Tuesday, February 26, 2013
The Lord's Creed
I say it in the morning when I do Morning Prayer. If I see five or six Hospice patients during the day, I usually end our prayer time by saying it with them. I say it at night again when I say Compline.
I confess that I am not always fully present to the prayer when I say it. Many times I say it by rote, repeating the words the way I sometimes say the Pledge of Allegiance at a large gathering. Or, the Confession of Sin in community during Mass.
Or, the Nicene Creed. Except, I change so many of the words in that Statement of Faith ("God" for "He"; "She" for the Holy Spirit) that I'm sometimes certain I just might be brought up on charges of heresy if someone siting next to me might tape record me while I'm saying it.
I like the New Zealand Prayer Book form of The Lord's Prayer. I think it expands on the ideas and teachings of Jesus in a deeply meaningful way. Problem is, it doesn't trip off the tongue very easily and you can't really say it privately with too many people because it's not as well known.
As much as I like that version, I confess that I have not committed to memory. Which, I think, says something important.
I've said The Lord's Prayer holding the ancient hand of a person who, just minutes before, couldn't put six words together to make a coherent thought and yet, there s/he is, reciting every word. Eyes closed. Head bowed reverently. Really. Praying.
I've said The Lord's Prayer at the bedside of a dying person, surrounded by family and friends who gulp out the words between sobs and dabs of tears.
I've said The Lord's Prayer with people who have told me that have no faith, or have lost their faith, or confess that they haven't been to church in years and don't know what they believe anymore.
I realized, just the other day, that even more than any of the Creeds, The Lord's Prayer has become a Creed. Interestingly enough, unlike the Nicene Creed, I don't change any of the word. Well, not when I'm praying with a Hospice patient or family. When I say it to myself, I find that I say, "Our Father and Mother, who art in heaven......"
Yes, I use the "traditional" vs. the "contemporary" version of The Lord's Prayer. I don't know why, really, except that while it may be true that familiarity breeds contempt, it also breeds comfort. Solace. A sense of connection with a great cloud of witnesses that have come before and gone on to be in 'heaven' - that eternal dwelling place of God and all of God's creatures.
I have some Jewish friends who tell me that The Lord's Prayer is all the evidence they need to know that Jesus was a good Rabbi. It's a solid Jewish prayer, they tell me, reflecting all of the values that Jews cherish.
Hallowing the name of the one G_d.
Praying for the realm and the will of G_d to come on earth as we imagine it is in heaven, where we will be restored to the perfection intended by God in creation.
Asking only for that which we need to sustain life - daily bread - and to be forgiven the trespasses we commit as well as forgiveness for those who have trespassed against us.
Praying that we may not be tempted to fall short and miss the mark set for us by the One who perfectly created us and even more perfectly redeemed us. And, to be delivered from the evil we know exists in the world because the spark of the potential to do good and evil resides in us all.
Because G_d's realm and power and glory are more important and eternal than our own.
I don't have to cross my fingers behind my back when saying this prayer.
I believe what I pray. Unequivocally.
I don't know that my prayer - this prayer - is always answered. I only know that the answer to the problem of poverty and hunger and injustice and forgiveness come in being cognizant of the existence of these wages of sin by being mindful enough of them to pray about them. And, in trying to live out the words of this prayer.
Jesus Seminar version of The Lord's Prayer, with the words that Jesus almost certainly said or did highlighted in red; and in pink, words that he "probably" said.
The words in red were: "Our Father......"
That may well be true. It doesn't really matter to me the way it once did, for a few fleeting months whilst in seminary. Then again, the job of a seminarian is to question and challenge and deconstruct everything before putting it back together again for yourself so your theology has integrity.
Been there, done that. Got the T-shirt to cover all the scars.
The Lord's Prayer is what I believe about God and Jesus, the good Rabbi.
This is my Creed. I don't really need the others. I pray it in the power of the Spirit, which I believe is the first gift of the Resurrection.
This is the belief and the faith I am unashamed to express to people who are staring into The Abyss, getting ready to meet the One who created them and is now calling them back "home".
The Virgin Birth? The Crucifixion? The Atonement? The Trinity? The Church?
They're all fine. They're just details.
Which may or may not be important to one's personal salvation. That's not for me to determine. Especially as the time of death grows nearer and nearer.
What is essential, as the fox once said to The Little Prince, is invisible to the eye.
All I can do is hold someone's hand and give them the reassurance of our ancient faith in God and Jesus and forgiveness and reconciliation and justice and peace.
Indeed, I think the prayer Jesus reportedly asked us to pray may not have been so much our prayer to Him, but His prayer for us.
It's The Lord's Creed.