Clouds and darkness are round about him, * righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne [on earth as in heaven].
Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous * and give thanks to his holy [, hallowed] Name. –Psalm 97: 2, 12
If your prayer life is anything like my own, you will have found that our praying lives are often littered with ever shifting seasons, fresh insights, old wounds that continue to sting, and ever expanding and contracting horizons of the heart. Perhaps, too, you will have found that even the most familiar phenomena can take on new valences and, to our surprise, unveil themselves in a beautiful complexity to which we had previously been blind. The ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ from which our gospel pericope comes this morning, has often been for me a site of this very ‘unraveling of the familiar’—a place where the real limitations of our spiritual vision meet the scandalous, expansive, sometimes terrifying truth at the heart of all things.
For many of us, the words of the Lord’s prayer contain an inestimable, unqualifiable freight. These words—so dear, so familiar, so second-nature—stir the gaze of our hearts toward the One whom Jesus invites us to name “Our Father,” and articulate in six remarkably short petitions some of the deepest content of the “hope that is in us.” And yet, as with anything we live in close proximity to, the very familiarity of these words can sometimes obscure this prayer’s true power to transform us and its radical challenge that seeks to summon us beyond our illusory sense of self-dependence.
Isaiah 62: 6-1
Titus 3: 4-7
Luke 2: 1-20
Perhaps this has happened to you. As a child, or even as an adult, you read a book and it quickly became one of your favourites. Maybe you read it several times. With each reading you developed a mental picture of what the people looked like. Maybe this mental image of yours included details such as the look and feel of the surroundings, the house, the room, the landscape. Perhaps you could even see what the characters wore or ate. Maybe your mental picture of the book was pretty detailed. Perhaps it was quite simple. In either case you had an image, a feel that brought the book alive for you, and you could literally see and smell it all.
And then you saw the movie. And boy were you disappointed. The people looked all wrong. The house was not as you imagined it. Important details were left out. Or things were put in the wrong order. And where on earth did that character come from? They weren’t in the book.