My favorite line in the Lord’s Prayer is “on earth as it is in heaven.” The idea that Jesus wanted this life on planet earth to be a reflection of heaven has been a source of hope for me. I might go so far as to say it is the basis of my conviction that humanity is moving towards an ethic of kindness, inclusion, and generosity.
Then November 8, 2016 happened. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, this past election cycle uncovered and exposed some of the darker sides of humanity. I have friends and co-workers who are legitimately afraid of what might happen to them. Over the period of a few hours on that Tuesday judgment, hate, and fear was normalized. In my city of Denver a swastika was recently spray painted on the door of a local elementary school. The news regularly reports about re-empowered hate groups.
Have we taken a giant step backwards? My initial reaction was a resounding yes. I am beginning to wonder if that is really the case. Is it possible that the only thing that changed on November 8 was the shattering of my insulated world?
Hate, misogyny, judgment, and distrust didn’t just suddenly emerge on November 8. On that night my privileged political perspective was given a reality check. In a sense I had a 2 Kings 6:17 moment, where Elisha prays that the eyes of his servant would be opened. In that particular case the servant saw the armies of God. In my case I have been reminded that the world is larger than my particular echo chamber.
Can I, can we, still take seriously Jesus’ words – on earth as it is in heaven? Yes, now more than ever. It is time for people of all faiths to demonstrate to the world that we can respect each other, that we can live together without resorting to violence. It time for the church to be about inclusion, not just the politically correct type of inclusion but a radical inclusion that takes seriously the humanity of everyone.
My youngest son is in Bible College. I have enjoyed reading his papers and watching him struggle with his own faith. Recently he was asked to write a reflection on a passage in Galatians. He chose Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer salve or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” In his reflections he wondered what Paul might have written if he were around in 2016. My son thought it would go something like this:
There is no longer Christian, Jew or Muslim,
There is no longer straight, gay, queer or transgender,
There is no longer liberal or conservative; Republican or Democrat; American or foreigner,
For we are all humans created in the very image and likeness of God.
This election exposed some scary things. It is now time for people of faith to start being the hands and feet of Jesus. Just maybe we will all be around to witness heaven right here on earth!
Filed under Beloved Community, Christian, diversity, image of God, Lord's Prayer, politics, racial equality, racism, racist, responsibilities, Uncategorized
I am a follower of Jesus, an Executive Director of a national ministry, a student of theology, and an occasional pastor. For the last two decades my underlying motivations and curiosities have revolved around two biblical ideas. The first, Jesus’ prayer that the Kingdom of God could be a reality on earth as it is in heaven. And second, that God so loved the world. As it turns out these are attractive ideas and passages for most Christians. It could be argued that the Lord’s Prayer and John 3:16 are the most universally recognized parts of scripture.
The attractiveness of these ideas begins to fall apart once we start asking questions. What does the world, and particularly the church, look like when it lives in such a way that heaven and earth are the same? Who is all included in this world that God so loved?
I doubt that it is possible to fully answer these questions in one blog, especially when the church has been trying for 2,000 years. The journey towards loving the world that God loves and living on earth as in heaven can be painful and upsetting, mostly because God doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of respect for our values, rules, or theology.
One of the ways that people of faith have dealt with these passages is to “help” God with the definitions and procedures. It usually goes something like this: yes, God sent God’s Son for the whole world, but if you really want to be included then you need to pray the right prayer, believe like we do, and follow our rules for being a Christian. Living on earth as in heaven means you have to accept “our” understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
I understand why we create rules for living and statements of faith. It helps us to make God more palatable and manageable. Quite frankly it is simpler to be together and worship together if we are all the same. This need to define and contain God is an ancient practice. In John 8 the religious leaders bring a women caught in adultery to Jesus for judgment. Their motives were pure, they wanted a faith that honored God and followed the rules. Jesus just didn’t have the same need for rules designed to control God. For the most part fundamentalism grows out of an honest desire to do right by God. The problem with fundamentalism is that it quickly leads to a “my way or the highway” mentality.
I am part of a denomination that is working through its understanding of sexual orientation. There are those who say if you don’t agree with me, then you are wrong. This is just another way of someone saying I have figured out the box that God belongs in and if you don’t agree with me than you clearly don’t know who God is.
This brings me back to the Kingdom of God on earth and the world that God loves. Whenever people of faith have attempted to define and limit what this is they have gotten themselves in trouble. The truth is that the image of God that we all reflect presents a pretty diverse portrait. Like the apostle Paul, all of us are looking at the Kingdom of God through a glass dimly.
I make no claims to fully understanding who is and is not included, but I suspect that living on earth as it is in heaven means that I need to be open to including, worshipping with, and loving even those with whom I disagree.
Filed under A New Kind of Christian, being wrong, Beloved Community, Christian, church, church rules, confessions of faith, denominations, distinctives, diversity, God questions, ideologies, kingdom of heaven, Lord's Prayer, ministry, multicultural, political debate, politics, purity, religion, religious system, theology, transforming, Uncategorized, wisdom
Last Sunday as we were wrapping up Easter dinner, a friend made the following comment. “Why does the church spend so much time talking about Christmas and Easter and so little time on the stuff in-between?”
After all it is fun to talk about Jesus coming as a baby in a manger to save us.
There is something powerful about Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead to save us.
It is easy and simple to focus on humanity’s need of salvation. I suspect we do this because it doesn’t demand much on a day-to-day basis. Get saved, move on with life.
But the stuff in-between, that is a different story. It has the potential to change everything.
As a child I was always told that church and politics don’t mix. And it is possible to avoid this if we focus exclusively on Christmas and Easter. However, if we take seriously the stuff in-between then politics becomes an unavoidable part of being a Christian.
Consider Matthew 5-7. Jesus says things like, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Choosing to actively oppose violence at the personal, community and national levels is political.
Or how about later on in the same passage when Jesus teaches folks to pray, “Your Kingdom Come…on earth as it is in heaven.” What does it mean to create heaven on
earth? Does this mean that the Christian faith and environmentalism have something in common with each other? Could it be that the car you choose to drive says something about the quality of you faith?
Think about Jesus’ call for us to avoid judging. Without judgmentalism it becomes difficult to preach hell, fire and brimstone. If the church judges less and accepts more it may appear to be “too inclusive.”
If you want a simple faith – focus on Christmas and Easter. However, if you are interested in being salt and light – the stuff in-between is pretty important.
I have always been inspired by people with prophetic vision; that unique ability to see beyond a current reality into a new and better future.
In 1961, President John F Kennedy reshaped the political tone of our country when he stated, “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
Martin Luther King had the gift. His “I have a Dream” speech is as powerful today as is was in 1963.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
It seems to me that Jesus wanted believers to be people of vision – to see things not as they are, but as they should be. The kingdom of God is a place where the hungry have food and the homeless have a place to lay their heads; where the lonely, the alien and the outcast are included as members of the family – God’s family; and where forgiveness, not vengeance, is the mode of operation.
My prayer for this world, not very original, but still visionary:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory,
for ever and ever.