Pastor Tony's Sermon August 13, 2017

Luke 11: 1-13     8-13-17     ACCUCC     Rev. Tony Clark

Listen to this week's complete sermon by clicking here.

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
   Your kingdom come. 
   Give us each day our daily bread. 
   And forgive us our sins,
     for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
   And do not bring us to the time of trial.’ 

And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

This month we are looking at the Lord’s Prayer. Last week we looked at the version in Matthew, and this week we look at the version from Luke, which is shorter, and is followed by a few stories about asking. This was going to be a week when I preached about asking, not for what you want, but for what God is ready to give you. This was going to be a sermon that ended this way:

“If you ask for what God is ready to give, then you will get it and more. If you knock on the right door it will be opened to you. Our Father who art in Heaven—that prayer is an opportunity to place yourself in the neighborhood where God lives, on the block, facing God’s door.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done aligns you with Divine presence and the will of God. Give us this day our daily bread moves from a prayerful space of being aligned with God, to asking for what God is ready to provide.  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us is a knock on the door to God’s house, to which God cannot refuse to let us in, to a blessed feast of abundance, with more pancakes than we could ever eat and not get fat or have our blood sugar go out of whack. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

That was the ending to the sermon before Charlottesville, and before nuclear brinksmanship played by two of the world’s most swaggeringly blow-hard leaders. I still believe that sermon, yet now the Holy Spirit has charged me to say something different, about the Kingdom of God, and why we pray for it to come each and every week.

And for that I may need your prayers.

The Lord’s Prayer starts with these words, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The first word is “OUR,” and it is similar to the first word in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, “WE,” as in “We the people…”.  I wonder if some have forgotten that God is Our God, and that We are one people.

I wonder also if people have been hearing and praying the Lord’s prayer wrong all these years. I wonder if people haven’t been saying, “Thy,” but rather, “My,” and that their prayer is “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be MY name. MY kingdom come, MY will be done.” I wonder if they’ve even gone farther and begun thinking not in terms of Our Father, Our God, but of MY Father, MY God, MY Daily bread. “My Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by MY name. MY kingdom come, MY will be done on earth as it is heaven. Give ME my daily bread, and forgive ME my trespasses.”

“Our Father,” and “We the People,” do not mean US against THEM. It means us together, all of us, not working for ourselves, but for the well being of all of us. And when any one of us is failing or struggling or oppressed, then it is all of us who need to face God and ask for forgiveness.

What I see happening across our globe this week—the threat of nuclear war between our President and the leader of North Korea, and the white supremacists marching and protesting in Chancellorsville, Virginia—are symptoms of translating the Lord’s Prayer into a personal conversation with God. It is not a prayer for any one of us. It is a prayer for all of us.

For a very long time, much of the last century at least, we have been more focused on individual rights and desires than our corporate good. We talk about Jesus as a Personal Lord and Savior. We talk about my rights, and my needs. We talk about God answering my prayers, as if one person’s prayers are more important than all of our prayers together. 

It’s not much surprise that we find ourselves in a hyped-up, testosterone-laden match over which bully on the national and international stage has the biggest weapon. It sounds like boys in a size match, wondering who can spell their name in the snow. Well, friends, in nuclear winter, we can all have that opportunity.

It is not surprising that we have an ultra-right wing group of bullies pushing back against the long-time oppressed who are naming their place in the Kingdom of God. Right-wing--or should I say White-wing—white nationalists and white supremacists are reacting to a bizarre personalized sense of the Civil War when they say their history is being erased asstatues of Confederate heroes are being from public spaces. White nationalists and white supremacists, who feel that saying #BlackLivesMatter diminishes white lives, only focus on ME, not WE. Their needs become more important than a group of people who have been systematically oppressed for 400 years because of the quantity of melanin in their skin.

Those white supremacists may pray with the rest of us, “Thy Kingdom come,” but the Kingdom they desire on earth is not the Kingdom of God; it is a kingdom of their own making. It is an exclusive, members-only type of club, and they get to define who is in and who is out. Straight white “Christians” are in, all others are out.  Last time I checked, this is not God’s Kingdom, and I do not want to have their kingdom come. God’s Kingdom is based on love, where the oppressed find justice, where we approach Our Father together, and where wars are not fought over the size of one’s manhood—oops, did I say manhood? I mean the size of one’s nuclear arsenal.

I want God’s Kingdom to come, not theirs.

Do they even know what they are asking for when they say, “Thy Kingdom come”?   

Folks, the riots are not over, the protests are just beginning. There will be more protests, more riots, and more violence. The protests we saw in Charlottesville are expected to make a show in Berkeley at the end of the month. This shouldn’t surprise any of since all protests lead to Berkeley. This doesn’t surprise me, because California, for all of its progressive politics and causes, is also the state, in my opinion, with the most pronounced individualism in our country.

This is not a time to stay silent because of our individualism, allowing other opinions their say because everyone is entitled to his or her personal opinion. No, this is a time to join our voices together, to remind each other that God is OUR God, and WE are God’s people. It is Our Father, not My Father, who art in heaven. It is God’s kingdom to come, and God’s will to be done, not any one person’s. We pray give US this day OUR daily bread, and forgive us OUR trespasses as WE forgive those who trespass against us. We stand before God together, being judged whether we as an entire species cared enough for even the oppressed among us to bring them along to the Kingdom.  

Our trespasses, our debts, our sins are shared among us all. Environmental destruction with rising sea level, species extinction, and diseases as diverse as asthma, cancer, obesity, are sins of us as a species. Racism, slavery, and the lasting effects of inequality and poverty may be particular in the United States, but they are sins of all of us, especially when we define sins as being a separation from the will of God. While some of us are trespassers and some us are trespassed upon, all of us suffer and are separated one from another and ultimately from God. Until we can figure out that all of us must stand in judgement together, the trespassers side by side with those who are trespassed against, we will never welcome the Kingdom of God into our world.

So, today, even more than ever we need to pray Our Father, Thy Kingdom Come, Give all of us our daily bread and Forgive all of Us, so that all of us may be brought into your heavenly feast. 

I have had a quote that is attributed to President Abraham Lincoln on my mind this week. When asked if the Civil War would be won because God was on our side, Lincoln was reported as saying, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”[1] Whether or not he actually said those--I can’t find any proof that he actually said that, though he did have other theological sayings that are similar—that is a question to wrestle with. Is God on your side, or are you on God’s side?

Well, my answer is that God is on all of our sides, rooting for each of us to live holy lives of love, fully in communion with God, and all of humanity.  It is a harder thing to be on God’s side, to know God’s will, and to welcome “Thy Kingdom come,” without fear, knowing that God’s kingdom will rock our socks, because God’s Kingdom is totally not what we expect. It is richer, and fuller of justice and love than any one of us could imagine, in part because it is not for any one of us, but for all of us together. What does it mean that we are on God’s side?

It means we can pray this: Our God, Thy kingdom come. Give all of us our daily bread, not just the few of us privileged to be able to buy what we want. Forgive all of us our trespasses, including where we are oppressing or excluding any one of us. Deliver all of us from evil, from the evil of racism, from the evil of poverty, from the evil of environmental destruction, and the evil of aggressive warmongering narcissistic leaders with nuclear weapons. For your kingdom cannot come without all of us, your power is for all of us-- not just a privileged few, and your glory is only fully seen when each of us shares together with all of us what we know of you.

In these days, when fear is high, when we fear losing what is most costly to each of us personally, and we are divided us against them, may we remember that God is Our God, and We are God’s people. Amen.   

[1], retrieved 8-12-17