Beauty n. state of being pleasing to the senses • Liturgy n. work of the people

The Lord’s Prayer as the Work of God’s People

by Rev. Jim Evans

Just about every Sunday in our church we lift our voices and say together the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This is the prayer Jesus gave to his disciples in response to their request to teach them how to pray. The prayer he taught them thus becomes the normative prayer which encompasses in just a few simple words all the deep expectations of Jesus’ understanding of God’s will for his people on the earth.

We hear this plainly in the words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The prayer suggests that in heaven things are fine, but down here things are not so fine. This seems to indicate that part of our work on earth is to strive for some sort of symmetry between what is happening in heaven and what is happening on earth.

The tricky part, of course, is figuring out what it is God wants. Happily, for those who read the Bible, the question of what God wants has an answer. In the words of the prophet Micah (Micah 6:8), the prophet poses the question and states plainly what the answer is:

“He has told you, you human beings, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

The word “justice” here should not be read as a call for retributive justice, the justice of punishment and judgment. God has promised to take care of all that. The call for the people of God to do justice is a call for the distributive justice that goes along with the all the expectation for us to practice loving kindness. What God has in mind is a combination of charity and justice.

We have seen an amazing example of charity in the response of our community to the effects of the recent severe weather in our neighborhood. Charity, which means “good gifts,” was the appropriate response to the many immediate needs of our neighbors.

Justice, however, is more complicated. The economic system in our country is unfairly tilted toward the wants and desires of the wealthy. The desperately poor, and the working poor, are severely burdened by this unfair arrangement. These folk include the unemployed and the working poor who are just getting by. They are the elderly and the young. They are the ones Jesus called the least of these in our midst.

They are the ones God loves and the ones Jesus called blessed.

Doing justice means using whatever resources we have to counter the powers in our world that keep the poor in poverty and keep the working class just barely hanging on to the substance of their lives. And it is the responsibility of the whole community, not just the church. That means at some point our system of governance must be brought to bear.

I can hear the protests and complaints already: “But why should the government take on these issues?” The simple answer is that we must respond with acts of law because acts of charity are inadequate to change the systemic poverty that keeps our neighbors and their children in need.

This is not about right politics, this is about being right with God and our neighbor. Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.

Walking humbly with God is the practice of prayerful and worshipful obedience. It is the work of the people to turn worship into acts of kindness and bold declarations of justice for all God’s children.