From the start I will admit that this devotion has been shaped by this past Sunday’s Crosspoints adult education class, which tackled the topic of “Exile” using the lens of a short video from The Bible Project. (A plug for this delightful site where two guys, some deep faith, and lots of adept keyboard strikes lead to short pithy engagements of biblical themes).
So, I am teaching three classes a week now, and my practice since the start of my ministry has been to close most every group event I lead with the Lord’s Prayer, especially educational classes. The practice continues online now. Why not?
This past Sunday in our Crosspoints class, we entertained the notion that humanity has been “in exile” since the Garden of Eden days (and we’ll leave the argument of whether the Garden story is an historical tale or a mythic one for another day … it doesn’t matter in this discussion). From our earliest experience as God’s children, our sin and disobedience has separated us from full and complete life with God … thus our banishment from the Garden to a world where God’s full presence is shielded from us, and at times hidden from us. Cycle through wandering Arameans, slavery in Egypt, meandering through the desert in search of the promised land, shattered temples, endless fracturing of God’s one church family of believers, the WWJD movement … you name it. We have exiled ourselves from God in our disobedience. And we spend our lives, in some way at least, trying to find our way back home to the Garden … to peace … to unity … if only for brief moments in time.
Turn back the clock now to Sunday afternoon. We finish class and close with the Lord’s Prayer. Sounds innocent enough. But if you have tried any unified speaking or singing on Zoom, you know what I am about to say. It is like the Tower of Babel revisited. The delay between what you are speaking and what you are hearing others voice is disorienting. We by nature want to match up our cadence with the groups around us. BUT THERE IS NO GROUP CADENCE!! It is just a babel of voices of different paces and rhythms. I sometimes refer to it as “The Babel Prayer” instead of the Lord’s Prayer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it … God hears us as both an expression of community and a collection of single voices. If you have ever been blessed to share the Lord’s prayer in a multi-lingual setting, you have had the same experience. If you can get past the diversity or words and cadence, there is a unique beauty in it.
I find that happening over time with my classes. We seem to be listening to each other more … in an effort to minimize the awkwardness of our sound? … maybe. … in an effort to bring order to the chaos? … probably. —in an effort to hear the breadth and diversity of our prayers to the Father … I certainly hope so.
In our former hymnal (LBW), the congregational response after the readings or homily in the Morning and Evening Prayer services was this …
L: In many and various ways God spoke with his people of old by the prophets.
C: But now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.
Many and various ways indeed. Let it be so, O Lord.