Sermon for Pentecost 7, Year C
July 28, 2019
If I say only two words, “Our Father,” most of you can tell me every word that follows, all the way to the end of the prayer. From a fairly young age, I attended wakes and funerals of (mostly) elderly relatives. Since my mother’s family was Roman Catholic, every wake included a recitation of the rosary. It was usually led by a trusted elder, typically one of my grandmother’s sisters, occasionally a sister-in-law. Even though I didn’t fully understand the meaning behind the words and their repeating patterns, I found the rhythm and repetition a soothing part of the ritual. I can still hear Margaret’s deep voice, steadily praying, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…” and “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be…” Though the quick pace at which the prayers were recited was a part of the ritual, I always wondered if such a fast pace were the best way to honor the prayers’ meaning.
We recite the Our Father every week at Sunday worship, but how often do we think about its deeper meaning?
Did you notice the very opening of today’s Gospel passage? A disciple asks Jesus about prayer. Though he doesn’t use the word how in his query, it’s one way to interpret the question. In other words, his focus is on the mechanics of prayer. Instead of answering the question directly (He rarely does!), Jesus uses it as a platform to lead the disciples to a deeper meaning and a richer understanding of their faith. Though the verbiage in Luke is simpler than the Our Father found in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 6) — each probably reflecting a unique ancient liturgical tradition — the meaning found in Luke is no less profound. The same gift Jesus offered to his disciples in this short yet powerful prayer is available to us.
Rather than instruct his disciples on a method, He invites them to worship God for who God Is, and to call upon God to fulfill our most essential needs. The “thy” or “your” statements are the worship portion of the prayer. God is Hallowed, Holy above all else, beyond all understanding, greater than our most vivid imaginings. We need not comprehend; simple acknowledgement will do. We long for the coming of God’s reign, when every need will be met, when pain and sorrow will cease, where all will be healed, where understanding and love will reign.
Jesus then invites His disciples — and us — to call upon God for all our needs. This section, of “give, forgive, save,” serves to remind us not only of our need for God, but also of God’s faithful reliability. Jesus calls us to ask only what we need for today. There is no need to acquire material wealth for tomorrow, for God will provide what is essential to maintain life. Notice here Jesus does not instruct us to pray for my daily need, or for that of my family, or my tribe or clan. Jesus tells us instead to pray for our daily bread. It’s not that God doesn’t care about our individual needs. God does, and deeply. But it is easy, particularly in our culture, to focus only on our own needs, and forget those of others. Jesus calls us to remember that we are a community, bonded by our humanity. Because of this bond, our prayer ought to always be that the essential needs of all are met, and that God gives us the will to fill the gaps wherever we find them.
Jesus then instructs us to pray for forgiveness, not only for ourselves, but also that we might have the strength and will to forgive others — and isn’t that the hardest part! God’s mercy flows from God’s loving Being always. In our lives, we, too, have the power to give mercy, and the power to withhold it. This doesn’t mean we should submit to those who mistreat us! But…there are ways to forgive those who have hurt us, while still removing ourself from harm’s way. If we forgive, our lives will be richer and better, because we share the mercy we’ve been given, just as Jesus calls us to do, here and throughout the Gospels.
May we, with a deeper understanding, pray into the richness Jesus offers…
Loving God in Heaven
Holy is Your Mighty, Eternal Name
May Your Reign Come — with Haste!
May All Beings, Heavenly and Earthly,
Strive towards Your Divine Plan
Give to All what they need for today
Inspire and strengthen Us to show the Mercy and Love
First Shown to us by You, God of Love
Stay our Hand, Hold Our Tongue
When we are on the verge of acting or speaking
Outside the Way of Love You Desire for All
For All Greatness, Glory, Power, Majesty and Mystery
Are Yours Alone
God of All