A little late but here is my sermon from the 19th of February for a Lenten Feria day Eucharist in Christ Chapel at Seminary of the Southwest…
Text: Matthew 6:7-15
“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
In our tradition we have many prayers.
We have prayers that we learned as small children.
“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; but if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
We have prayers that for much our lives we only heard once a week.
“Lord, we pray that in your goodness and mercy your Holy
Spirit may descend upon us, and upon these gifts, sanctifying
them and showing them to be holy gifts for your holy people,
the bread of life and the cup of salvation, the Body and Blood
of your Son Jesus Christ.
Grant that all who share this bread and cup may become one
body and one spirit, a living sacrifice in Christ, to the praise
of your Name.”
We have prayers that we say once a day.
“Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.”
We have prayers that we say multiple times a day.
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.”
We have prayers that we pray almost continuously.
“Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.”
We have prayers that we do not pray nearly enough.
But there is one prayer that Jesus of Nazareth gave to us.
“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.”
This is perhaps the first prayer that we learn to pray.
There is so very much within this simple prayer that given a life to ponder nothing more than it, I do not think that we should ever completely grasp the power of these fifty-eight words.
Father Alexander Schmemann has a small book where he breaks the Our Father down into eight petitions, now there is not time today to speak about each part of this prayer, but there are three that I think are especially important during this season of Lent.
The first, “Our Father in heaven.” One of the most amazing things to me about this prayer that Jesus gave to all of us, is how personal it is. Our Father. Abba. Amma. Papa. This is not a prayer addressed to a God that is removed from us, this is a prayer addressed to our parent. A parent whose only desire is for us to be drawn into their being and to feel their love. During this time in the wilderness, even though we may not see or feel the presence of God, our loving parent is there with us.
The second, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This parent, our God will provide for us. As we fast and cut out excesses during this time of Lent, God will provide all of the nourishment that we need. As our reliance on the earthly and temporal pass away, the God sized hole in our hearts will be filled and our cups will runneth over.
The third, “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” I have found in my life that frequently the only thing keeping me from the fullest relationship with God that is possible… is me. I have been, and perhaps you as well have been your own worst enemy, the one thing that is separating us from the love of God. As Saint Brendan said, “You are the veil that hides the paradise you seek.’ As we walk the pilgrim road that is our journey in faith, we must let God remove the stumbling block from our path. We must be quiet and listen for the heartbeat of God, the heartbeat of our Mother, the heartbeat of ourselves.
For as the Apostle Paul said “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” This prayer that Jesus gave to us serves to draw us fuller into the life of God. God is not far away from us, God is beside us. God is not something we want, God is something that we need. God is not the end of the pilgrimage, God is the pilgrimage.
Now I ask you sisters and brothers to stand, to take the hand of the person nearest to you, and join me as we pray; Our Father…