This week the lectionary reading includes Jesus' instruction to the disciples as to how to pray (Luke 11:1-4). Over the years, the prayer has been translated in various ways so as to help people throughout differing time and cultures understand and appreciate the prayer as Jesus taught.One of my reactions to this was: But, the "Jesus Prayer" is "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." This is "The Lord's Prayer" (what I grew up knowing it as) or the "Our Father" (Catholic), and okay both of those are problematic from progressive feminist standpoints, and I get that it makes sense to call it the Jesus Prayer since it's how Jesus taught his disciples to pray, but the title "The Jesus Prayer" is already taken. And actually, "The Jesus Prayer" makes me think it's referring to the one time in Scripture we have a record of a prayer Jesus made (yes, I know we have record of more than one prayer of Jesus') so couldn't we call it the Disciple's Prayer?
The diverse versions, both translations and paraphrases, help us gain a new perspective on the traditional prayer and open ourselves to new interpretations. One of my favorite versions comes from the New Zealand Prayer Book:
What are some of your favorite versions and how do they speak to you?
I like changing stuff up because it forces people to actually think about what they're saying instead of just going on auto-pilot, but I also think there's value in saying stuff you've said a million times so you can really focus on the meaning of what you're saying -- and yeah, I think I just twitch at rewriting ancient texts.
I don't inherently have a problem with contemporary rewritings. Dean Walters posted about "Psalms for these days," and I really liked her rewritten Psalm -- "defend me against the chatter of my own mind."
Come Sunday, I went to CHPC and I followed along in the pew Bible (NRSV), and there were 3 glosses in the Lord's Prayer alone (see below) and the fact that we don't even have a single origin text made me feel a lot better about rewriting the text. (I'm really into changing stories -- e.g., fairytales, vampire mythos -- but when it comes to religious texts I'm much more attached to there being a single authoritative Truth.)
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.' 2He said to them, 'When you pray, say:
Father,[Other ancient authorities read Our Father in heaven] hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.[A few ancient authorities read Your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us. Other ancient authorities add Your will be done, on earth as in heaven]
3 Give us each day our daily bread.[Or our bread for tomorrow]
5 And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.'[Or us into temptation. Other ancient authorities add but rescue us from the evil one (or from evil)]
Tiffany posted about last night's benefit concert. (I wasn't inclined to go to begin with, and then I was tired. I feel no guilt.)
As I watched the people pour in to hear the bands, I noticed as they slyly picked up the pamphlets we left on the table. At first, they seemed nonchalant, not quite interested, but somewhat bored between sets. Then suddenly, as they read the words, you would watch surprise come over them. Could this be? A church that is open and affirming and progressive? Many folks would read and re-read the pamphlet and then turn and point it out to their friends.I'm so used to GLBT-inclusive churches that I'm always surprised by stories like this, even though when reminded of them I do understand how that could be someone's experience with Christianity.
Before service, Tiffany asked me if I wanted to read. I smiled and said of course I did. There was a bulletin insert with various rewritings of the Luke prayer, but I hadn't really looked at it yet, so when she asked if I wanted to read the such-and-such or the such-and-such, I said, "Um, I probably don't have a preference." She said this one version was kind of cheesy, and she needed someone who could read it without giggling, 'cause she giggles when she reads it. I skimmed it and said I would probably be fine. When she went to mark it in her copy of the bulletin, though, I realized I had been looking at the wrong one, and afterward when I looked at the one I had "volunteered" to read I was not at all sure I would be able to read it. Oops.
Prelude & Moment of Meditation:
"'Prayer,' the old definition read, was 'the raising of our hearts and minds to God.' As if God were some regal, distant judge outside ourselves. But science, with its new perception that matter and spirit are of a piece, sometimes particles, sometimes energy, assures us that God is not out there on a cloud somewhere, imperious and suspecting. God is the very energy that animates us. God is the spirit that leads us and drives us on. God is the voice within us calling us to life. God is the reality trying to come to fullness within us, both individually and together. It is to that cosmic God, that personal, inner, enkindling God, that we pray." - Sr. Joan ChittisterCall to Worship:
"Prayer is an activity of intimacy and awe and thus a model for all relationships; it is the language of the kingdom. It brings the gift of the Spirit." -William Loader
"Let prayer be brief so that in can begin." -St. Benedict
Come away for a moment.
