The Paris attacks and their aftermath have shocked and distressed us all. We have seen the images of the attacks and the ongoing manhunts on TV, in newspapers and on social media.
Many stories, many themes, many views have begun to emerge. At the political level we have heard President Hollande of France declare war on IS. We have heard other political leaders call for a grand coalition to destroy IS. Voices urging caution are being sidelined.
At the personal level, we have heard far more words of solidarity, unity and peace. We have heard or read the words of Antoine Leiris, whose wife was killed at Bataclan: “You will not have my hatred... If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in his heart...”
The words of the Lord’s Prayer encompass the great mystery of this refusal to hate. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. The attacks in Paris, Beirut, Egypt, Kenya, London, New York, and so many other places not extensively covered by western media, were evil acts, make no mistake. And the temptation to repay evil with evil is very great on every level. How can we not respond by pouring money into weapons and pouring fire and destruction upon the heads of those that hurt us? Surely we must do everything to obliterate this curse, to annihilate our enemies before they annihilate us?
The first thing we notice about the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus taught to his disciples, is that it begins by addressing God as our Father. It implies community from the start. Let your name be holy. Think back to the words of Antoine Leiris about our being made in the image of God and bullets fired into flesh being wounds directly into his heart. Keeping God’s name holy always involves loving people in his name, and not killing them. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. In Judaism there is a lovely image of receiving the kingdom as if it were a fine cloak or mantle - some beautiful piece of clothing one puts on every day. It symbolizes an acceptance of the sovereignty, the rule of God. It is a little like the image Paul uses in Ephesians (Ch 4. v24) when he urges the church to “clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Give us this day our daily bread. A request to receive from God a simple sufficiency, a restraint upon our greediness. Many wars have at their root cause a contest for the earth’s resources - oil, water, food, minerals. You will remember that God sent manna to the people of Israel and that Paul speaks of Jesus as being the true manna, the true bread of heaven, which we share with each other in community.
And then we come to the true basis for community, for the mutuality that characterizes the kingdom. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. When you have been deeply hurt, forgiveness can be a long road. It can take almost a lifetime. It isn’t easily or glibly given. But we know that it is God’s nature to forgive. Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil. A plea both to be protected from falling into temptation and for evil to come nowhere near us. A while ago I was talking to a friend who works at a church near Manchester which has provided a home for several Syrian refugees. He told me of a conversation he had had with a woman who had seen great suffering and evil. She told my friend, “My task is to forgive those who hurt me. but only God can deliver us from evil.” The evil in others. The evil in ourselves.
One of the ways we are delivered from both is by taking upon ourselves the kingdom, the rule of God, each day and building genuine community. The kingdom cannot be extended or defended with bombs and weapons. Yet as we pray this prayer, perhaps each day, but at the very least every time we celebrate the Eucharist together, we live a little more deeply in the kingdom.
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