Not just in family terms, but we have our faith ancestors. The social worker who intervened at just the right time. The coach who wouldn’t give up. The Aunt who took you under her wing. Or whoever it was who took a faith-filled step that they were doing the right thing. We are all spiritual heirs to someone, or several someones.
Maybe the Garden of Eden represents the truth of who we are, who we really are— created in love, created to delight in the world, created to commune with God and care for one another and for the earth itself. Maybe the task of faith is to push us past shame and fear and back to that sacred place from which we came.
What I mean by that is that most of us have not been a part of a social movement in which we have to make a strategic choice about whether or not to employ violence in an action. Most of us face this choice on a daily, personal level. Our temptation to do violence is in the little things. To practice thoughtful compassion or reactive anger. “The devil is in the details,” so to speak.
What strikes me about all these different kinds of debt is the cyclical nature of it all. People get locked into these cycles and things spiral out of control. That’s why the image of debt for sin is such a powerful one. We don’t just owe one thing, the charges keep adding up, no matter how hard we try to pay down the balance. The “interest” accrues, so to speak.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Daily means there is enough for today. And by extension, tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And “us” means everyone. This line in the prayer is a plea for the reality of God’s reign to make itself manifest now, that there may be enough for everyone and everybody all the time.
So this is my challenge—consider it homework. Let’s take the Lord’s Prayer, whether it’s from the versions in our memory or the Bible, and put it into our own words. Let’s think about what these words mean for the big picture and the small picture. Let’s contemplate our lives—what are personal hopes are, our dreams, our fears; let’s read or watch the news, and then put all of that into conversation with these ancient words by paraphrasing them.
Human beings are stewards, not owners, of the planet entrusted to our care. God delights in creation, made it beautiful and complex, and invites us to relish how interconnected and interdependent we are with it. In the words of the Psalmist, “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants too.”
This week’s question was emailed in: “Dear Bart, I would be very interested in hearing an informed discussion of Miracles and their place in current Jewish/Christian practice… a. What purpose did miracles serve for authors of the bible? b. Does the Christian Faith require belief in miracles?
So where to begin? For Israel, it began with a promise from God and reinforced with a covenant. God would bless and Israel would serve and love. For us it begins in baptism, claimed as the beloved children of God. There is nothing we can do to erase that beloved status and no circumstance can or will change it. Our story begins with love.
I believe it means that we act out of the understanding that we are all interwoven. And because of that truth, we then have to push beyond our own egos and desire for selfpreservation to identify with and care for the most vulnerable in our world our very neighbors. Seeing Christ in the other means to be surprised by God in our encounters with others. And I think it’s just as easy and as hard as that sounds.