On Being—and Doing—Church

There are many good New Testament passages one can explore to envision what the church should be and do: Romans 12-15, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and Ephesians 4-5 are all good options, among others. Still, when I think about the church there’s one specific verse that always seems to come to mind first:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

To me this description of the first Jesus followers on the day of Pentecost nicely sums up what it means for us as Christians to “be the church,” to “do church” together.

As the church we are “devoted” to certain things. These are the things that we commit ourselves to, that we are centred on as a church—which is a way of saying that there are lots of other things, maybe even some good things, that aren’t so central, that we’re not as devoted to. There are lots of things we can be and do as a church, but these things are at the heart of them all.

First and foremost, we are devoted to learning and living the way of Jesus as taught by his Apostles: “the apostles’ teaching.” This means we commit ourselves to studying the Christian Scriptures, and in particular the New Testament where we find “the apostles’ teaching,” in order to learn about Jesus and his way of love. As we faithfully follow Jesus in his way of love, God’s justice and peace and flourishing life (“God’s kingdom,” or “salvation”) is manifest in and among and through us.

We are also devoted to the community of fellow Jesus followers, the common life we share together: “the fellowship.” This means we commit ourselves to one another within the church, to each other’s wellbeing, to caring for one another and helping to meet one another’s needs. At bottom this is because, in the midst of our diversity, we hold the absolute essentials in common: everything we are and do centres around Jesus and his way of love.

We are devoted to gathering together in worship and hospitality: “the breaking of bread.” This means we commit ourselves to “breaking bread” together around the Lord’s Table, along with other acts of worship (symbols, stories, songs) that likewise orient us around the central story of Jesus. This also means we commit ourselves to “breaking bread” together in our homes, following Jesus’ example of radical hospitality for all—not only friends and family, but also sinners and strangers, outcasts and enemies.

And we are devoted to regular times of prayer together: “the prayers.” This means we not only pray as individuals as an act of private devotion, but we also gather together regularly to pray: to meditate on who God is and what God has done for us, to praise and thank God for these good gifts, to confess our sins to God and accept God’s forgiveness, and to entreat God to move among us and through us in the world.

Jan Richardson, The Best Supper

For many Christians, this is not the church they envision. Or, perhaps more accurately, they might nod in agreement with this vision of church in theory, but in practice they are either not fully devoted to these things, or they are devoted to other things above these things.

Many Christians envision a church that has lots of programs—especially programs aimed at their particular demographic. These programs are not bad in themselves, of course, and they can in fact be wonderful ways of expressing and nurturing the devotion Acts 2:42 describes.

The problem comes when people want programs that have little if anything to do with that fourfold devotion—they really want a social club with a religious veneer, which they can participate in at their convenience and for their pleasure. Fine, but that’s not a church.

Many Christians envision a church filled with people, often recalling a bygone era of buzzing foyers and bursting sanctuaries. There’s nothing wrong this either—Acts 2 itself describes large numbers of people joining the Jesus movement and participating in new Jesus communities. However, a preoccupation with numbers can be problematic for at least a couple of reasons.

First, many Christians want the large numbers without having to devote themselves to studying the Scriptures and learning the way of Jesus, gathering together regularly for Jesus-centred worship and prayer, and showing radical hospitality in the way of Jesus. It’s ironic—though not terribly surprising—that the Christians who are most critical of “the way things are being done” at church are often the ones who don’t attend Bible studies and prayer meetings and only show up for Sunday worship once or twice a month.

Second, many Christians have bought into a “free market” notion of church. We are competing with other churches for “market share.” We need to produce a good church “product” in order to attract Christians, our “buyers.” If people don’t like our product they’ll go find another “seller,” another church with a better product: high quality music in a style they enjoy, interesting preaching that increases their happiness through moderate self-improvement, vibrant programs catering to their particular demographic, et cetera. So, if we want to increase our market share (i.e. “grow our church”) we need to produce a better product.

Not only is this view of the church thoroughly unbiblical, it’s also unethical—it’s church growth through sheep-stealing, not sheep-finding.

