Friday, August 5, 2016

Big Words: Our Father

This year's tennis devotional theme revolves around the Lord's Prayer. This is a prayer that is found in the Biblical books of Matthew and Luke, two of the four stories we have of Jesus' life on earth. In these stories, Jesus's followers are wondering how to pray and Jesus uses this prayer as his instruction and example to them.

"This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father, in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debtors,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one."

In a series of blog posts over the next two months, as well as in practices and exercises, we will be unpacking the "big words" of this prayer and the "big ideas" that they bring to light. When we say "big words," we're really talking about words that are packed with layer upon layer of delicious meaning. These are words that have big impact on our lives, the hows and whys of living. Today, we will unpack the first words, "Our Father."

It is not about you.
The first word of Jesus' example prayer reminds us of something that is mightily important. In prayer, in tennis, in life, in whatever we do - it is not about you, singular. Instead, from the very beginning, we are reminded by these two words that our focus throughout life is to be on two things outside of ourselves.

First of all, the focus is to be upon God. But not just randomly because God says so. Instead, our focus is to be on God because God is in loving relationship with us. God is like a wonderful father, loving, supporting, and giving. And because this is the relationship that God is calling us into, we are invited to respond with love to him. In other words, we make our lives about what is important to God.

Secondly, once we've focused on God we find out that their is another word here, with a meaning just as deep as "father." It's the word "our." Notice that Jesus does not say "my father." Instead, he shifts the focus from the individual to the group. To the community. To the family. God is "our Father," the one who loves all of us. And so our attention should shift to those who are standing beside us.

So, the first two words tell us, it's not about me - instead it is about God and the people God is reaching out to.

Stop freaking out!
In tennis, in life, we often put far too much pressure on ourselves because we begin to think that we have to do it (whatever it is - win this match, not choke, finish this assignment, get the high grades, whatever) all by ourselves. And we often think of the benefits as only being for ourselves. I win my match = I am happy. I get pizza = I am happy.

But God is relational, as these first two words of Jesus' instructive prayer remind us. God wants us to lift our gaze beyond ourselves and become relational too. For our thoughts to not just be freaking out around whether or not "I can do it!" but instead to start focusing on whether "We can do it." That we should include us, God's people, and God himself!

Thinking of Moses and the burning bush. Moses is asked by God to go and tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Moses immediately contemplates whether he can do it or not. Then he freaks out and complains to God, saying that Moses is not good enough to complete the task. God responds by reminding Moses that he won't be doing it alone - God will be with him, and actually God has called his brother Aaron to be with him too!

When we lift our focus to what God is doing, we find that we are never alone in what we are trying to do. There are people that God has placed all around us waiting to help. There are people all around us that God is wanting us to help. And there in the middle is God's Spirit, leading all who will listen. So we can stop freaking out, because it doesn't all depend on us.

Our Father reminds us, we're in a family.
Jesus' words, the choosing of the word "father" to describe and address God, drive home the idea that we are a family. Those of us, who choose to gather round each other, we are in the midst of something pretty special and extremely joyful. We are family.

Let's just rest in that, to begin. We'll move on to other big words soon this season. But let's take time to repeat this to ourselves.

It's not about me. 
I am not alone.
Our Father is with me.
God has placed others around me.
We are family.

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