Core Sunday Gathering

August 7, 2011

Avinu – The Prayer of Jesus

-Pass out as many Bibles as possible.

        -Let’s all turn to two places: Matthew 6 and Luke 11

        -Assign Scripture: Luke 11:1 It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples."

-As you may have noticed, we’re beginning a series this week on the Lord’s Prayer.

        -[SLIDE] “Avinu” is Hebrew for “Our Father”. “Av” = father (like in Avraham) “enu” or “inu” is 1st-person plural suffix

-I know it’s pretty old-fashioned to just drag the scripture out right off the bat.

        -But let’s not call it old-fashioned. Let’s call it Retro. Or Vintage.

        -Our generation of Christians has been through a lot of upheaval.

                -And a lot of disillusionment with the Church… even in the Bible itself.

                -When you’re in a room with that stigma is at high levels, you just can’t do a series on the Lord’s Prayer

                        -Because nobody would listen. It’s stuffy, it’s boring. it’s old-fashioned.

                -But I believe we’ve turned a corner… that there’s a renewed hunger for what Jesus really said, and meant.

                        -And what it takes to be just like him.

                -Although it doesn’t hurt that it’s also an easy way to rebel against the rebels. Against “boomer entertainment”

                        -[SLIDES] Isn’t that why hipsters are wearing mustaches now?

                        -It’s just dorky enough to count as hip. But I think I must have been doing it wrong.

-So we’re going to dig pretty deep into The Lord’s Prayer over the next 5 or 6 weeks.

-But at the moment, we’ve got Luke 11:1 hanging out there

        -Where Jesus’ disciples ask him to teach them how to pray.

        -When I read this, I had a few questions about it, questions that begged answers.

                -Question: What Questions come up in your mind when you read this verse?

                -I got a Where, a What, and a Why.

                -Where was the “certain place” that Jesus was praying?

                -What teaching on prayer did John the Baptist have for his disciples?

                -Why did Jesus’ disciples choose this moment to ask him this question?

                        -The sad thing is that I don’t have any answers to these questions.

                        -But I think they’re all worth asking… especially that last one.

                -I don’t think it’s that Jesus’ disciples want to know John’s teaching.

                        -I think they’re saying “John taught his disciples to pray like he prayed.  Teach US to pray like YOU pray.

                        -Your connection with God is even stronger than John’s. Teach us how to have that connection.”

                        -And this is what Jesus wants… he wants us to watch him praying and long to have what he has.

-So Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, and he prefaces that with words found in Matthew, but not in Luke:

        -Read Matthew 6: 5 "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

        -You get the idea from this that Jesus is saying: Don’t pray like anyone else. Be a rebel… don’t conform.

        -But it’s not the case. Virtually all of Jesus’ teachings are rooted in his Jewish heritage, but with a twist.

                -Or, if you will, an UN-twist. He is taking what’s been twisted and straightening it out again.

                        ASK FOR A VOLUNTEER: [Plug a microphone into the box, with a severely tangled-up cord.]

                        [ask a volunteer to pick up the mic, and bring it down to a stool next to me to read more scripture]

                        [when volunteer complains about cord, ask if the microphone works. It does.]

                        -The connection is still good. It works, but there’s no freedom. The usefulness of the mic is very limited.

                -[SLIDE] If that were a hose instead of a cord, the tangles might be so bad as to produce kinks

                        -Which would stop the flow completely.

                        -The Pharisees teachings didn’t sever the connection with God,

                        -but they sucked the freedom out of it, and made it as lame as a five-foot hose.

                                -and some of the teachings were so bad that they stopped the flow of the God’s Spirit entirely.

                        -So much of Jesus’ teaching works to unravel that hose or that cord… to untwist it and restore freedom.

                        -He doesn’t throw away a perfectly good hose, with a good connection to the source.

        -So even though Jesus says “Don’t pray like the hypocrites”, which were the teachers of Jewish law,

                -He bases his prayer teaching on the most common prayer of Judaism: the Amidah

-The Amidah is 18 verses long, and Jews were expected to recite it once a day.

        -Jesus prayed these 18 verses every day. His disciples prayed them every day. Still, something was missing.

        -But they knew the key was not in praying more, it was in finding the golden thread amongst it all.

-RECITE TOGETHER THE 1st VERSE OF AMIDAH

[SLIDES] Blessed are you, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the great, mighty and revered God, the Most High God who bestows lovingkindnesses, the creator of all things, who remembers the good deeds of the patriarchs and in love will bring a redeemer to their children's children for his name's sake. O king, helper, savior and shield. Blessed are you, O Lord, the shield of Abraham.

-Question: Do you see the words of the first line of the Lord’s Prayer in here?

-Assign Scripture - Matthew 6:9 "This, then, is how you should pray: " 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name

        -It’s implied there in the Amidah, addressing God as Holy: as mighty and revered, as “Most High”

        -But what about this “Our Father” business? Where does the phrase “our father” appear in the Amidah?

                -In “God of OUR FATHERS”

        -Who is “Our Father” here? Abraham! The Most High God cannot be considered our Father, and certainly not Abba!

                -It’s true that Jesus is the Son of God, so it makes sense that he would call God Father  - “Avinu”

                -But he is telling US to do it, too! What kind of nerve is this?

                        -[SLIDE] If the disciples were texting, you’d see a lot of “WTF?”

                -You and I are accustomed to it, even complacent about it, but in Near-Eastern culture it’s out of the question.

                -Islam has a specific warning against using human terms like this to address God

                        -that’s why Muslims will refer to Allah with adjectives like merciful, or all-powerful, or all-knowing

                        -but hardly ever with nouns, and certainly not personal ones, like Father.

                -We may disagree with Islam on this point, but we still need to take this warning seriously.

        -Close your eyes (if they’re not already closed.) Now picture God the Father. Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth.

                -[SLIDES] Now open your eyes. Did you see Abraham? Or Moses? Or perhaps  Zeus? Or Gandalf?

                        -or maybe you saw Michelangelo’s rendition of God?

                -And it’s so tempting to let these heroes to take the place of God. Even in the church today:

                        -Billy Graham. The Pope. Mother Theresa. It’s much easier to worship a person than a Spirit.

                -Jesus knows this. So in the midst of radicalizing our view of intimacy and familiarity with God

                        -He qualifies it: Our Father, WHO IS IN HEAVEN.

-And we’ll see this juxtaposition throughout the Prayer of Jesus these few weeks

        -Personal, intimate requests for provision and help

        -Alongside vaulted praises and lofty tributes.

        -I hope you’re as stunned by this as I am. God may be utterly astounding because of his power and immensity

                -But he is many times more astounding because he has chosen to become small… for us.

                -The primary danger of being accessible to us was that his OWN NAME would suffer and lose its power

                -But he was willing to take that tremendous risk because he had to bridge the gap between us.

        -When you see a movie with an Angel becoming human, or an immortal elf relinquishing her immortality

                -or a King abdicating his throne for the sake of true love… none of it even compares to this.

                -The Almighty God risked it all on you. Knowing that you might reject him.

        -So that if you know this to be true… you have to respond. With devotion. With love. With worship.

                -And never lose our wonder at the power of the phrase “Our Father in Heaven…”