Programs and numbers, then, while being potentially good things, are not central to being and doing church. What is central is this: devotion to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Lest anyone think I’m being too idealistic, raising a bar too high for the church in the real world, let me add this: Jesus welcomes all to his table, whatever the level of their devotion. Jesus in his way of love stands at the centre of the church like a bonfire on a cold night, drawing people in by its warmth and light. Some gather close around the fire, freely sharing their songs and stories, bread and wine. Others stay back in the shadows, content to listen and observe. Some drift in and out.

However, while the level of devotion varies among Christians and even changes throughout our lives, the things we are devoted to remain the same: not programs and numbers, not pleasurable music or comfortable teaching or enjoyable socializing, not even correct doctrine or proper behaviour or rituals done right, but learning and living the way of Jesus together, gathering in worship and prayer, in radical hospitality and mutual care, all of this in love.

Anything less—and anything else—is simply not church.

But a church that looks like this? It’s what the world—and we ourselves—desperately need: a living embodiment of God’s kingdom vision of justice, peace, and flourishing life for all.

My Pastoral New Year’s Resolution

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I’ve tried them in the past, but they’ve never worked. “Resolution” can sounds so decisive, so irrevocable. So guilt-inducing.

Let’s call this my pastoral New Year’s goal, then. Here’s what I’m aiming for as a pastor for 2017: to be patient in love, persistent in prayer, faithful in teaching the Scriptures, and bold in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

commitmentIf that sounds like liturgy, that’s because it is. This was the commitment I made before our congregation when I was installed as pastor. Really, then, my 2017 pastoral New Year’s goal is simply re-committing myself to this calling.

I’ve often been distracted from this. To be fair to myself, though, it’s awfully easy to get distracted from this.

Many pastors feel like they have “a hundred bosses,” or whatever the size of their congregation is, because every person in the church has a different, particular understanding of what it means to be a “pastor,” who a pastor is supposed to be and what they are supposed to do. Some want a congregational visitor, others a community activist, some a spiritual guru, others a private therapist, some a thoughtful theologian, others an extroverted evangelist—and that’s only a small sample of the options. Just imagine the multiple personalities required to do all this, let alone the superhuman skills and physics-bending time and energy.

Into this vortex of competing expectations and impossible demands I hear Jesus’ simple call to me as pastor, a call nicely summarized by that installation liturgy: be patient in love, persistent in prayer, faithful in teaching the Scriptures, and bold in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Be patient in love. This is not so much a specific task to do as it is a general orientation for everything I do. And this is as difficult for me as it is for anyone else—contrary to another common expectation, pastors are not inherently “more spiritual” than others. Yet it is an orientation all Christians are called to nurture in Christ by his Spirit. In whatever tasks I do, in whatever roles I take on, in 2017 I want to strive to be patient with others as I seek to love them in the way of Jesus. (Lord, have mercy!)

Be persistent in prayer. Here my pastoral calling starts to become more specific, and in this I have much room for improvement. This is not incidental to my ministry, but central: to persevere in prayer for those among us and around us, to be deliberate in making and taking time to speak the names and stories, joys and sorrows of our congregation and community before God. May this year be a year of rekindled prayer in my life, in every area of my life.

Be faithful in teaching the Scriptures. You’d think this would already be well in place. After all, this is an area of expertise and experience for me, and teaching the Bible is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. I have a Ph.D. in biblical studies, for goodness’ sake! But for various reasons this has been pushed to the margins in my ministry. No more: in the coming year I am determined to re-claim this calling, to find and create opportunities to teach the Scriptures in all their difficult challenge and inspired insight.

Tissot - Jesus TeachingBe bold in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is something I have been doing—every sermon I preach is a proclamation of the gospel—but I am resolved (yes, on this I’m “resolved”) to do this even more. Our world—and each one of us—desperately needs to hear God’s good news again and again and again. But beware: this is not the gospel many of us grew up with. It’s the gospel of God’s kingdom come on earth, justice and peace and flourishing life for all, brought about through the crucified and resurrected Jesus. It promises true life, abundant life, but it demands our very lives: walking in the cross-shaped footsteps of the resurrected Jesus. In 2017 I intend to preach this gospel of peace at every opportunity.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that these are the only things I’ll be doing as pastor this year. There are all kinds of specific tasks, necessary or urgent or both, that are part of a lead pastor’s role in this day and age. But these are the things I’ll be focusing my time and energy on, for these are the things to which I have been called.

