(The Lord's Prayer, Pater Noster Chapel, Jerusalem, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
--The Lord's Prayer, p.97, Book of Common Prayer
"…we can attain to the unitive knowledge of God only when we become in some measure God-like, only when we permit God's kingdom to come by making our own creaturely kingdom go."
Every once in a while, I look at things that have been relegated to the world of "religious kitsch."
Like Psalm 23, The Lord's Prayer is one of those things. It shows up twice in the Gospels, in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, and they are not identical. We don't do much better. Protestants tack on the Doxology (the last two lines); Roman Catholics and Orthodox don't, and Episcopalians do most of the time, but with exceptions in things like The Great Litany. I always remember the time we did a joint service with the Presbyterians, and you could tell who's who because we said "trespasses" and the Presbys said "debts."
Really, the purpose of the Lord's Prayer was as a showroom demo. In both Matthew 6 and Luke 11, Jesus used it as a model of how to pray--the first Christian prayer rubric, as it were. Yet we use it AS a prayer in its own right.
When we look at it in an interlinear translation of Koíne Greek, it's far less flowery and far more confusing:
Father of us (the one) in the heavens;
Let be sanctified the name of you.
Let come the kingdom of you,
Let take place the will of you,
As in heaven also upon earth.
The bread of us for (the day) being give to us today;
And let go off of us the debts of us,
As also we have let go off to the debtors of us;
And not should you bring us into temptation,
But rescue us from the wicked (one.)
I blogged about a year ago about the cryptic issues with that "bread of the day" and the Greek word epiousion; you can read it here. But this post is more about that business of "thy kingdom come," or perhaps more accurately, "Let come the kingdom of you, God."
Here's my radical proposal:
Is it possible that elusive thing we call "God's kingdom" is actually already right in front of our noses, but veiled by that thing we know as our own ego?
We grow up thinking "Heaven's up there, and we're down here." I think it's probably because since the first thinking human looked up at the night sky, and could not wrap his or her head around its vastness, we humans have been prone to thinking that God is far away from us, in a vast place. Add to it the fact that this tired old world has plenty of broken-ness in plain sight--both human broken-ness and the broken-ness of natural disasters, disease, etc. There are plenty of things around us that scream "premature death." It's hard to imagine anything of God coexisting in that mess.
But, sci-fi geek that I am, many years ago, I started postulating the possibility that our temporal lives are merely a cloaking device--that we actually live them in a physical world that physically coexists in the middle of that place we call "Heaven," and the moment of our deaths is more like an unveiling, or a curtain rising on a new act of a play. I like the notion that sort of tag-teams with the Jesuit notion that "at the moment of death, all is revealed"--that the shell of our broken battered physical and temporal selves shatters and we expand into the vast majesty of all that we conceptualize as "Heaven."
The father of osteopathic medicine, A.T. Still, once postulated a century or so before me that our human selves are like eggs in an incubator, being prepared to "hatch" into our full selves--a rather agrarian version of what I like to imagine.
So what if, possibly, we are sitting smack dab in the middle of "God's kingdom" already, and when we are asking for its coming, we are really asking to see what is already in front of us? To tag-team on our friend Aldous Huxley's quote above, what if the key to seeing God's kingdom is to let go of our kingdom? What happens when we let go of our security blankets, our stashes and hoards of creature comforts over and above what we really need to live in this world, and become better stewards of our money, our throwaways, our "stuff?" What happens when we recycle, or buy only what we need, or use Earth-friendly products? What do we see of God's when we give up a tithe of our money to our church? In whose face do we see the face of God when we tithe our time to feed the hungry, minister to the sick, or visit the incarcerated? What do others see when they see our attempts to live God-centered lives?
What if all these things we do to both respect God's creation and each other punch little holes in that temporal, physical veneer that covers us? When is the last time you got a sneak peek at God's kingdom? In what setting was it? What happened? Sit with it. What did you see? How was the light of God manifested? These are questions each of us can only answer for ourselves, with God's help.
I encourage you to spend some time pondering these things. My guess is they will reveal the parts of our own kingdoms that need a dose of "letting go."