Come and sit.
Come and listen for God.
Come and know the Divine dwelling in us. Come.
Opening Hymn: "Come Away With Me"
Tiffany talked about conversation and how you have to stay silent while the other person is talking -- we had a demonstration where we all talked at once -- and how prayer is like that; in her closing prayer she purposely included a few moments of silence.
Tiffany said we would stay seated for all the readings, and also that we should feel free to react however we wanted, that some of the readings she selected she found very powerful and others don't particularly speak to her, that some might move us to tears and others might make us want to giggle.
Gospel Lesson: Luke 11:1-4
Hymn: The Lord's Prayer (TFWS 2278)
The last time I heard the Lord's Prayer set to music I was so not into it, but I really like this one.
Eric and Will led us -- it's this nice thing where one line gets sung, and then sung again, but none of the icky overlapping of a round; so Eric and Will would sing a line and then the congregation would sing it.
"Our Maker / in heaven / holy is your name ... sins ... save us from the time of trial ..."
The whole thing was this lovely slow melodic, and then all in one line is a faster more upbeat "For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever" which I also liked. And then you repeat the "Our Maker / Our Maker // in heaven / in heaven" and close with "holy is your name."
Tallessyn read A Poetic Rendition of the Jesus Prayer by Mark Hathaway in Prayers of the Cosmos (Harper & Row, 1990)
O Divine Womb, birthing forth the river of blessing which runs through all,This was followed in the bulletin by "Quiet Meditation," so I was a bit worried as to how I was supposed to know how long to wait before reading my section, but then Tallessyn started playing the piano. I approved of that as a method for separating the readings (though I felt bad that she thus couldn't really meditate on the texts).
Soften the ground of our being, and hallow in us a space for the planting of thy presence.
In our depths, sow thy seed with its greening-power that we might be midwives to thy Reign.
Then, let each of our actions bear fruit in accordance with thy desire.
Impart to us the wisdom to bring forth the gifts of the earth and share them daily according to the needs of each being,
And restore that which has been usurped by injustice to its rightful owners, as we restore to others that which is not our own.
Do not let us be seduced by that which would divert us from our purpose, but make us sensitive to the moment at hand.
For from thy fertile soil is born the creativity, the life-energy, and the dance, from birthing to birthing. Ameyn.
I read The Jesus Prayer by Eugene Peterson in The Message:
Our God* in heaven,I was really worried about my ability to read this, but it actually came out fine, which I was very pleasantly surprised by. I read it seriously and kindly and gently, not with particular earnestness or vigor, but in a prayerful tone. (Not to imply that prayer can't be ecstatic or angry or hysterical or whatever, but you know what I mean.) Yeah, I was so glad it worked.
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what's best -- as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Ron and Tiffany read The Lord's Prayer With Spiritual Interpretation by Mary Baker Eddy (Ron read the plain-text sections, and Tiffany read the italicized):
Our Father which art in heaven,Quiet Meditation: "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"
Our Father-Mother God, all harmonious,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is heaven.
Enable us to know,--as in heaven, so on earth,--God is omnipotent, supreme.
Give us this day our daily bread;
Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections;
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And Love is reflected in love;
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;
And God leadeth us not into temptation, but delivereth us from sin, disease, and death.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
For God is infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth, Love, over all, and All.
Will read The Jesus Prayer from New Zealand Book of Prayer:
Quiet Meditation: "Ode to Joy"
Earth-Maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all.
Loving God, in whom is heaven.
The hallowing of your name echoes through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the earth!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and forever.
Kirk did the prayer in ASL, so he did stand since we had to see him. He also explained some of the translation changes, talking about how you can say multiple things at once (like doing Father and Mother in the opening -- not gender-neutral, but "gender-both") and how some parts of the traditional prayer are English language constructions that aren't inherent to ASL, rather than translate the exact words you sign something that gets at more of what the lines are trying to say.
For the "forgive us" line, he did "wrongs" instead of "trespasses" or "debts" or whatever. I was wondering about that bit, since I couldn't figure out what he was signing (we did learn the sign for "wrong," but I so wasn't expecting that word there). Will didn't get it initially either, but he asked Kirk afterward, and thus explained it to me later on after service.