So watch out, world! Look out, Morden Mennonite Church! Pastor Michael is on the loose! Let 2017 be the year in which I take a leap of faith closer to the goal for which I was commissioned: being patient in love, persistent in prayer, faithful in teaching the Scriptures, and bold in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

By God’s grace, may it be so.

Cross-posted from http://www.mordenmennonitechurch.wordpress.com. © Michael W. Pahl.

Soul-Shaping Prayer

Most often we pray because we want something in our circumstances to be changed. We or someone we know is facing a particular problem, a difficult situation, an obstacle of some kind, something that we feel is keeping us or them from the good that we believe God desires—and so we pray.

There’s nothing wrong that. We are, in fact, encouraged often in Scripture to pray exactly for those reasons—always, of course, entrusting the situation into God’s hands for God to accomplish the purposes God desires.

But there is another dimension to prayer, in some ways more powerful than this more popular perspective on prayer: it’s the way that prayer changes us.

Rembrandt Woman at PrayerThe practice of soul-shaping prayer—known by other names, too, sometimes called “imprinting prayer”—is praying with the goal of allowing the prayer itself to change us, to change the way we think, the way we feel, to change the way we see the world around us, the way we look at our circumstances and make sense of our experiences.

Of course, all sorts of studies have described the health benefits of consistent prayer or meditation—all that reducing external stimuli, slowing your breathing, focusing your thoughts, creating emotional and psychological distance from your circumstances and problems, and so on, helps in all kinds of ways. But I’m talking about prayer that shapes our souls, prayer that shapes the way we think, the way we feel, the way we live our lives from the inside out.

All prayer can be soul-shaping. Just having a consistent practice of prayer in your life will inevitably shape the way you view the world, the way you look at others, the way you live out your faith as a follower of Jesus. Sometimes, though, it is helpful to engage in some intentional soul-shaping prayer: a spiritual discipline which has a long history in the life of the Church.

You don’t need much to practice this kind of intentional soul-shaping prayer.

First, you need a set prayer worthy of reflection and repetition. Prayers that have been tested by time—like the Lord’s Prayer, or the Magnificat, or the Twenty-Third Psalm—are great for this, and you can find dozens of good, time-tested prayers online or in prayer books of various kinds.

Many readers of this blog have been influenced by Anabaptism or Evangelicalism or other non-liturgical Christian traditions, and so might be a little suspicious of set prayers. These are someone else’s words, not ours, so we fear insincerity, a dishonest heart before God or others. But of course insincerity is possible even with spontaneous, extemporaneous prayers, and we can certainly pray set prayers with deep sincerity—in fact, such open honesty before God is vital for this prayer to change us.

Second, you need time and willingness to pray this prayer repeatedly and thoughtfully. Once again, our red flags go up. Didn’t Jesus condemn the babbling, repetitious prayers of pagans, thinking they will be heard because of their many words? Yes, he did. Jesus condemned a magical view of prayer, that particular words have particular power in themselves, that if you pile up all the divine names and magical words you can think of you’ll somehow be able to coerce the gods into giving you what you want.

And that’s exactly what “soul-shaping prayer” is not. It’s not about coercing God into giving you something, nor does it attribute the set words with any sort of magical power. Rather, it’s about prayerfully reflecting on the ideas behind the words, and allowing God to shape your thinking and your feeling and your will and your actions in the process.

Which leads to the third thing you need: a heart open to being changed by God as you pray. This is the goal of intentional, soul-shaping prayer. The goal of this kind of prayer is not, “God give me this!” or “God, do this for that person!” It’s “God, change my mind, my heart, my soul, change my life from the inside out.”

Let me walk through what this soul-shaping prayer can look like—at least the way it works for me—and to do so I want to use a prayer that comes out of Mark’s story of blind Bartimaeus, healed by Jesus.

The prayer of Bartimaeus in this story—“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”—has been transformed into one of the most frequently prayed prayers of Christian history, the so-called “Jesus Prayer.” The Jesus Prayer takes the prayer of Bartimaeus, combines it with the prayer of the tax collector in one of Jesus’ stories (Luke 18:13, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”), mixes in the most common early Christian confessions (“Jesus is Lord,” “Jesus is the Christ,” and “Jesus is the Son of God”), and creates a prayer perfect for soul-shaping: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!”

