Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Teach Us To Pray : Character

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,”

God wants us to know his character, and Jesus reveals to us that God is both Father and holy. Jesus will go further, unpacking what he means by father: not the abusive or absent father that sadly too many people experience in their earthly fathers, but what a father is meant to be: one who loves and delights in his children, who longs for intimacy with them, who loves to give good gifts; in whose presence there is un-self-conscious laughter, and the tender wiping-away of tears. The sort of father I fall so short of being.

And yet, God is also holy: and our flesh cannot approach him and live.

There is, therefore, a tension: that in God’s presence, something of who we are is called to live, to experience life in all its fullness; and something of who we are is called to die. We are invited, as we are, into the relationship we were always meant to know: and challenged to become who we were made to be, and are not.

Invitation and challenge: this is how God relates to us: this is how Jesus, who reveals God’s nature to us, related to men, women and children 2,000 years ago: and this is how Jesus still relates to men, women and children today, as he is present in the midst of his people, the body of Christ, through his Spirit indwelling us...

Indwelling us: this tension, this invitation and challenge, this call to live to God and call to die to self: within us.

God invites us to know him as Father, and challenges us to be holy as he is holy. Invitation, and challenge: invitation, and challenge: invitation, and challenge...the closer we draw, the more we are challenged – in order that we may draw closer still.

And this is so alien to us. To have invitation extended to us: to generations increasingly abandoned by our parents, who have learnt not to expose ourselves to another, not to allow ourselves to be hurt – or to have and inevitably hurt children in our turn. The invitation itself is a challenge, to grow into maturity.

This is so alien to us. To have challenge extended to us: to increasingly fatherless generations, who are so fragile as to see discipline as rejection; and whose parents have sought to keep us as friends, as peers, rather than risk losing us. The challenge itself is an invitation, to grow into maturity.

And the mark of maturity is the ability to reproduce. God – who is mature – does not want us to merely know his character, but to share in that character...and to see that character multiplied into the lives of others, as we ourselves grow into maturity. The prayer continues, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – and this takes place as, among other things, God’s people share in his character, and in the kingdom that flows from that character. A kingdom in which the fatherless are fathered, and what is unholy is made holy...

So what does God want to speak to you about his character today?

A word of invitation, to one who believes themselves unloved?

A word of challenge, to one who believes themselves righteous in their own eyes?

A call to love, to father – or mother, for God is described as both mother and father – spiritual orphans?

A call to reach out and touch lives that are not holy – that are not made clean, and set-apart for God’s use, to fulfil God’s purposes in the world – and so to infect them with holiness?

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