“Deliver Us” notes by Randell Neudorf
From the Gathering on Sunday, October 2nd, 2011
This is the last teaching segment in our “Lord’s Prayer – Remixed” series. I’m pretty sure every one of us who speaks at The Commons one time or another feels like they got stuck with the hardest topic out of the bunch. This is one of those times for me, I feel like I got stuck with a doozy. Let’s recap:
Week 1: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
I talked about how it is good and natural for us to worship our heavenly Dad, and then instead of just talking about it we spent some time lost in worship.
Week 2: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven” & “Give us today our daily bread.”
Matt reflected on his trip to Bolivia and tied in how the Kingdom points us towards lives of justice. Susan asked the question “How do we as a society that has most of our physical needs met wrap are minds around God being our provider?” She talked about how our needs might change but that our provider is always the same.
Week 3: “Forgive us our sins – as we forgive those who sin against us.”
Jeanette and Miranda talked about forgiveness and led a great interactive discussion on the very hard topic of forgiving. I remember thinking throughout the night how forgiveness is 100% wrapped up in our value of Peace. We can’t be a community of peace without embracing forgiveness from God for all the crap we cause. We also have to forgive those around us who have hurt us. Forgiveness, Grace and Mercy are all elements of our value of Peace.
Now we are on Week 4 the last week of The Lord’s Prayer and we read: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
There is some hard stuff in that line. Temptation and Evil, those aren’t fun topics. Do we need to worry that God might lead us into temptation? Some translations of the Lord’s Prayer even say “deliver us from the evil one!” That sounds even scarier. So all that being said, what was Jesus trying to teach us about prayer and God here?
One of the reasons we have so many voices teaching at The Commons is that we believe that we are all made in the image of God. We all reflect very unique and diverse attributes of God, none of us are big enough to reflect the full picture. That is why we desire to hear so many voices. Listening to multiple voices gives us a more accurate picture of what God is trying to teach us as a community.
Thanks so much Paul for sharing your voice with us today by talking about your journey. Paul has been a huge help over the last six months as we have been planning out our Gathering themes. Paul and I met a couple weeks ago to figure out what direction we would take tonight and I saw again how multiple voices are used by God. We were sitting around my kitchen table looking for another passage in the Bible that might inform our thoughts on this contentious line of the Lord’s Prayer. I shared a lot of bad ideas that I have thankfully already forgotten, and then Paul said “what about if we looked at the Psalm that talks about the valley of the shadow of death and fearing no evil.” We looked it up and read Psalm 23 together, and right away we both knew that this psalm was connected to what we were going to be talking about today.
(We played a violin composition by Oliver Schroer while John read Psalm 23. The idea was to emphasize the emotion of the poet. feel free to let this video play as you read the Psalm below.)
Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David. (NKJV)
1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
There is a reason that we hear this psalm so often in the church and even in popular culture. It is beautiful poetry and profound philosophy. When I look at the Lord’s Prayer beside this piece of poetry I start to sense the heart of God when it comes to “delivering” us. This Psalm talks both about the good times and the bad. We are painted a picture of both green pastures and a valley of death, but the poet fear’s no evil, he is not alone. He is comforted so much that his cup is running over. He can’t contain all the good God is pouring into him even and though this is all happening in front of his enemies and his haters.
Everyone knows that evil is real in our world but I know some people have a hard time believing that a literal Devil exists, an “evil one.” I personally don’t see any reason why there isn’t a Devil. Way back when we started looking at the Gospels I spoke about Jesus’ Temptation in the desert by Satan, which to me reads as a very literal event. But even if I’m wrong, it doesn’t matter, like so many things that church people like to fight about it doesn’t really matter, in the end the world plays out all the same. Maybe the Devil adds a little evil to the mix but us flesh and blood humans have plenty of evil to own up to. I can look at my morning paper and read about an evil act on almost every page. I can also look at my own thoughts and recognize the evil in me. Evil is something that is in the world. It sucks! It’s a load of crap! It’s wrong! You can feel it in your bones. This is not the way things were meant to be. Yet this evil is the reality we find ourselves in.
This is why I feel like I got the short end of the stick in this series. How am I suppose to talk about praying to God to deliver us from evil, when after people have been praying this for 2000 years the world it is still so screwed up. I’ve heard other people answer this by saying “You just haven’t prayed hard enough.”
Really what they are saying is that we don’t want it enough, or perhaps we haven’t asked politely enough yet. Again I got the short end of the stick. What kind of crazy topic is this?
The other night I was having trouble falling asleep because I was still wondering what I could possibly have to say about this whole topic. While tossing and turning I took a little time to pray, partly hoping I would get some answers and partly hoping I would just be able to finally fall asleep, and just before I did fall asleep it hit me. The Lord’s Prayer is not just an example of how we should pray, it is also a description of the person who we pray to.
Let me say that again. The Lord’s Prayer is not just an example of how we should pray, it is also a description of the Person who we pray to.
This may not be news to you, but thinking of the Lord’s Prayer as a description of God, is a new idea to me. I want to take some liberty with this classic prayer and reword it to be a description for you. We could call it a manifesto of what God is all about:
- God is our Father and He is Holy.
- His Kingdom is coming right now, and our broken earth is being shaped into heaven.
- God provides for us, all good things come from Him.