When might I pray this prayer? Maybe it’s a moment in which I feel the need to confess a particular sin. Maybe it’s a time when I am at a loss as to what to do, or I’m feeling like people or circumstances are conspiring against me—in other words, a time when I feel the need for God’s mercy. Or maybe it is simply prompted by a desire to reflect on who Jesus is, to remind myself of who it is I’m following.

I begin by quieting my surroundings—closing the door, turning off the music, maybe going for a walk or a drive, finding that place of quiet solitude. Then I pray the prayer through several times, gradually more slowly, taking time to reflect on each idea in the prayer, paraphrasing each word, each phrase, pondering what it means for me.

  • “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, the sinner!”
  • “Jesus”—you are Jesus, the man from Nazareth, the one who healed the sick and touched the lepers and embraced the children and ate with sinners and taught the disciples and confronted the powers and suffered for others and died and the cross and rose from the dead. You ate with sinners! Have mercy on me, Jesus. You healed the sick! Have mercy on me, Jesus.
  • “Lord Jesus”—Jesus, you are Lord over all, you are my Lord, I am yours, all is yours. You are Lord over my life, my circumstances! Have mercy on me, Jesus. You are Lord over nations! Have mercy on us all, Jesus.
  • “Jesus Christ”—Jesus, you are Messiah, Son of David, bringer of God’s kingdom, establishing peace and justice through your self-giving, suffering love. You are the Suffering Servant, the Crucified Messiah! Have mercy on me, Jesus.
  • “Son of God”—Jesus, you are the Son of God, God the Son. You are the one who shows us who God is, you are God in the flesh! Have mercy on me, Jesus.
  • “Have mercy on me, the sinner”—I am a sinner, I am right there with everyone else, doing things that destroy myself and others, doing things that degrade others and all creation, doing things that defame you, O God. I am one of those “sinners” you ate with, Jesus, those outcasts which you embraced. Have mercy on me, Jesus.
  • “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!”

This is how I might pray the Jesus Prayer as soul-shaping prayer. And in the process I become like Bartimaeus: I am changed, I see things more clearly, I become a better follower of Jesus.

I’m reminded of who this Jesus is who I am following—and so I have greater confidence to follow him more faithfully, my Lord, my King, my God.

I’m reminded of what he came to do, how he lived and how he died—and so I seek to do the same things, to embrace the “other” and teach Jesus’ followers and confront this world’s evil powers and give myself in suffering love for others, all to help bring God’s kingdom of peace and justice to the earth, just as it is in heaven.

And I’m reminded both that I am in need of God’s mercy, and that God willingly shows his mercy to me in Jesus—and so I try to show mercy to others around me, who are all in the same boat as I am.

I suspect many Christians have practiced soul-shaping prayer without calling it that. For at least some this is a new and even strange way to pray, something outside our normal experience of prayer: of thanksgiving, or confession, or petition, or intercession.

Regardless, I encourage everyone  to try this intentional, soul-shaping prayer—and see if God doesn’t begin to change your attitudes, your values, your perspectives on your circumstances, the way you look at other people, the way you live your life each day.

Check out my Twitter account over the next few days under the hashtag #SoulShapingPrayer for some examples of short and sweet prayers to shape the soul.

Cross-posted from http://www.mordenmennonitechurch.wordpress.com. © Michael W. Pahl.

The Lord’s Prayer

This post is excerpted from my sermon this past Sunday, February 1, 2015.

“Lord, teach us to pray.”

That’s how Luke’s Gospel introduces the prayer that we today call the Lord’s Prayer: Jesus’ disciples so moved by Jesus’ own praying that one of them asks Jesus to teach them to pray.

Tissot - Lord's PrayerAnd so Jesus does. He gives his disciples a prayer to pray. But it is also a pattern for prayer, a way of praying. It highlights the attitudes and perspectives we should have in prayer, it sketches out the kinds of things we should focus on in our prayers—and in our lives.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer thoughtfully and patiently, we find ourselves becoming more and more aligned with Jesus, more and more in tune with Jesus’ way of seeing things and doing things. We not only learn how to pray in the way of Jesus, we are also shaped by this prayer into the image of Jesus.

Centered on God, Focused on God’s Kingdom

Jesus begins his prayer by centering on God:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

Prayer is directed to God. It’s not merely inward reflection or meditation—as helpful as those things can be, and as much as those things can even be a part of prayer. But prayer itself is centered on God, not ourselves, not our world. It is a looking to God, turning our thoughts toward God, the one in whom we live and move and have our being.

