Perfection and Prayer
I used to have a screen saver on my PowerBook (the old name for Macintosh laptops) that was meant to remind me about how to shape my sermons. When I was young I was taught in school that thinking is linear, and that truth comes at the end of a logical syllogism (If A = B, and B = C, then A = C). This screen saver reminded me to think differently—respecting logical syllogisms when they worked, but not letting them limit truth when there were other ways to discover truth. The image was a gauzy sort of flowing thing against a black background, like a sheet being flipped through the air getting ready to be laid on a bed. It was a bit like a flag flowing in the breeze, but horizontal. Right in the middle of the flowing thing was a large ball, sitting in between two folds of the flow.
“Make the bed and put the treasure in,” I thought when I looked at it. It takes a flow on both sides to hold the precious thing, and not just before. And it takes a steady wind to hold it up from the bottom (like the Holy Spirit, maybe?). Prepare the place, and place it in! Let the lives of your hearers be the fold on the other side!
In Pinnacle’s Project: Bible class (Wednesdays at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m, and Thursdays at 9:30 a.m.), we’ve been studying Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, from chapters 5-7 of the Gospel of Matthew. These chapters include remarkably moving and tremendously intimidating challenges to Christian living: making peace, loving enemies, blessing those who do you harm, restraining anger, doing even more for someone who oppresses you than they demand, avoiding wealth (Yes, avoiding wealth, for fear of it distracting you from the deeper things of faith!), and more. We’re told to be perfect! And we know we can’t, just as Jesus’s hearers knew they couldn’t when they first heard it.
Right in the middle, not at the end, comes the Lord’s Prayer.
Jesus tells us to pray:
Honoring God’s name before asserting our own.
Asking for God’s realm to rule before ours.
Asking God to give us just what we need, and no more.
Asking God to forgive us, and to help us forgive others.
And pleading with God to help us avoid experiences that will test our trust in God to do these things, even as we praise God for lifting us up from below.
Perhaps the treasure laid on the flowing gauze of life is not what we accomplish or where our effort finally leads. Perhaps it’s the trust that is made real in a simple prayer, reminding us that we depend on a power, and a vision, and a presence that is both in us and beyond us.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.