- God forgives us for hurting Him.
He also asks us to forgive the people who have hurt us.
- God doesn’t trick us, he doesn’t try to make us do bad things, but instead he delivers us from evil.
- All communities, all power, and all fame, they belong to God.
So we ask God to keep us from temptation and to deliver us from evil not because we have to convince him to do this, we pray this because we need to acknowledge that it is God that actively raises us out of our temptations and gets us through the evil & dark times. Even if you don’t ask for it, this is what God is already doing. The reason we often talk about our spirituality as a journey is because God is with us from the day we are born. He doesn’t wait for us to stumble upon him. God is an active force of good in this world and he is actively working for good in every one of us right now.
Now this still leaves us with a hard question. If God’s desires to deliver us from evil why does so much crap happen? Why is the whole world so full of evil?
Some people reply to this by saying “You don’t know how bad the world would be without God’s hand in things.” To be honest this sounds very trite. I believe it, I actually do believe it, but the line is so hard to swallow. The world and all its global evils are too big for me to wrap my mind around.
It helps me to think of this on a more personal level. We get to know people in our community through conversations and observing their actions. We share the same friends, we meet each other’s families, we talk and we learn a little about each other. You see the stuff on the outside of me, and I see the stuff on the outside of you. Through this friendship we see each other in times of triumph and failure. You might see me do something nice for somebody one day and you might see me screw up and do something thoughtless and mean the next. Hopefully my good points outweigh my bad and you take my crap with a grain of salt and we can move on and grow as a community.
When I’m on the ball and you see me being a caring person you might think to yourself “Randy is nice guy that must just be the way he is.” Matt would say something like “He is a really solid guy.”
When I fall short of being a good community member and my temper is out of whack or I say something that is petty or spiteful, you could look at me and say “man that guy is a poor excuse for a Christian, God is definitely not doing anything to keep that guy from evil.”
I want you to take a moment and think for a second about your dark side, the stuff on the inside, the stuff you keep to yourself…
(We played a song by my band 2x the Mono while we took some time to silently reflect. Feel free to play the video right now if you want to take your own time to reflect on your dark side.)
We all have it. These thoughts are dark, they are evil, and mostly we keep them secret. This is the evil I can wrap my mind around because it is the evil that is inside of me.
I remember watching Johnny Cash in a Much Music interview once and he talked about how he had a beast locked inside of him. He said something like this, “there is beast inside of me, locked in a cage and he is always a howlin’.”
I know that’s true for me, I can’t look inside you and see the beast, But I sure can look inside and see mine. I know that there is a lot of evil in me and that me being able to be called a “Really Solid Guy” is through God actively “delivering” me from evil.
You might see some of the “howlin” if I let out a burst of anger. You can get hurt by someone’s beast when they take a swipe at you through the bars of their cage. But what you don’t know is that there is a whole lot more evil that is locked away and that God is keeping in that cage, and He is even pushing more and more of that evil behind those bars. I know this is true for me and I also believe it is true for the world. God is actively delivering this world from evil.
Often when I try to explain my temper to someone who hasn’t seen it they don’t believe me when I tell them I have real anger issues. I tell them you might not see it but it is still there, God just helps me keep it in check better now then when I was younger. I get the impression sometimes that they don’t believe that God has anything to do with me having better control over my temper. It is really frustrating to hear someone say “You don’t really have a temper, I’ve never seen it.” or “You must have just out grown your temper, all young people are hot heads.” I just shake my head and think to myself “You don’t know, you just don’t know how bad, how evil, and how angry I could be.” But I know.
I think when we accuse God of failing to deliver the world from evil he just shakes his head and says “You can’t imagine how bad it could have been, you just can’t imagine. You don’t know how much I have already saved you from.” It still sounds trite. If I heard someone else say that about all the garbage in the world or even some of the violence in our own city, I would find it very hard to swallow, but again if I honestly look inside myself, knowing how much worse I could be; I know this is true.
God delivers us from evil, that is just part of who he is.
We are going to end by reading the Lord’s Prayer together. We are going to do this a little different than we did last time. We aren’t going to read it all together in unison. Prayer is a conversation and the best conversations happen if we are not all talking at the same time. So we are going to take turns saying lines from The Lord’s Prayer. There is no set order and you don’t have to participate if you don’t want to. To get rid of the awkward silence that is sure to ensue, I’m going to pretend to be a DJ again and play another CD that we can remix the Lord’s Prayer into. So as the beat plays if there is a line in the Lord’s Prayer that stands out to you or has really meant a lot to you in the last 4 weeks, just say it out loud. Let it be your prayer to your heavenly Dad. If someone steals the line you wanted to say, don’t get all mad, you can say it again, and it is OK for us all to repeat the same thing over and over again. In music we call that the Chorus. If you want to change a couple of the words and make it your own that is fine to, In music we call that improvisation. If you want to be really brave, come on up and speak your line into the mic. In Hip Hop that is being the MC .
(We then proceeded to step up to the mic and pray parts of the Lord’s Prayer over a beat that is the instrumental version of “Dumb I Sound” by Sufjan Stevens & Tor from the remix project Illinoize. One young man in the community is a talented freestyle artist and when he took the mic the Lord’s Prayer literally got remixed as he poured his heart out through the prayerful act of freestyling.)
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours.
Now and forever.