This is a very personal prayer. Jesus called God “Father,” “Abba.” That’s an Aramic word that both young children and grown-up children used to refer to their fathers. It’s a term of endearment, a term that combines affection with respect. Calling God our Abba, our Father, highlights the fact that prayer is a very personal thing: we as persons relate to our Creator as a person.

But this is also a collective prayer, even a universal prayer. You see this throughout the Lord’s Prayer: it’s not “my Father,” it’s not “I” and “me” throughout. It’s “our Father,” it’s about “we” and “us.” This loving Creator is the mothering Father of us all on earth: all humanity, every nation, every tribe, every culture, in every time and place.

If “our Father in heaven” highlights this as a universal prayer to the Creator, “hallowed be your name” emphasizes that our Creator is the God of ancient Israel in particular. In the Old Testament, God’s “name” is YHWH, and this name was viewed as sacred, never to be used “in vain,” that is, in empty, meaningless ways (Exod 20:7).

But this idea is not just about God’s name being special, as if there’s something magical about the name YHWH. It’s a way of saying that God himself is holy: God is utterly unique, completely unlike anything or anyone else. It’s a reminder that we are not merely praying to someone who is like us, only bigger and better; we are praying to God, the one in whom and through whom and for whom we exist.

The whole prayer is God-centered: it’s a prayer to YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the everlasting I Am, who is the personal, loving Creator of all peoples. Jesus calls us to center our prayer on this God, the one true and living God.

But the prayer is also kingdom-focused.

The kingdom of God is the consistent theme of Jesus’ teaching. His miracles are like signposts pointing to God’s kingdom. Everything Jesus says and does is connected to the kingdom of God. Indeed, his whole mission given by God was to be the Messiah, the promised King, to bring about God’s kingdom on earth, to establish God’s rightful reign as King over all things, a reign characterized by love, life, justice, and peace—true shalom.

And so it’s no surprise at all that, after that opening address to God, Jesus’ prayer begins and ends by referring to God’s kingdom.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done.” These are equivalent phrases: God’s “kingdom” is God’s “will”; God’s kingdom “coming” is God’s will “being done.” God’s will for all things is flourishing life, a life filled with love and peace—and this is exactly what God’s kingdom is all about.

“On earth as it is in heaven.” The biblical authors can use the language of “heaven” or (more often) “the heavens” to refer to the sky above us in contrast to the earth below. However, when they speak of God in connection to “heaven,” as here, the word “heaven” is more about being in God’s immediate presence, wherever that might be.

Here’s the point of Jesus’ prayer, then: it suggests that God’s reign, God’s will for justice and peace, is eternally evident in “heaven,” in God’s immediate presence, but it is not always evident on “earth,” in human experience and human history.

This explains a lot, doesn’t it? We long for life and love because God is life and love—God’s kingdom, God’s will, is fully manifest in his presence, for which we are created. Yet we don’t always experience flourishing life and genuine love because there are things about the human condition—sin and evil—that keep us from fully experiencing the life and love of God.

But here’s the thing: Jesus has planted the seed of God’s kingdom in the soil of earth, and it is growing slowly but surely until it will be fully present on earth, like a mustard seed growing into a plant that provides shade for all. And this is what we long for, what we pray for, what we strive for.

Concerned with Provision, Forgiveness, Protection—for All

Bloch Sermon MountThe Lord’s Prayer is God-centered and kingdom-focused, all the way through. This means that when we get to the petitions at the heart of the prayer we’re still centered on God and focused on God’s kingdom. Provision, forgiveness, and protection—these are kingdom matters, wrapped up in God. And again, note the “us” in all these: provision, forgiveness, and protection are not just for each of us individually, but for us collectively, as Jesus’ followers and as a human race.

Give us this day our daily bread.

The Greek word for “bread” here is a rare word—in the New Testament it’s only found in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s so rare no one is sure exactly what it means, but it probably has the idea of “what is necessary.” It’s not talking about extra things, luxuries in life, but life’s most basic necessities: food, water, clothing, shelter.

