Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Lord’s Prayer….Who Art in Heaven

My wife has gotten used it, I suppose, after all these years—she’s had to–but I am always moving things in the house around—pictures, furniture, little objects—always searching for the right place for them. Consequently nothing in our house stays put. It must be annoying for her, but she doesn’t complain about it—just as she doesn’t complain about the many other annoying things I do. But I can’t help it. There is something in me that is always looking for the right place for things—because there just has to be one. In this world things all have a place, but not heaven.

Heaven is placeless. We have to really stretch our minds to imagine that, because everything else in our experience has a locality, a spot where it is and where it stays unless someone comes along and moves it to a different place.

But God is not in any one place–though we may sense his immediate presence in certain Holy Places. He is present in all places and in all times. He is present at your birth, at every moment of your life, and at your death. Heaven is right here. Right now. Everywhere. Because heaven is not a place, not even a spiritual plane or anything woozy like that. Heaven is the proximity of God to us—his there-ness. He is more completely where you are than where you are.

So when we think of heaven we should imagine a door with no lock and no hinges in a wall that isn’t a wall but the thinnest imaginable veil. And the door in that wall stands always open. You can step into heaven as easily as you step through your bedroom door, more easily in fact. Just say “our Father” and you are there. Because what we do when we pray is step through that door in the wall that is no wall into the place that is no place.

And this is not a just a game of words. Heaven is the profoundest reality of our lives. It is our profoundest comfort when we are struggling to be able to step in heaven. In the place where I am right now, the nearness of heaven is what keeps me going. I know I can step through the door at any time.

And perfect sign of the here-ness of heaven is that story in scripture which says that at the moment that Jesus died, the curtain of the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn in two, cut as with a knife. Heaven broke into our mortal world. God came near enough to suffer and die with Jesus. And now there is no barrier between us and him. There is no place holier than any other. Because of the death of Jesus Christ heaven is with us, equally and completely present at all times. And the door is always open.

People often talk about heaven as their “home,” and in the profoundest sense it is just exactly that. It is where we really belong while we live out our lives in all the other places. All the while we go from one place to another heaven enfolds us. And when we walk through that door for that last time in the light of God’s presence we will recognize heaven as the place where we always truly belonged.

 

 

 

 

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The Lord’s Prayer….”Our Father”

 

I say it with shame and great sorrow, some fathers aren’t worth the powder to blow. Scallywags! Nothing but! By their wanton neglect and their cruelties great and small they have succeeded in poisoning the name of “father” for countless souls, who as a consequence have lifelong problems finding their way to the One Jesus tenderly called “our Father.”

But for every bad egg there are a so many others who, according to the grace they are given, manage to present an image of God the Father here on earth. I am always being amazed at the fatherliness of fathers. I see those little incarnations of God the Father being transacted everywhere, scenes of men dealing tenderly with children. We all see so many examples of fatherly gentleness for us to begin to catalogue them.

But to take one example from close to home—the other day I got a call from my son Paul, who was on the road somewhere between Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee. I asked what he was doing to pass the time, and he replied that he was practicing the harmonica–all alone in the car. Of course, all alone is exactly where the harmonica should be practiced. But since he has never in the past shown any interest or aptitude for musical performance I Just had to ask—Why? And specifically–Why the harmonica of all instruments?

His answer reflected that marvelous, miraculous fatherliness we so often see played out in the lives of ordinary men. Paul’s nine-month-old son Clayton is delighted by harmonica music. Imagine that! So his father—who like all Roens is totally without any single ounce of musical talent—has determined that he should learn that most demanding of instruments strictly to delight his child.

I am still shaking my head with wonder as I write this. I can only hope was that Paul was keeping both his eyes on the road and at least one hand on the wheel while he is practicing “Turkey in the Straw.” And I also hope that Clayton never tires of harmonica music. But even if he does, whenever he hears it will always sing “daddy” to him.

So from this little example I return to my ordinal point—There are so many fathers who manage in so many small and inestimably precious ways to represent the image of God the Father here on earth. And God the Father was even willing to undertake of new skill for us—being human. That is the meaning of the incarnation we confess—God became like us in Jesus Christ and learned to live out our fleshly existence with all its highs notes and lows not just to delight us but in order to save us from despair and death. He didn’t just learn to play the harmonica—difficult enough–he learned to play the cross for us. And he more than performed for us–in Jesus Christ his only Son, who was himself the very form and likeness of fatherly love, God actually died.

Who can grasp that mystery!

It is the most astonishing demonstration of fatherliness of all. God died for our humanity without exception to make us his daughters and sons. That is the basis upon which we call upon him in the prayer we call “The Lord’s” as father, because he sacrificed of both himself and his own only begotten Son for us.

What a thought to ponder!

So God our Father sums up all the faithfulness and gentleness and sacrificial love of every single earthly father and then adds to it an eternal commitment to us his children. He says–I will love you even when you forget me. When you turn your back on me I will love you. I will love you when your body turn to dust. You will still be my own. And I will always hear your voice calling out to me—and upon that eternal commitment to hear and answer that we are able to pray—Our Father…..

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