

This might look something like this:

  1. Lamenting. This is about sharing our grief, losses, and brokenness. Think Psalm 51 and moments of the prophets crying out for justice and God’s redemption. Crying out over our sins and blindness.
  2. Seeking justice for those who are marginalized and oppressed. Let’s be honest. When we look at one another, we DO see color. This might conjure up certain prejudicial narratives about one another.
  3. Repenting of our prejudicial narratives.
  4. Going local and small. This one is something I keep inching towards. Focus on building relationships in the neighborhood and city you reside in will have longer lasting impact.
  5. Spiritual formation and self-awareness. This one to me is a LONG TERM project. Learning to name our emotions, needs, judgments, thoughts, motives! This one is probably the toughest of all. But this helps us learn to be with others and truly “sense” their needs, even when their rhetoric is hostile and judgmental.
  6. Committing to daily spiritual disciplines and worship that brings us near the heart of Jesus (intimacy with the One true King and Lord), keeps us honest, and keeps us connected to others (who are different than us).

Someone like me who supports people with a wide range of beliefs can say #blacklivesmatter as part of my spirituality and still stay connected to those who would rebut this statement. If they choose not to connect, my heart and prayer is still John 17 and the Lord’s Prayer because, ultimately, the work of the Spirit is for the person and I to be one and in community. That’s the work of Christ that I’m submitting to.

Lord, make us one by the power of your Holy Spirit. We cry out and grieve the hostility and polarization our country is experiencing. We ask for your mercy upon us. We ask it for our children!! Be merciful and come to our assurance.

With great love, tenderness, and compassion…

Our God Reigns

There are numerous instances in my life where things (an event, musical piece, relationship, school paper, work situation, a basketball game) seem to be spinning of out control. Chalk it up to things like unknown variables, high emotions and tempers, fears or concerns, or multiple voices.

Whatever it is, I feel like I’m spinning. Usually, it takes a shift in perspective, a friend, or colleague to help me get back to a place of truth and wholeness; a mindset and heart posture that help me create a great musical moment or a word of forgiveness. Or maybe a missed free throw to win the game but a redemptive 3-pointer made in overtime because of a team members’ encouragement.

My heart and mind have been spinning this week because of what’s happening in our country. To see a wave of protests calling out for change is historical.
Talking to friends and others about racial issues and justice seem like topics we shouldn’t have to defend. But here we are trying to explain why a prophetic phrase like #blacklivesmatter is part of the Gospel story, not a political one.

Today’s liturgical readings mention the God who upholds the cause of the oppressed, sets prisoners free, and gives sight to the blind. This is where we get our theology to uphold justice and come alongside a group of people who are experiencing suffering.

All four passages (Job 38:1-11,42:1-5, Revelation 19:4-16, John 1:29-34, Psalm 146, 147) have a recurring theme which John the Revelator summaries quite well:

“On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’.”

The truth that Our God Reigns has been the shift in spirituality this week. When I’ve listened to a black friend share his bewilderment and pain, or when I’ve talked to an employee about a family member having cancer, or praying for an executive to lead an initiative, some of it can leave me spinning.

But when Christina and I are talking and sharing our laments, we were given the reminder that “OUR GOD REIGNS”.

Why does that change things for us?Why does it matter that we believe and confess something that seems obvious or trivial to some?What kind of difference does it make that we say, trust, and surrender to these words and reality?

Because the Story of God is the main narrative that frames how we engage injustice, racism, marriage woes, corporate culture, parenting, and my own sins and hopes.

We can share our protests to God and as Christ Followers, this is what we do! We cry out to the God who reigns with justice. To the God who liberates the oppressed and the oppressor. We can cry out to God and confess that we are in need of a power greater than ours.

For as much as we protest and do the work of justice in public and civil ways, we are just as much crying out for God to reign. Because when God reigns, there is justice, peace, and joy.

The Entry to Joy

I guess if I think hard enough, looking back, I most experience joy when I’m not pretending. When I live in the reality that I am not whole or perfect, I can enter into the possibility acceptance and hope.

When I play drums or have to track a song, I am most alive when I let go of perfection. I can enter into the song’s waves and motions, letting them inspire passion and grace. They move through my hands and feet–striking and creating.

But when I’m too focused on “it’s gotta sound perfect”, I miss the portal to joy.

I can fill in the blank for just about anything that I engage: pastoral counseling, checking in on others, writing a sermon, cycling, friendships, my marriage.

Joy cannot be analyzed, strategized, or explained. It can only be entered, and the portal into joy is confessing the truth: We are not whole. No one has to pretend, and the truth feels so good that we just want to cheer whenever someone exhibits it.”

M. Craig Barnes, The Pastor as Minor Poet

The Laundromat Movie – Theology Review

“The meek will inherit the earth…” Matthew 5:5

A movie about power, money, and corruption has this two characters that quote this verse. One quotes it in a church after hearing the priest preach about it. The other quotes it after their husband dies and is looking for justice.

Both characters were taught that to be meek meant to be passive. One had an eschatological view (end of time) that the meek would inherit the earth sometime when Jesus returns. But certainly not in the present time.

To be meek, biblically speaking, is to not abuse power or not to be arrogant and oppressive. It means to use power under the Lordship of Christ. We use our power for the benefit of others; not at their expense.

In the movie, The Laundromat, both characters had a different biblical interpretation that in some ways, shaped their lives and decisions. It matters how we interpret and how we theologize. It’s partly why I’m constantly reading and reflecting. I’m seeking integrative truth to believe and live from.

The one character (Meryl Streep) who is seeking justice from a corrupt political and banking system ends up going under cover to expose the companies for their deceitful practices. She used meekness to seek justice. The other character (Antonio Banderas) misused his power and knowledge to take advantage of others, not wanting to know what these shell companies were actually doing. They called it privacy. But this was not privacy. This was a sin of omission…a failure to know their clients and their business purposes. In fact, they did know what their clients were doing but kept hiding behind “privacy laws”. This is the exact opposite of what meekness and justice are.

From an eschatological perspective, we don’t wait for Jesus to enact justice at the end of time. We’re to seek justice with an attitude of meekness. If something is wrong, we’re to do something about it. And we’re to do it with meekness and Jesus does.

The movie is a great reminder to keep doing the work of theology to deepen our understanding. It takes work and effort to think through ethical matters and biblical understanding. We need an integrative approach to keep seeking truth. And it’s a great reminder that integrative theology affects how we do business, runs companies, and do life together.