January is generally a pretty quiet time as people relax into summer, enjoy the beach or time away from the usual routines of life. I have often enjoyed January as a time to prepare for the year, and this year I have been working on a series of studies on the Lord’s Prayer which I plan to offer during the Lenten Season. The Lord’s Prayer is the distinctive prayer of the Christian Church, given to us by Jesus. In many ways it is a very Jewish prayer, but its beauty is also in its simplicity. It became very clear to the early church that in many ways this prayer gathered up in summary form many of the great teachings of Jesus and so it became both a prayer we pray and a statement of faith we carry in our hearts as this prayer is put to memory.
This is a prayer that most of us know by heart, and for those of us who grew up on the traditional version and had to learn the new one, that too has become so familiar we hardly think of the words when we pray them. That’s the danger of knowing something so well it can become something automatic which we hardly notice. What I will be inviting you to do is take a step back and join me in reflecting on the rich meaning this prayer carries as it carries us to God the Father in prayer.
Over the last few weeks, we have been reflecting on the whole notion of God calling us. One of the primary ideas behind the notion of ‘CALL’ – is the recognition that God prevails upon us to serve God’s purpose in the work we do, where we find ourselves caught up in God’s agenda of reconciliation. In many of the biblical ‘call narratives’ there is often a resistance to that God. Think of Moses at the burning bush – going back to Egypt was the last thing he wanted to do. Moses knew that it would be difficult – he knew Pharaoh! He was happy as a shepherd, or so he said. Moses was not a volunteer, nor was he a conscript! God’s call upon his life was not something that forced him to act – he could have walked away – but that call lit a flame in Moses’ heart so that in the end the task he was given became his willingly.
There are times when we put up our hand to do something because we feel guilty. We think I should do that. But often that ‘should’ becomes a burden, rather than something that – despite the difficulties we encounter, actually enlivens us. God needed someone like Moses – with his strength of character to achieve such a great task as bringing his people out of slavery into the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. However, in order to achieve that purpose Moses needed to believe in this vocation wholeheartedly if he were to carry the day. It was no must or, I ought to, no silent martyrdom, but rather a longing that echoed God’s longing. So the call of God upon our lives isn’t about volunteering, it’s about finding God’s purpose in our lives, so that we live out the fullness of life promised by Jesus.
Matthew’s gospel likes to compare Jesus with Moses in order to point out that Jesus is in a league of his own. We don’t see the resistance in Jesus that we saw in Moses, however, Jesus knows that in order for him to accomplish the purpose of God he needed others to hand on the task to. So, in our Gospel reading this Sunday Jesus begins his ministry by calling together a group of disciples. We may not be fishermen like Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John, but we are all called like them to follow Jesus and to use the gifts and grace we have been given to spread God’s love and mercy through our lives.