Sermon, September 3, 2017

“The Lord’s Prayer for God’s Revolution”
Rev. Dr. Michael Caldwell
Bradford Congregational Church

Isaiah 63:7-9,16
Matthew 6:7-15
September 3, 2017

The Lord be with you…

Friends, when I thought about what to share with you in brief Communion sermon, it occurred to me to build on my reflections on the Lord’s Prayer with your children.

Here’s the nugget: The Lord’s Prayer is more than we think it is. I’m not exaggerating to say that it is Jesus’ prayer for God’s revolution.

When I started a part time secular job in 1986, I worked closely with a colleague who knew my other part time job was in pastoral ministry. And he came to me and told me he was feeling confused. He grew up Congregationalist. His mom was the Sunday School Superintendent, so he was infused with Christian faith. It was in his bones.

But he confided in me that his experience of worship in his local church was boring and off-putting in its exclusivism. He was feeling more moved spiritually by the power of the Buddhist meditation group he’d joined. But he said there was still a pull to his Christian roots and he felt torn and asked for my “take” on the faith.

I immediately recommended he read Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus. I told him that these three chapters of the Bible summarized the heart of what Jesus was about, what he says about faith, spiritual practice, and ethics, and how he expects his followers to act. I suggested it was sort of the “gospel in miniature.”

And then I said to my friend that to really hone in on the basics in a nutshell, look at the Beatitudes in the first part of chapter 5, and the Lord’s Prayer in the middle of chapter 6.

Friends, I say the same to you this morning.

About a week later, my friend came back to me with tears in his eyes and told me he felt re-connected with the Lord as a profound teacher and saving presence. He’d had a breakthrough that was primarily emotional and visceral and felt a strong renewal of his Christian roots. He continued with his meditation group and saw no conflict, which I affirmed. The next time we met was a social time when he sang a song he wrote about finding the Lord in the Word of scripture. I just encouraged him to find another church which was less boring and more emotionally tuned in to people’s lives and challenges and joys.

I’ve told this story many times. Sometimes we just need to remember the basics of the faith, and put into practice what we know about the intentions of our Lord for our lives and the life of the world.

For the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer are not what they seem. They’re not just words of comfort and inspiration and instruction about spiritual practice. Friends, what we have in these words is a manifesto for the inauguration of God’s revolution which is so profound and all-encompassing of our lives that we miss it. Our rote reading and praying is FOR something… it’s for our personal peace, to be sure, but it is also just as much for bringing the kingdom of peace on earth as it is in heaven.

Whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer and do the Lord’s bidding, what we are doing is practicing the skills for bringing God’s revolution to a planet and a species in dire need of salvation.

Whenever we take these words deeply into ourselves, our bodies, our hearts, our minds, we are demonstrating the kingdom life that Jesus lived and died for…. it’s like we’re demonstrators at the rally which is life – demonstrating for:

+forgiveness in the face of the world’s tendency toward clinging to hurt and revenge

+patience and impulse control in the face of the world’s tendency toward impatience and impulsiveness

+bread and sharing and generosity in the face of the world’s tendency toward gluttony and mindless acquisitiveness (what one Christian author has called “affluenza”)

+standing up to evil, scorn, injustice, and violence instead of the world’s tendency to denial an indifference

+making peace in interpersonal and international relations in the face of the world’s tendency toward naive cynicism and gratuitous violence.

Friends, in conclusion, when Jesus teaches us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as in heaven, it is no idle prayer or rote meditation. It is indeed, as Walter Wink says, “spiritual defiance of what is in the face of what God has promised.”

It fuels my life as it fueled my friend, and as it can fuel all of us who pray the words with mindfulness and joyful hope in the face of the most dire tragedies and challenges.

As we move now to partake of the bread and the cup, may we be moving into God’s revolution within us, to make God’s revolution powerful in us and on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.