Scripture: Matthew 6:9-13
Sermon: “2 Formally Greet or 2 Informally Greet—That Is The Question” By Pastor Todd Buurstra
As we begin this series on the Lord’s Prayer, how do you begin a communication with God? The sermon title asks: 2 formally greet or 2 informally greet—that is the question. Starting with the prayer’s first line, Our Father who art in heaven, it sounds rather formal to me.
Let’s bring it down to the human level. Ever wonder how to start a letter/email/message to someone? For instance, how would you start one to me?Dear Rev. Buurstra, Hi Pastor Todd, Dear Todd. I immediately know that the writer is under 25 if it begins, Hey Todd. Speaking of youth, Lou LaFazia, one of Mark’s predecessors, had this thing about rhyming kids’ names, so his greetings would be: Anna-banana, or my personal favorite, Lea rhymes with pea.
But how we start a communication says a lot about that relationship, right? So how do you start a prayer: Dear God, Oh Master of the Universe, or Hey Jesus? I find that most people who dislike praying out loud have a hard time knowing how to take off–and land–the prayer.
It all begins with our conception of God. I was sipping a tall, Chai Tea Latte with my unchurched friend who has agreed to let me pick his non-religious brain on a monthly basis. And Jim was talking about how his wife cancelled her trip to teach in Uganda this summer because her sister was binge drinking again, and then, her ticket got so screwed up that it would have cost over another $1K to correct it. Jim referred to the ticket as Someone trying to tell us something. So I probed, Does that mean that you believe God sends signs? No, I don’t believe God sits up there saying, ‘I’ll do this here to make them decide that,’ but God is more of a, I don’t know, guiding spirit or something. I think he meant God is less personal and more remote.
That’s one popular view. And it was shared by the ancient Jews. When Moses approached the burning bush God said, Do not come any closer. Take off your shoes. You are standing on holy ground. God’s holy, stand-offish boundaries became so respected in Judaism that by Jesus’ day, God’s name wasn’t even stated, Blessed be the name was the formal greeting.
Jesus flies in the face of that by naming God, Father. I have talked to folks who have been abused by their father to ask if it helps them to call God, Mother, instead. Some have said Yes; others, No, God is the father I never had. I leave that as an individual option. But more than giving God a gender, Jesus is portraying intimacy. Jesus spoke Aramaic, though the New Testament is written in Greek. So, while the Greek isFather, the Aramaic is Abba—not to be confused with the 70s Swedish band. Jesus is modeling the God-greeting of, Our heavenly Papa.
For Jesus’ relational concept was not remote and impersonal, but respectful, heavenly, and personal, Papa. It reminds me of when I would come home from work to a chorus of Daddy’s home! Yay!! Now I have to reach back past last year for that memory, but it happened. Yet’s whestle! Or, if a friend was over and while running they fell and skinned their knee, Daddy, make it feel better… God feels the same joy when we call Papa, as I felt when I walked in the door. The ruler of the universe wants us to acknowledge his intimate love in our greeting.
So what does the prayer greeting, Our heavenly Papa, mean? It means three things: Our—collegial; heavenly—eternal, and what we’ve just finished talking about, Papa—personal
Our—collegial. As someone who has a great respect for my brother-in-law’s faith, Buddhism, the problem, particularly as it is being practiced in America, is that it is individual, and rarely corporate. You meditate alone. You do yoga alone. You light incense alone. The power of Jesus’ spirituality is that it is collegial. Our heavenly papa. You and I are intimately tied together in this prayer. So I can’t pray, our heavenly father, today and cheat you in business tomorrow, or let you starve, or flick you the bird in road rage out the lot. God connects us.
Heavenly—eternal. I acknowledge that any control I think I have is an illusion. I think winning the lottery would be good for me, though I never play, but God has a higher and longer perspective of my good. Struggle may be best for me. I want a million dropped in my lap, God wants to teach me to work hard. So when I call Godheavenly I am saying, Father Knows Best.
Papa—personal. I covered that. Corporate. Eternal. Personal. Our heavenly Papa.
As we pray the Lord’s Prayer now, and as you pray this week, greet God with meaning, as Jesus’ greeting is respectful and informal. This week bring all of your life, praise and blame, joy and sorrow before our heavenly papa. Then you, too, will be on a first name basis with God.
About Our Audio Recordings:
Learn how you can listen to the audio files streamed over the Internet, download files to your computer or download files to your portable media player. Visit our Podcast page for complete details.
If you don’t see an audio player displayed on the Web page, you may need to install the free Adobe Flash Player for your Web browser.