Encountering God

We’re going to spend some time this week and next talking about and thinking about the Lord’s Prayer.  Maybe we’ll even pray the Lord’s Prayer because, you know, we’ve been known to do that occasionally.  It is kind of interesting that such a short passage of scripture has had such a profound impact on people’s faith lives.  It has five, count them five, verses in the gospel of Matthew and Luke’s version is even shorter at three verses, though to be fair some of the phrases are combined.

 

Anyways, it would be hard to find Bible verses with more universal impact on the faith lives of followers of Christ than the Lord’s Prayer.  For a couple thousand years since the time of Christ walked the earth, it’s been prayed in countless churches throughout the world pretty much every week.  Not only that, untold people lift it up in their own devotions and prayer life.  All of which makes for some pretty impressive math.  I’m thinking we’re going to need a bigger spreadsheet for to count the number of times it has been prayed.

Have you ever noticed the length of the Lord’s Prayer is different sometimes?  If you pray the Lord’s Prayer in a Catholic church, you can always spot the Protestant folks because they keep going with “For thine is the kingdom…” while the Catholic folks stop before that. What is that about?

Well, it’s like this.  The last part that goes, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever” is called a doxology.  Doxology is a fancy greek word for a part of the liturgy, or worship order, that gives praise to God.  In the days of the early church, maybe a hundred years after Christ’s death and resurrection, it was common to put a doxology on the end of something as a way of giving God praise.  Thus, we have the doxology on the end of the Lord’s Prayer.  As time went on, some churches kept strictly to the biblical wording and others kept the wording that came out of the doxology tradition.  Most went back and forth with it, adding it for a while and removing it for a while.

One thing is for certain, if you post about this online you will get a bunch of bad information from some people who are very angry about the subject.  Go Followers of Christ!  Disagree about something and treat each other badly.  Which is particularly ironic with the Lord’s Prayer, don’t you think?

One ironic thing about followers of Christ treating each other badly over the Lord’s Prayer is that the Lord’s Prayer starts off defining a relationship.  The Lord’s Prayers begins by defining a connection between God and us.  It uses the word Father, in capital letters, indicating a special kind of bond between creator and created (or creature if you prefer).  In that way there is a sense that it is a parental bond but something that far transcends the relationship we have with our parents.

Sometimes we don’t have good relationships with a parent and the language we use for God can get in the way of that.  The usage of Father isn’t intended that way but sets our relationship with God apart from what you might usually expect.  God is addressed in many ways in many places throughout the Bible, like Lord, O Lord, My God and so on.  Jesus is implying a much closer relationship with God when he begins, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”  It is a relationship that is founded before time began and thanks to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross it is a relationship that is forever.

“Hallowed be thy name.”  What does this mean?  Hallowed is a verb that means “to honor as holy” and when we say that we hallow God’s name we are saying that we hold God and God’s name as something holy.

Great, but what does THAT mean to regular people on a daily basis?  Good question.  Anyone have a good answer?

The word holy itself simply means “set apart” and that is certainly true about God.  We recognize the promise of God’s presence with us and at the same time I don’t think anyone would argue that God is set apart from us, is different than we are.

Which begs the question, if God is set apart from us, that is to say ‘holy’ then how to we encounter God?  That question leads us into thinking about holy time and space.  Sometimes we say sacred time and space and in this usage holy and sacred have similar meanings.

So then where do we find the sacred time and space to encounter God?

That’s a question that people have been asking forever, I think.  The ironic part about asking THAT question is that God really is constantly seeking each one of us.  So then the short answer is that we just need to get out of our own way and let God into the moment and then that moment becomes a holy moment.

That’s pretty easy, right?

Nike may say “Just Do It” but it’s a little more difficult for the rest of us.  In today’s hustle and bustle world it is difficult for most of us to see God’s presence around us in our day to day living much less to actually make time for God.  We struggle to slow down enough to see God’s presence while at the same time not making time for God in our life and then wondering why we don’t encounter God.  The pieces of the puzzle start to come together.  As Yoda would say, “Real the struggle is”

Where one person best encounters God varies from person to person and so it is nearly impossible to answer the question, “Where can I encounter God?” with a one size fits all answer.  I’ve encountered God in the silence of forest and listening to the waves roll onto the beach.  I’ve encountered God reading the Bible and listening to music. I’ve encountered God with the little fingers of a grandchild wrapping around my fingers as they wrap around my heart.

Those would be kind of classic places to encounter God but you know where I most often encounter God? Mowing my lawn.  Sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it?  You encounter God doing something you don’t particularly enjoy?

Yes.  Yes, I do.  But consider this.  Mowing my lawn doesn’t take a lot of thought other than paying attention to not run into anything.  It takes a dedicated amount of time each week where I can’t do much else.  It isn’t exactly quiet time but the noise is pretty constant and loud enough that I can’t be distracted by listening to music, podcasts, and well, pretty much anything.  So I have a few hours undistracted hours every week that I’m not focused on something else.

That’s a good time to encounter God, isn’t it.  Give some thought this week to times where you might encounter God.  Times that might seem odd on the surface but make perfect sense if you DON’T think about it too much.  God will be there.  Will you?

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