How we relate with others is a quite clear picture of not only what we think
of this person or that person, but even more what we think of ourselves.
Big people can make us feel small, both in the physical as well as
the emotional areas. Being noticed by a popular or well known celebrity might
make us feel pretty important. Our size seems rather flexible.
We pray with the image of God from Genesis and from Luke’s Gospel today.
God has an image problem, OR WE HAVE with God. The challenge for these days
is about our picture of the mysterious and unimaginable God. If we
are going to pray, which is a relationship, then our prayer will reflect
our images of God and ourselves.
We pray then to let God be real in whatever that may mean. If we grovel like
beaten slaves then our praying will reflect that sense of self. We pray to
let God bless us so we might receive a sense of the holiness God desires
to share with us. Does God listen to prayer? Is God moved by our prayers
so that we receive all that we desire? We pray so as to be open to receive
forgiveness and all that is contained in our Daily Bread and so to advance
Last week God visited Abraham and Sarah wherein they hosted well and received
the great blessing of a promised child. Abraham later walked with his visitors
to show them the way to Sodom. God wonders whether Abraham should be told
by God all that God has in mind for and through Abraham and his sons. Through
them will continue the just and upright way of living the relationship with
God and others.
In the midst of this wondering the Lord is pictured as hearing the great
outcry there is against Sodom and Gomorrah for their pattern of not living
the just and upright way of the Lord. What we hear is Abraham’s, not bargaining,
but questioning just how far God will go in forgiving. The basic question
is about whether God will destroy the individual because of the sinful group.
This is part of the image problem that Abraham focuses. God is the creator
and if creation does not respond gratefully and reverently, then God can
destroy it all and start all over. That is one image and a proper and good
one. Abraham is trying, not to manipulate god, but to discover and obtain
a proper picture of how this visiting God intends to make other visits; considering
that not all other are as faithful and responsive as he, Abraham, is himself.
God allows parameters to begin shaping a divine image. If there is going
to be a kingdom to come, then the King comes first to form the realm. This
kingdom will not be ruled, but continuously formed by the personality of
the King and the King’s ways of creating and recreating.
The Gospel today is also about image and about prayer. We are more familiar
with “The Lord’s Prayer” according to Matthew’s version. Luke’s presentation
is shorter, but the verses which follow deal with an interpretation of just
what the prayer means.
Jesus when asked to teach his disciples to pray does not give instructions
about how to stand or prostrate. He does not even give lists of words or
ideas. Jesus tells them to bless God’s name according to the ancient Jewish
forms. Then acknowledge that this most holy God is indeed bringing about
holiness on the earth. In humble recognition admit then, that one needs holy-help
to bring about that holiness within each individual every day.
Then Jesus, according to Luke, invites those who are relating to God through
prayer to admit that they have not lived faithfully their responses to their
being invited into the kingdom and so need to be forgiven. They will know
what forgiveness is, because they forgive others as members of the kingdom.
Then they will end by asking to be cared for by God when tempted to leave
the kingdom for an other.
Luke concludes this presentation by Jesus’ telling some pertinent particular
situations. Then the famous and perhaps misleading statements that when we
ask it will be given, when we knock it will be opened. This is not true literally,
sorry to say. Luke presents Jesus as saying something very true and more
important. For all the asking humans’ do of God, what God desires to give
is the Holy Spirit which in times of great need for us can seem second best.
The Holy Spirit is given generously to us so that we might be aware and accepting
of all the other gifts which lead us to living the kingdom together.
We can pray as if God does not hear well. Our image of God can rise or fall
according to what we receive. God is good on good days, but his stock falls
on less good days. We can knock ourselves out by knocking on God’s treasure
house of blessings and fail to be knocked over by what has already been given.
Prayer can seem to be something we do to or with an arbitrary and sluggish
deity. God prays over us and our prayer then is more than words. Our prayer
is being aware of God’s daily bread of conversation with, around, about,
within and directly to us.
“O bless the Lord, my soul, and remember
all his kindness.” Ps. 103