Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Freedom for Abba: Putting His Cause First (Matthew 6:9-10)

On a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Jesus once taught some disciples how they might pray to God. Through those same words, Jesus invites us to enjoy, with him, this same unimaginable privilege today. Jesus teaches us afresh to:

     9 “Pray then in this way:
     Our Father in heaven,
          hallowed be your name.
     10 Your kingdom come.
          Your will be done,
              on earth as it is in heaven.

(Matthew 6:9-10, New Revised Standard Version).

Abba! Our Father. Right off Jesus frees us to join him in this unimaginable privilege. From all eternity, God the Father freely loved God the Son and Jesus freely loved God the Father, both in the unity of God the Holy Spirit. In teaching us how to pray to God, Jesus frees us by grace to join him in this same relationship of freedom and love which he has always enjoyed with God the Father by nature.

What’s more, Jesus invites us to refer to his father and ours as Abba. “Abba” is the Aramaic word for “Daddy.” The abba of Jesus is not some stern and forbidding, let alone abusive, authoritarian. No! Jesus knows him from all eternity as the only true god of freedom, truth, love, and vitality who loves him dearly. In teaching us how to pray today, Jesus invites us to join him in his miraculous relationship of freedom and love with this singular abba.
In heaven. Biblical witnesses draw a distinction between two realms: Earth and Heaven. Earth is where we live. It lies below Heaven. Heaven is where Abba lives. It is above Earth. Not only that: it is holy. In the immediate presence of Abba, Heaven is without power, falsehood, indifference, and death. It is all light without darkness. Earth is not—yet.
Today Jesus invites us anew to join him in the miraculous privilege of speaking to our singularly caring abba who lives in a wholly different place with no darkness.
In prayer as in all else, our Olympian culture teaches us to put ourselves first and our Olympian personality gladly does so. In contrast, Jesus teaches us to put Abba’s cause first and in three ways. He invites us first to ask Abba that our way of living may honor him. Next, that Jesus may speak to us fresh words of truth that free us to honor Abba through renewed acts of love bringing forth new vitality. Finally, that the Holy Spirit may enable us to discern and affirm those fresh words.
Honoring. Hallowed be your name. “Hallow” is an old-fashioned English word for “holy.” In modern English, we might pray, “May your holy name be honored” (Good News Translation, here and following). Jesus teaches us to ask Abba to help us live in ways that honor him. We honor Abba when we thank him and praise him for all he does for us each day. We honor Abba when we meet together with our companion witnesses on Sundays to discern and affirm, with them, all that Abba invites us to do to promote his cause on earth in the coming week. We honor Abba when we share with others all of his light, love, and life that are ours—and everyone’s—through Jesus. We honor Abba when our Olympian neighbors “see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Hearing. Your kingdom come. Abba’s kingdom comes whenever his son, our leader, Jesus Christ comes to us with his always surprising words of truth and disturbs our slumber.
This is nothing to take for granted. The prophet Amos once warned a wayward people of Yahweh:

11 “The time is coming when I will send famine on the land. People will be hungry, but not for bread; they will be thirsty, but not for water. They will hunger and thirst for a message from the Lord. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken. 12 People will wander from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean and then on around from the north to the east. They will look everywhere for a message from the Lord, but they will not find it. 13 On that day even healthy young men and women will collapse from thirst. 14 Those who swear by the idols of Samaria, who say, ‘By the god of Dan’ or ‘By the god of Beersheba’—those people will fall and not rise again” (Amos 8:11-14).

We Christians and our churches are just as wayward today and for the same reason: our way of living honors the six false, destructive, yet thoroughly conventional gods of Olympianity. So accustomed are we of going along to get along with our Olympian neighbors that we leave our gentle savior dumbfounded. Let us weep to Abba these words once spoken by Jesus with the hope that Abba will hear them and send Jesus to us again today to renew his presence in our lives and congregations with his always mischievous words.
Doing. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Doing Abba’s will on earth, discerning Christ’s always surprising words to us today, developing a way of living among ourselves that honors Abba, does not mean conforming to yet another moral code. It happily means being empowered by the Holy Spirit to discern and affirm Christ’s surprising words to us today. It thankfully means being empowered by the Holy Spirit to do those words by joining Jesus in unexpected adventures and ministries.
The tiresome gods of Olympianity, which we unwittingly serve as Christians and congregations, want us to keep things conventional. They want us to confuse love with being nice and not speaking uncomfortable truths or asking embarrassing questions.
The Spirit wants us to be free. She empowers us today to hear all Christ’s words that free us from Jupiter, to question all political persuasions and leaders; from Mars, to refuse participation in or justification of all wars; from Vulcan, to develop a way of living that rescues God’s good creation from its systematic destruction by Vulcan’s Global Technological System; from Venus, to affirm the unity of intimacy and commitment in marriage; from Pluto, who measures virtue in terms of money; and from Bacchus, who deceives us into thinking that the meaning of life lies in consumption rather than in relationships filled with gentle words of truth and small acts of kindness.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.