Simplicity

Luke 11:1-13 (Genesis 18:20-32 Psalm 138)

On my recent trip home to the U.K. I bored my family by dragging them into countless churches, cathedrals and abbeys; many of which were really quite ornate (some overly so). Then, in the Tower of London (constructed in 1066!) we stumbled upon a small chapel that was breathtakingly simple. The centuries of prayer and worship could easily be imagined, as kings and armored knights sat before God. (And, apparently a few even met their death in that beautiful place.) Simplicity.
 
“When you pray, say “Father…” (Luke 11:2). Beautifully simple: address God as a beloved parent. This isn’t a concept unknown to our Jewish brothers and sisters in Jesus’ time: God is indeed their father – but in a corporate sense (father of the people of God) rather than in a personal sense (my father). And a much more elaborate address to God was then the norm (“Lord God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, God most high, Creator of heaven and earth. Our Shield and the Shield of our fathers…” for example).
 

Given the simplicity of the opening address, the remainder of the prayer is likewise simple:

May God’s kingdom/reign come near.

May each of us have food necessary for sustenance.

May we be forgiven by God, and be able to forgive our neighbor.

May God protect us from circumstances of life which imperil our faith (periasmos)
 
Then Jesus tells the disciples a story, which begins (in the Greek) in the tone of “Could this happen to you? No, of course it couldn’t!” Surely a friend would fulfill his or her obligation to help you. But supposing the miserable so-and-so didn’t fulfill that crucial cultural obligation? Well, even that scoundrel would give in to your persistence. So, if even he would listen to your cry, how much more readily would God – your Father – listen to you and respond to you!
 

What are we to ask of God? Surely not a shopping list of wants and desires. (God isn’t the dad of the spoiled English girl, Vercua Salt, in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, giving in to her every whim!) The clue to our asking lies in the prayer Jesus gave to the disciples: a prayer for sustenance, forgiveness and preservation – a prayer for the reign of God to come near. So:

Ask for the Kingdom and it will be given you

Search for the Kingdom and you will find it

Knock and the door to the Kingdom will be opened to you.
 

And that kingdom in which God’s name is sanctified (hallowed), in which we find forgiveness (restored relationships), in which we find sustenance necessary for the day and for eternity is Jesus, who said to the disciples:

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you… the kingdom of God has come near (Luke 10:9, 11).
 
Shalom,
 
Pastor Ken