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.
Maybe another way to understand idolatry is to ponder and maybe rank our loves. What do we care about the most or what is most important to us? In what or whom do we place our ultimate trust and confidence? What do we worship? How are these truths evident in our lives in how we spend our time, energy, and resources?
Paul’s aim is not a strategy, but to lay out a basic truth: giving is an act of grace. We respond in gratitude for what God has done for us. When we give, we trust that God works through our offerings. As people of faith, we give as a spiritual discipline, as a practice of regularly returning thanks for all we’ve received. We pledge specifically to the church because we believe in the work that goes on here.
One angle on the gospel is this: the relationship between God and humanity has been repaired, which leads to the repair of relationships among people. In light of all this, we are called to be a part of that repair with our love and compassion, to be the kind of people who resist divisiveness, especially division based on hatred, ignorance, and fear. The LGBTQ community itself has a term for this: ally.
“So our goal is to be acceptable to [God], whether we are at home or away from home. We all must appear before Christ in court so that each person can be paid back for the things that were done while in the body, whether they were good or bad.” Out of the body or in the body, it’s all about how you live.
It’s as if Paul is saying, “Yes, this is hard, really hard, trying to live out the love and message of Jesus. Yes, we face opposition, we risk failure, we’ve tasted defeat, for sure… but we keep going. We have faith along this journey because we know it’s God at work within us. We’re not running on our own steam here. We are instruments of God’s grace.