Friday, 18 July 2014

Versions of the Lord's Prayer

I say the Lord's Prayer every day.

Not always the same version.

And not really through any sense of duty, or because "that's how Jesus taught us to pray", either.

I wrote before that maintaining a regular prayer life keeps me together.

And what do you know,I just happen to find the rhythm of a daily, regular prayer comforting and a way of stabilising a prayer life with our family life and all its commitments. It's almost like God had this is mind!* That whether you are attending a Mass, a Morning Prayer, a children's service, a non-denominational Christian worship in the hospital Chapel - there will always be the Lord's Prayer to encounter somewhere.

And if you don't - well, there's The Lord's Prayer cube. For those of you have never encountered this, it is AMAZING! It was a Baptism gift for 3rdSister - at the moment we use it most nights. (Sometimes we don't use the cube, we just pray it. She pretty much knows the whole prayer off by heart because of it.)

The Lord's Prayer CubeThere's something about holding and folding it in and out, as well - something similar to the beads on a Rosary, perhaps? - something soothing yet profound.

But all this praying The Prayer - encountering different versions at the different services we have in our Anglican church, for starters and in the non-denominational services in the hospital chapel - set me thinking.

I have my favourite.

Ssssh! Not favourites amongst my children (although at the moment, any that allow me to get 7 hours sleep are champions.) But favourite version of the prayer.

Because I have prayed it since I was small, the traditional Anglican text beginning "Our Father, Who Art in Heaven" was always going to have a hold on my heart.

But I'm not necessary a traditionalist (ahem, women in ordained ministry, people!), so there has to be other reasons, right?

Oh and just to be clear, I say what we Anglicans know as The Lord's Prayer. I don't say an 'Our Father' like the Catholics, although sometimes in my head I call it this. But to me - marked especially by the time I was loudly praying after my nephew's Catholic baptism - the doxology always goes on the end:
For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, forever and ever, Amen. 
And this, this is where I prefer the traditional version. FOREVER and EVER. The Kingdom, forever and ever. That's just amazing in itself.

So where did "For the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are yours, NOW and Forever" come from? The 1970s, that's where. And I know. I know that the Kingdom is everlasting and amazing. But that's in God's time. It's not now. It's still coming. I can't get my head around it completely in the now. And yes, I'm quibbling! But if it was all now, where would we have to go?

So this personal, ridiculous reason is why I like the prayer I grew up with.

And - I like the THYs and THINEs in the older version. Just because. (The same reason I had the thys and thines in my civil marriage service, which I think most people tend to avoid because they want something modern.)

And the only other variant I do like is when we say 'HOLY' is your name rather than hallowed. I mean what does hallowed mean, anyway? Other than to 'make holy', of course. See, I kind of like saying 'Your name IS holy' rather than 'We make your name holy'. Although some regard holy and hallow as synonymous. We could go round in circles here. Again, just a personal preference.

As for debts, trespasses, and sins - I don't really mind. All in all, it's the same to me. Stuff I shouldn't do. Stuff I need to set before God and make right with Him. Stuff I need to avoid doing if I can help it, in thought, word and deed.

Now, must be time to start thinking which Bible translation is my favourite :-)

* yep, I know, OF COURSE HE DID. (Why doesn't Blogger do footnotes?!)

Monday, 7 July 2014

Solid as a rock?

It may or may not be more apparent by now that I have issues with St Paul. I'm sure at some point I'll go into those at great, uninteresting length. (In short - he was flawed, I am flawed, he rubs me up the wrong way when he's bossy, he did good stuff too, I forgive him.)

I do know there is great inspiration in his writing and his ministry, and while my conversion wasn't Damascene, it was a huge about-turn (and I'm bossy too) - so you'd think I'd identify more.

But actually I identify more with St Peter.

I know, I know. It's not really very humble to identify with saints. But remember St Peter and St Paul were sainted despite their flaws. And I think I love them more because of their flaws. (And I'm not just talking about 1 Peter 3.) So I lay my flaws right down at Peter's feet. Because:


Denial is a word so many of us are so familiar with in today's secular lexicon, it falls off the tongue without much thought. It's not just an action, or a state of mind, it's a place to be - IN Denial. It's somewhere to hide, to be ignorant of what's going on around us. The classic head in the sand, or self under the duvet moment.

All humans tend to be good at denial.

Many, if not all of us, are superbly skilled at denying God, too, if not as historically as St Peter did.

I've often felt a tremendous guilt about my wilderness years, when I thought I was doing it all by myself, and wasn't I the clever girl.

It wasn't until a sermon on The Prodigal Son took me completely unawares and I realised that God didn't mind, because in the end I came home, that I started to release that guilt. And also I rediscovered Peter.

