Summary: Some reflections on "The Lord’s Prayer"
Our Father 29.07.98
A story (acorn and marrow):
An atheist was having a discussion with God.
"God" he said "I don’t really believe you exist but if you did, you aren’t very bright."
On the one hand, you have created a massive tree to bear such a little acorn. Yet on the other you have this massive marrow and a weedy little plant.
Now if it had been me creating, I’d have done it the other way round.
I’d have put the little acorn on the weedy little plant and the big marrow on the big tree.
This brilliant philosopher paused to congratulate himself on such a brilliant theory when a little acorn from the tree above fell down and hit him on the head:
"Thank God" he said "That wasn’t a marrow"
People just don’t think what they say.
Last year in August, I watched Princess Diana’s funeral. What astounded me was the number of people who joined in when Archbishop George Carey led the congregation in and outside Westminster Abbey in the "Lord’s Prayer". (Matt 6:9-13)
The Masses who would never admit to being Christian were saying the Lord’s prayer. So what did it mean?
So what is so special about the Lord’s prayer.
Indeed what makes the Christian Faith different from other religions.
What was the paradigm shift that Jesus proposed that eventually caused the Jews to crucify Him.
1.1 The Culture of Jesus’ day
I think it would be helpful to set the scene by looking briefly at the concepts of God in that culture 2000 years ago.
The major cultures of that day were
1.1.1. The Jewish culture
1.1.2. The Greek culture and
1.1.3. The Roman culture.
1.1.1 In Jewish culture, God was a distant figure, someone simply to be obeyed.
He even had a name that could not be spoken.
And even today the Jews put a dash in place of the "o" in GOD.
His name is too holy to be spoken.
God spoke to the nation of Israel but rarely to individuals, unless you were someone special like the prophets or King David.
He was a bit like the Headmaster at school. You only got to see him if you broke the rules!!
1.1.2. In Greek Culture, the "gods" moved in a parallel world, almost capriciously playing with human beings. They considered man inferior and used them like figures in a chess game.
1.1.3. The Roman "gods" were considered like the Roman Emperors distant and constantly needed to be appeased.
In fact the later Emperors, like Caligula were deified.
This caused real problems to the Early Church. The Romans considered it treason not to offer incense to the Emperor in a Roman Temple. Yet the Christians would only worship the True God as anything else was sacrilegious. And were prepared to die for it.
1.2 Jesus’ revolutionary ideas
Jesus came along and revolutionised the world with his teaching.
And one of the revolutionary things he taught was that the Almighty God - El Shaddai - LOVES us, cares for us.
Although you see in the OT, some indication of God’s concern for us, for example the 23rd Psalm, there is no teaching of God being Father in an intimate sense of "Daddy".
For it needed Christ’s death on the Cross to make us children of God.
But to all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man but of God
This morning I want to look at the words "Our Father" taken from the Lord’s prayer. I want to consider them from the point of view of a relationship between God the Father and us.
1.3. OUR FATHER
The term "Father" indicates a personal and intimate relationship between Him and me. God is OUR FATHER.
Donald Guthrie in New Testament Theology (p83) puts it well when he says:
..we need to enquire what "fatherhood" means when applied to God. As far as believers are concerned, it means that God is the source of their spiritual life and pours out his love upon them. He is concerned with their welfare (Rom 8:28) and also with their discipline (Heb 12:5 ff)
I would just like to touch on some of the implications for us, when we mean "Our Father".
1. Like any good father loves his children, so God the Father loves us.
I remember Billy Graham going on French television and being told by the commentator: "Dr. Graham, you have two minutes to prove to us God exists."
To which Billy Graham replied:
"I can’t do that but I can tell you what I do know:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.