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Monday, March 24, 2014

Kingdom of Love

It's that time, again.  Another religious post.  Again, if you do not care to read my religious post, feel free to skip on to Part 4 of The Dark Crystal, where we'll meet the antagonist.  I am also working on other short stories, so in a month or so those will return as well!  I am going to be submitting a piece to yet another Ultreia INK Write Night, so if you all think one of my short stories is outstanding (or at least better than the others), please leave a comment below and let me know!  Now onto the religious post!  I promise they will be short.

We had two sermons these past two weeks that got me thinking, and I just wanted to share my insights.  The first is about The Lord's Prayer.

Every good Christian should know at least some version of the Lord's Prayer.  All of them include (and are quite possibly the quintessential examples of) the 4 tenants of prayer: Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (ACTS).  If you are not familiar with these terms, I will break them down.  Adoration is praising God ("hallowed be thy name!")  Contrition is expressing sorrow and asking forgiveness of sins ("forgive us our trespasses").  Thanksgiving is... well, giving thanks (OK, I'll admit, this one is hard to find in here, but it is feasible that "as we forgive those who trespass against us" is thanking God for that opportunity).  Supplication is asking God for things ("Give us this day our daily bread").  This is the one I grew up with:

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 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 forever and ever.  Amen.

You may remember this from Matthew 6:9-13 or Luke 11:2-4.  This version includes the added doxology at the end, though my days in Catholic school got me used to eliminating that final statement.  And I never did understand why there is such a fight over the use of "trespasses" or "debtors."  Personally, I think Luke's "sin" is best.

But I digress.  Time to explain that asterisk.  It really does bug me when I see one that has no accompanying explanation.

* Thy Kingdom Come.  This is often called the "Second Petition."  But what does this mean?  Are we asking God's Kingdom to come down to Earth, much like Zion in the Revelation to John?  Is it a plea to allow the peace and understanding of God to come into our daily lives?  Perhaps it is one of these, perhaps it is both.  Or perhaps this is not some passive thing.  In all my years, I've always assumed (and gotten the impression from others) that this is part of supplication, asking God for something.  But what if this is adoration?  What if I am proclaiming it, not as something I wish to ask of God, but as something I wish to announce to God!  "Thy Kingdom Come" is a call to action.  After all, this is the prayer Jesus gave us as an example of how we should pray to God.  We have also been told that faith without action is nothing.  So perhaps the same is true for prayer.  We shouldn't simply pray for God to make changes in our lives and then sit back and wait.  We need to then take the initiative and do it!  Increasingly, God's miracles, God's acts, are not things that happen to us, but things that we make happen, things that happen through us.


This brings me to the second part of this post.  This week we had a guest lecturer, Rev. Scott Gunn of Forward Movement.  This is the group that makes Forward Day By Day, Lenten Madness (my money is on J.S. Bach, but I'm secretly hoping for St. John of the Cross), and countless other books and curricula for the Anglican Communion.  I liked listening to him a lot and I may see if I can write some of the meditations for Forward Day By Day, if they will let a talentless blogger with an audience of 60 in.

In his sermon today, he spoke of God's love bringing happiness.  And that, as per the norm, got me thinking.  First of all, I want to point out that there is a difference between "happiness" and "joy."  Joy is more a state of happiness, an everlasting happiness.  It is the opposite of despair, which is like a state of extreme sadness and despondency.  Happiness, that elusive emotion we all strive for, can come from many things, but most of those things boil down to some form of love.  This could be love of money or nice things (which would result in a shallow, short happiness), love of a friend (which would result in a much greater happiness), or even love of a spouse or child (which can lead to a deep, profound happiness).  But what happens when that love is taken away?  Things break.  People move away and die.  Are you really "loving" that person any longer if they are dead?  To love someone means you put their needs first, but dead people have no needs, beyond perhaps prayer.  I know this can be hard to understand or hear.  And on the other side, it is nearly impossible to feel and see the love of someone who is dead; they do not interact with us excepting in cases of rare miracles. The longer that person is gone, the more out of mind they will become, which is all part of the healing process.  They may always be a part of you and change who you are, but they are still gone.  So, in a sense, the happiness that comes from love is not permanent.

God's love, however, which is called "agape," is permanent.  It is knowing this love that can cause true Joy.  But how do we sense it or know it?  It's not like we can just walk up to God and get a hug, is it?  Well, there is something to be said about sharing a hug with a stranger, or even a friend.  It means even more to listen to someone in distress, to share a meal with a homeless man, to be a friend to those in jail who have no friends, or to give your coat to someone who has none.  To know God's love means to express it, to live it.  It is not the same as the other types of love, which can be appreciated without action on our part.  To appreciate agape (which, I'm sure many a theologian will tell me is actually impossible), we have to share our love with others.  For if God is love, then sharing love with all those around us is sharing God's love and sharing the joy that can come with it.

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