Using the word “bread” to translate this rare word is not a bad idea. It evokes a particular story that can help to appreciate what Jesus is saying here: the story of the ancient Israelites, wandering in the desert, collecting manna, bread from heaven, each day. God only gave them enough for one day at a time: if they tried to save it for two days (apart from the Sabbath) the manna spoiled.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” In other words, “God, give us just what we need, just when we need it.”

Again, though, remember the collective “we” here. We don’t all get just what we need, just when we need it. The reality is that some of us get more than we need and others less. But God does give us, collectively, just what we need. We have a responsibility to each other, then: when we have more than we need, we are called to share with those who do not have what they need; and when we do not have enough, we are encouraged to accept generosity from those who have more than enough.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

We often separate out God’s forgiveness of our sins with our forgiveness of others’ sins against us. But Jesus brings them inseparably together. “For if you forgive others their trespasses,” Jesus goes on to say in Matthew’s Gospel, “your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Strong words! We cannot expect God to forgive us if we don’t forgive others. Hard words! But we need to hear them. Just as God has forgiven us so freely, so largely, so also are we called to forgive others: family, friends, strangers, even enemies.

If you think about it, this is just another angle on the Greatest Commandment. Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to “Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” But he’s quick to point out that there’s a second commandment attached to it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love of God is inseparable from love of others. Likewise, forgiveness from God is inseparable from forgiveness for others.

And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

We think of this as “temptation,” and most of us probably think of being tempted to do some private, personal sin. But the word here is more general than that. It means “trial” or “testing, not just “temptation”—it’s any weakness we may have, any hardship we may endure, any wrong desire we may experience.

This points to the reality of sin and evil in the world—in our own hearts, yes, but also the larger and wider sins and evils that are out there. Not just inward sins like lust, but social sins like materialism, systemic evils like racism, natural evils like cancer. These are all wrong, they are all outside God’s kingdom, God’s will, and so we pray for God to protect us—each of us, all of us—from these wrongs, or at least to preserve us through them.

Provision, forgiveness, and protection. These are at the heart of Jesus’ prayer, they’re at the heart of God’s kingdom. And these are the things our world so desperately needs. Provision for all of humanity’s most basic needs, not hoarding what we don’t need but sharing with all. Forgiveness of harms done against each other, not perpetuating the cycles of violence and vengeance. Protection from suffering and evil, especially for the most vulnerable, the most innocent in our world.

Centered on God, Focused on God’s Kingdom

Jesus’ prayer ends right where it began, centered on God, focused on God’s kingdom:

For the kingdom and the power and the glory
are yours forever. Amen.

We think these are ours, or we strive to achieve them. Having power over other people, over our circumstances. Our will being done, getting things our way. Receiving honour, fame, glory for how great we are, how good we are.

Yet these things are God’s, not ours. And it’s a good thing, too, because we humans have shown time and again that whenever we build our own kingdoms or pursue our own power or seek our own glory, we only increase the evil and suffering of this world.

God shows us a different way in Jesus: building a kingdom through self-giving love for the other, through weakness and humility. And it is only in this way that a kingdom can be built that will last forever, a kingdom of love, and life, and justice, and peace.

May God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Starting with you and me, right now, following in Jesus’ footsteps, shaped by this very prayer.

Check out “The Lord’s Prayer for All People,” an expanded version of the Lord’s Prayer I wrote last year which highlights these themes. Cross-posted from http://www.mordenmennonitechurch.wordpress.com. © Michael W. Pahl.

The Lord’s Prayer for All People

Tissot - Lord's PrayerOur Father in heaven,
in whose image
all people have been created,
hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
your kingdom without borders,
your will for justice and peace,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread,
all of us throughout the world,
just what we need,
just when we need it,
grace to give when we have more,
grace to receive when we have less.

Forgive us our sins,
each of us, both us and them,
as we forgive those who sin against us,
every one, neighbour and enemy.

Save us all—but especially the vulnerable—
from the time of trial,
the sufferings of this life,
and deliver us all—but especially the innocent—
from the evil
that plagues our world.

For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
—not ours, never ours—
now and for ever. Amen.

This rendition of the Lord’s Prayer was written for the August 3, 2014, worship service at Morden Mennonite Church. See also my later post on “The Lord’s Prayer.” Cross-posted from http://www.mordenmennonitechurch.wordpress.com. © Michael W. Pahl.