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 lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power,
And the glory forever.
Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)
Our early morning centering prayer ended in its typical way—with the Lord’s Prayer. This thirty-minute-sit was followed by the gentle voice of our friend speaking the prayer that is dear to all of us. What a wonderful way to begin the week!
N.T. Wright, the New Testament scholar, teaches that the Lord’s Prayer offers a summation of the ministry of Jesus. His book The Lord and His Prayer is a small yet rich resource. A nugget I found in this read was his thoughts on the opening of the prayer–“Our Father.” Wright discusses the manner in which the word “Father” denotes so much more than the image of daddy that is taught in some circles. In early Jewish times, sons were apprenticed by their fathers to enter into their trade. From an early age, a son would watch his father work and imitate that work. When he had a question, he asked his father or watched his father deal with a similar situation.
When Jesus called God “Father,” he was portraying that he was being groomed in the work of his father. He was being apprenticed. An example given by Wright is when Jesus is praying in the garden of Gethsemane. He’s asking “Dad, is this really the way?” “Is this how it needs to be done?” He was not crazy about the path but followed in obedience. Thus, when he is teaching his disciples to pray, he invites them into an apprentice relationship. By calling God “Father,” we are expressing that we are entering into God’s work. We are going to watch, listen for instruction, and ask questions that will help us best follow in the footsteps of God. Of course, we recognize that we cannot possibly fit in these footsteps nor match the stride, but like children eager to be like a parent, we make our best attempt.
This invitation was brought to mind recently when I was in a situation in which I felt I was not being valued. I have wrestled with the desire to be respected my entire life. It is certainly a thorn in the flesh and a weakness that God repeatedly brings to my attention. In this particular situation I wondered why I was not being asked to take on a leadership role. I was certainly capable! The prompt I was given with this frustration was again to enter into the Lord’s work of loving this world. How silly of me to feel slighted! I do not need another leadership position, ha! What needed to happen in this situation was that I needed to let go of my own importance and be an instrument of love in the lives of these people. That is all God is requiring of me in response. I have not felt a call to anything else and I do have a beginner’s knowledge about how to love.
It brought to mind the Passover meal before the death of our Lord when he told his disciples to serve each other. He told them not to Lord it over each other, but to follow his example as he washed their feet. I so love Peter and his reaction. “No Lord, you will never wash my feet!” He knew better than our Lord and was not going to allow Jesus to serve him. And Jesus response (it so often was direct with Peter) “Unless I wash you, you will have no part of me!” At this point, it might have been wise to meekly submit, but Peter persists. “Then Lord, not just my feet, but my hands and head as well!”
On a recent silent retreat, Peter was a companion with me throughout the week. God was bringing pride to my attention, along with a deep sense of unworthiness. I oscillated between these themes as I wondered why God was still willing to use me as an instrument when I was so filled with pride. The structure of my annual silent retreat is that I am in silence for all but my daily meeting with my spiritual director. At the beginning of the week I share what is on my heart and what has been going on in my life and then we meet daily to process what God is doing with me. The director offers scripture with which I can pray—typically from the psalms and the gospels. On this occasion, he suggested I spend time with an earlier conversation of the above-mentioned Passover scene in John 12.
33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
Peter is impetuous and full of pride. “Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” He again knows better than Jesus how things should go.
I love Peter’s heart. He truly loves the Lord and does not want to be parted from him. Yet, moving forward with obedience may mean that it does not go the way I envision. We know how the story goes. Peter denies Jesus THREE times. He is heartbroken at his failure. He has been brought face to face with both his pride and unworthiness. This is terrible for Peter, but wonderful for me when I am facing the same struggle. What a grace to have this passage of scripture to show me that even Peter, the Rock, wrestled in a manner similar to that of my experience.
After this passage, the director led me to the breakfast scene after Jesus rose from the dead in John 21.
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
What I found in this text is Peter’s redemption and mine as well. The message that I was given is my time alone with this passage is that what Christ wants of me is to be his instrument. It is not a grand show of love for Christ, but a simple invitation. If you love me, love the world. It is the message of a Father to an apprentice—“Follow in my footsteps by joining me in the work of loving the world.”
Grace and peace to you,