Or I should say Simon, who when Jesus first called him, still had his doubts. ("Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything.") But obeyed regardless ("But because you say so, I will let down the nets." - Luke5:5.)

Simon who was then named by Jesus as Petros, Cephas, Peter - "the Rock of the church". The foundation stone on which the early church was based. I like to think that this wasn't just Jesus having faith, or expectation. Rather, it was prophesy. Because despite - or because of - Peter's humanness, his temper, and his very literal and vocal denials, he had great potential as a faith leader. Peter + the Holy Spirit = Greatness. It was a done deal.


Sort of makes me feel a little better about the way I ignored God as a young person.

(And OF COURSE the church I attended sporadically as a youngster where I felt as if
 questioning scripture and church teaching was looked down upon so much I pretty much ran out screaming - yes, it was dedicated to St Peter himself.)

And a bit less guilty for keeping my Christianity at the edge of my life once it was affirmed.

And drifting along, recognising in the numinosity that I was being compelled into Christian leadership myself, but trying it on, then letting it slide? Well, that was OK too - for a while.

But in the end, I got through the denial, and I hope to realise my potential - to be everything God knows I can be.

It's not about what others think. It's about my relationship to God. What I owe to him. What I owe to the Church. How I can and will take that forward.

And if I can achieve a single speck as much as the apostle named Simon Peter did, how great that will be.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The How but not the Why: Musings on the Dawn Chorus

I bloody love science, me. Finding out how the world works, from the early hominids to mitochondrial DNA. And I remember when I started University, someone asked me how a faith in God could be sustained when studying evolutionary biology, physical anthropology and all the world's religions. I was convinced then that I did not have any kind of faith, and had started a 3 year course in Archaeology and Anthropology, which I knew would give me all sorts of justifications for denying Jesus. So I never really had to answer the question. And I learned A LOT about how humans have sought to explain the workings of the world.

But As a Christian? Ask me now! Obviously I'm at heart at Anglo-Catholic - as opposed to a fundamental evangelical who takes The Word at its word. Also I prefer to read Genesis as a creation myth, i.e. a way of humans historically trying to understand the universe (sorry to those of you who this viewpoint offends.) Yet I find it hard to fathom how something, EVERYTHING, came out of nothing. So I concurrently hold a supernatural force of energy (God the Creator) responsible for our universe, other universes, the dinosaurs, the primates, and evolution. Which makes sense to (or at least works for) me.

I pretty much can't look at the infinite patterns of snowflakes, think about each person's unique fingerprint, work in a hospital or parent children without a constant background hum of this is amazing/I can see how all of this works/but simultaneously not understand it. Why, why, WHY?

But do you know what really, really made me question the 'why' today?

The Dawn Chorus.

It wasn't exactly dawn, but it was 5.20am, and I'd just put 3rdSister back to bed in the hope that she would snooze a little. (It was 5am yesterday, and she crashed by 5pm. Any prayers to ask for the end of this would be welcome!) So I lay there listening to the beautiful birdsong through the open window. (UK, humid weather, no aircon.) And it fascinated me. First, the workings behind it - I mean why do birds sing first thing in the morning (not to mention that early in the morning.) We are still figuring that out. The International Dawn Chorus Day website refers to 'nature's daily miracle', which I take to mean something we don't quite understand but think is wonderful :-)

But the main thing I don't understand, is why, if everything in the universe happened without some sort of intelligent design or benevolent creator who wants us to seek and find joy in every aspect of life, do I find birdsong so beautiful? I mean, it's completely annoying. It wakes us here in England in the summer, or keeps us from getting back to sleep after that (#motherof4) need to urinate in the early morning. It has its reasons, apparently, for the perpetuation of birds.

But that humans would regard it as musical, beautiful, miraculous - why, why, why? Why is there music anyway? Why although my Aunt sadly died this week was there still some good that came out of her passing? Why is every snowflake different and why were we endowed with the capacity to notice it? And so on. I know that scientific explication can begin to convey the HOW of the universe....but for me, it still falls short on the WHY.

Not everyone will look to God for the answers. Not everyone will just throw 'science' back as an explanation (including many, many scientists and mathematicians.) Some will say there doesn't need to be an answer - that the fact that we can't answer Why? means things just happened and we don't need to ask. I'm not one of those. I think that so many things that I see, hear and experience around me cannot be explained. And this is part of why I have faith. Because as well as being able to reason how the world works, I believe that there's got to be an answer as to WHY things are the way they are - often bonkers, inexplicable, wonderful, heartbreaking or literally supernatural.

And today, for me, that's God.