This past Sunday (March 15) I used the simplified version of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11 to explain my own experience of learning to pray all over again. I’m writing to reinforce the importance of that message. If you missed the sermon, I suggest you go to the Resources section of our website and listen to it. The heart of what I tried to say was not simply the value of the Lord’s Prayer—and for many of us it has been a treasure right in front of us that we overlooked—but the way I suggested using the Lord’s Prayer to shape our own praying.
While preparing my recent sermon on the Good Samaritan it hit me how much context matters. Multiple contexts, I should say! There’s the conversational context in which the parable occurs, namely, the interaction between the lawyer and Jesus. Then there’s the religious-political-racial context that is necessary to understand why a good Samaritan (gasp!) was such a provocative suggestion in the mouth of a 1st century Jew. But what I didn’t have time to describe was the covenantal context, which helps us better appreciate the relevance of a priest, a Levite, and a half-dead body. Yet understanding this might also cause some problems for us, and in particular why priests were told to act in rather bizarre ways.
I grew up Mennonite, as did my wife Lise. (Our two churches were separated by a half a mile.) This meant we often heard from the Sermon on the Mount, which many have said is the central text of the Mennonite faith. You might immediately think of the “turn the other cheek” teaching found there (Matt. 5:39), and the importance of pacifism in Mennonite circles. But actually it’s more than that. From the beginning of the Anabaptist movement in the 16th century, from which the Mennonite church emerged, these believers displayed a signature emphasis in their intent to be obedient to all of Christ’s commands, including the hardest ones. And as you probably know, the Sermon on the Mount has many difficult commands.
Gee, what to do with a pastor’s blog? Many things, I suppose. One idea is the “cutting room floor”, that is, writing about an additional item or two that didn’t make it into the sermon. Another idea is addressing some relevant issue, or talking about a current church endeavor. And sure enough, this blog has been used for those types of things in the past, and more.
This week in my sermon on discipleship (specifically Jesus’ call to Levi to follow him) I made reference to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his remarkable book, The Cost of Discipleship. In this post I want to say more about Bonhoeffer and this book.