Michele read Aramaic Translation of the Jesus Prayer by Neil Douglas-Klotz:
O, Birther of the Cosmos, focus your light within us -- make it usefulQuiet Meditation: "How Great Thou Art"
Create your reign of unity now
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light,
So in all forms,
Grant us what we need each day in bread and insight:
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
As we release the strands we hold of each other's guilt.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back,
From you is born all ruling will,
The power and the life to do,
The song that beautifies all,
From age to age it renews.
I affirm this with my whole being.
We were invited to write our own Jesus Prayer if we so wished, and then we sang "The Lord's Prayer" again and moved into the Prayers of the People. (Afterward, we would have the option of reading Jesus' Prayer as it was printed in the bulletin, reading another version that spoke to us, or reciting the version we wrote. Tiffany said it would be like the demonstration during the Children's Time, but that this would be a "holy chaos." I immediately thought of Pentecost, but didn't remember this to tell her after service.)
She explicitly suggested that we begin with joys, and there was a boatload of joys, which was pleasing. We also did eventually get to concerns (though people kept remembering joys and lifting those up as well).
Will lifted up all those who struggle with gambling addiction -- given the recent Middleboro news. He seemed very much of the opinion that Middleboro opening a casino would be a bad idea, which struck me since I had recently read a JoeF. column to that effect and I don't expect that those two men agree on much.
Various people mentioned stuff like praying for open hearts and minds (both as celebrations and concerns, talking about GLBT issues and also evangelicals growing supportive of environmental issues).
I said: Other people have kind of said this already, but I want to lift up prayers for ecumenical dialogue . . . A friend of mine recently went to an ecumenical conference at Oberlin, and a liberal Christian there said some very mean and narrow-minded things about conservatives, and my friend felt hurt and silenced, so I want to lift up prayers I guess more from that angle, that people on all sides will work toward thoughtful healthy healing dialogue on all sides that leads to real dialogue rather than silencing.
Then: Offering, Passing of the Peace, Communion, Closing Prayer, Announcements, Closing Hymn ("Source and Sovereign, Rock and Cloud")
Tallessyn told us a story from Trelawney.
She's in Northern Ireland, and there's a town called "Derry" which got renamed "Londonderry" by the Protestants. So there's this enclave of Irish Republican Catholics which has this big gable mural of black letters on white background saying: "You Are Now Entering Free Derry."
For Pride, the white was painted pink :)
Will asked me what I was gonna do with my Mondays and Wednesdays now that ASL class is over. Without hesitation I said, "Now can I go to the gym after work again," and he shuddered. I was amused, 'cause I've gotten used to a very different culture.
We were talking about Convo, and I mentioned how I'd been looking at the schedule and it's 10pm Vespers and 7am "greet the morning," and said that the last time I went to a convention, we didn't sleep, but that's 'cause we were getting drunk and making out with people, which I didn't expect would happen at Convo. He said: You never know; I'm hoping.
I talked about what Eric had said about how Convo would ask me to change the world and how I would respond: Yeah, no. I said that I was going to hear brilliant academics speak and that I'd forgotten that there was an additional purpose to Convo. He said there'd be plenty of that (the brilliant academic stuff) at Convo and that I should always feel free to take time for myself when I needed it (he had been saying that Marla was gonna be doing like everything during Convo, and I'd commented that in looking at the schedule I felt I could skip a bunch because I wasn't gonna do the world-changing).
[above two paragraphs edited for comprehensibility]
He said and I'm more okay with evangelical style worship, right?, and I was like yeah I guess. He said there was a lot of that at Convo. I didn't mention that I tend to approach worship services as academic exercises, so....
He got asked to preach by MOSAIC, so I'm sad that I'll be getting in too late to see that.
Marla's gonna be blogging Convo. Yes, I asked for the URL. She said if I had any "experiences" (good or bad) at Convo that I wanted to tell the world about, to let her know, because she didn't think the blog should be all her, that there should be other voices (guest-bloggers).
Tiffany's going to a Methodist Conference at Oxford (Christ Church -- yes, having studied at Oxford I always ask "which college?" now when people mention Oxford) around the time I'm in England. I told her I was tempted to crash her Methodist conference, and she said actually she'll have a lot of blocks of free time and it would be great to see me and she'd send me the schedule. (Not that I'm trying to avoid you, of course.)