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Thoughts from Pastor Matt…

Pastor Matt

By the time you read this, we’ll be beginning our journey through the season of Lent, that period of 40 days (plus 6 Sundays) before Easter.  “A gift of faith from ages past,” as it is called in one of the hymns for the season, Lent always comes to us as an invitation to re-center ourselves, our lives, and our prayers around the core matters of our faith and our identity in God.  “At the heart of the Christian faith is our participation in the life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ as Lord”[1]—so wrote the authors of the classic Protestant liturgical guide Handbook of the Christian Year.  Of course, this core should infuse our faith, our life, and our worship throughout the year, but Lent gives us a special nudge to reground ourselves in it as we approach the Easter celebration.

When we talk about re-centering ourselves on the core things of our faith, it’s not always the easiest to zero in on just what it is we mean by that in our tradition.  After all, we’re not a people who recite a “creed” or other authoritative statement of our faith on any regular basis.  But there is one set of words we do speak together each and every Sunday when we gather for worship:  the Lord’s Prayer.  This prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and followers, as recorded in both Matthew and Luke (albeit with variances between the two), remains a fixture in worship services even for us, who jettisoned most forms of fixed liturgy at the time of the Protestant Reformation.  After all, even for those Puritans who wanted to rid worship of “rote recitation”, it was pretty hard to argue with Jesus himself saying, “Pray, then, in this way.”  And so, together with billions of Christians all around the world, we do indeed still “pray … in this way” by praying together the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer stands pretty well as a symbol of what is central to our faith as Christians.  In praying this prayer, we touch on submission, holiness, God’s providence, forgiveness, salvation, ultimate hope, and more.  But it isn’t even that the Lord’s Prayer is a convenient statement of what we believe, although that it may be.  Rather, as Wil Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas put it, “This prayer is not for getting what we want but rather for bending our wants toward what God wants.”  And what, my friends, could be more emblematic of the Christian journey—and the self-examining, re-orienting journey of the season of Lent—than that?!

As you may have figured out from the worship schedule on the front of this issue of The Carillon, we’ll be taking up the Lord’s Prayer as our focus for worship and preaching across the weeks of Lent this year.  Each week’s worship service will feature one of the petitions of the prayer as its theme, guiding the topic of the sermon and even the selection of scripture readings for the day (yes, we’re taking a little detour from our usual use of the Revised Common Lectionary for this season).  Our children’s formation ministry will be oriented around the prayer, too, with activities each week in our PrayGround that connect with the week’s theme and a special go-out-of-worship ‘Sunday School’ session on March 8th for exploring prayer.  In addition, each week’s service will include, together with our usual praying of the “traditional” version of the prayer, the speaking of another more contemporary translation or interpretation of the prayer, opening up further horizons of meaning.  Likewise, each week’s service will also include a different musical setting of the prayer—ranging from that cherished ol’ solo setting by Albert Malotte (which isn’t actually all that old, having been written in 1935) to a folk-hymn style song and even a contemporary piece that comes to us from Arabic-speaking Christians in the Middle East.

As we journey through the Lord’s Prayer over the next six weeks, I hope that it serves as an avenue to your own deepening in prayer, even as it provokes wonder and question, too.  In all of these ways, may we discover anew these words that change our world.

Yours in the journey,

[1] Hoyt L. Hickman, Don E. Saliers, Laurence Hull Stookey, & James F. White, The New Handbook of the Christian Year (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1992), 105.

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