Living the Lord’s Prayer
Week 3 Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Welcome & Prayer
Allow class to gather and have fellowship. By 10:00am at the latest, convene everyone for general announcements and attendance. o Be sure to introduce yourself to the class. If guests are present, it would be appropriate to go around and have everyone introduce themselves (just names for brevity). Remind everyone about the First in Focus series and how it works. For instance: o “First in Focus is a special six-week Sunday School series designed to generate churchwide conversations around important topics in Christian faith and theology. In weeks 1 and 6, all participants gather for a lecture in Fifield Hall. In weeks 2-5, participants meet in their individual Sunday School classes to explore the topic further with the help of a curriculum.” o “This is week 3 and in it we’ll be exploring a series of three requests focused on God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will.” Lead class in a brief prayer. o Given the subject of this series, you may wish to start with the Lord’s Prayer itself.
Handout this week’s curriculum (printed copies are available in the classroom). o Please note that e-book versions of the participant’s guide are also available on the web at: https://firstpresatl.org/livingthelordsprayer/ Read, or have someone else in the class read, the Introduction, which can be found on the front cover of the Participant’s Guide Then read, or have someone else in the class read, the conversation starter. o For sake of time, you may wish to skip this question and start with the content on the next page.
I. “Hallowed Be Thy Name”
Background: The word “hallowed” is the early modern English equivalent of our verb “honor as holy.” We know this form of the word from the term “Halloween,” which is the shortened form of Hallows (or Holy) Evening, the vigil service associated with All Saints Day. Read, or have someone else read, the opening text. o The personal name of Israel’s God is Yahweh. It occurs over 7000x times in the Old Testament. o In most English translations, the divine name is written as LORD (all small caps). This term should be distinguished from “lord” or “Lord.” The latter is the English equivalent of the Hebrew term ’adonai, which can be used in reference to any master or lord.
Living the Lord’s Prayer
In some Christian circles, you’ll see the divine name spelled Jehovah. This is certainly not how the Israelites would have pronounced the divine name, but it was a popular rendering of the word in early Modern English. Read the biblical text (Exodus 3:13-18) and the question that goes along with it. o The context of this verse is God’s commissioning of Moses to be the leader of the Israelite people. o Moses resists his calling, offering several excuses about why he is not able to do what God has called him to do. For a fuller context, start at Exodus 3:1. o In this instance, Moses’ question does not reflect a genuine interest in who appeared to him in the burning bush (he knew it was the God of Israel!) but rather reflects anxieties about his own credibility in the eyes of the people. o Moses worries that if he can’t name the God from whom he received his commission the people would not follow him, or worse yet, would openly rebel against him. Read, or have someone else read, the next block of text. o The tradition of not pronouncing the name Yahweh outside of Yom Kippur services in the Temple likely arose during the exilic period (6 th century BCE). Eventually, the Jewish community came to refrain from saying God’s name in any place and on any occasion. o This practice stems from an intensified interpretation of the commandment about taking the Lord’s name in vain. This is commonly counted as the 4 th commandment of the Decalogue. o In Hebrew, the wording of the commandment is “do not lift up the Lord’s name in a false way.” In its original context, this likely prohibited making false statements while under oath (such oaths would be sworn in God’s name). o In contemporary terms, this can include calling upon God’s name to rubber stamp a human cause or claiming that God is “on our side” in issues of conflict, whether political or otherwise. o Using God’s name falsely could also involve insisting that unless someone agrees with your interpretation of Scripture they aren’t a true Christian or don’t trust the authority of the Bible. o
There are two discussion questions associated with this block of text o The first question is specifically related to the commandment about using the Lord’s name in vain. The second question asks participants to reflect more broadly on how they keep holy, or hallow, God’s name in their lives.
II. “Thy Kingdom Come”
Background: The Lord’s Prayer was and is political. Jesus was praying for a kingdom other than that which governed his people – that is, the kingdom of Rome. This was subversive and controversial. As people who are, for the most part, free to live what we believe, it can be hard to understand how important the Lord’s Prayer really was for discipleship who lived under Roman rule where following Christ was a dangerous endeavor. ` Read the first block of text. o When we say that mention of God’s kingdom is political, we do NOT mean that it reflects the platform of one our political parties. Rather, it means that God is not just interested
Living the Lord’s Prayer
in “heavenly stuff” but is also committed to bringing new order and new hope to the realities of life on earth. Read or have someone else read Mark 1:14-15 and pose the accompanying questions. o You might emphasize that God’s kingdom doesn’t come into our lives only once and sometime in the past. Rather, God’s kingdom continues to come into our lives here in the present. As a result, the call to repent and believe is not something we do only once to “become a Christian” but rather it is something we are called to do as a on-going expression of what it means to embrace the already present reality of the kingdom of God. Read or have someone else read the next block of text. Read the Matthew 5:3-9 and pose the accompanying question. o The characteristics of the first three types of people who Jesus calls blessed (the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek) are not meant for us to emulate. These are real people with real disadvantage. Jesus would have been referring to those low on the totem pole in society—homeless people, sick people, women, children, slaves, etc. The point here is that in God’s kingdom, those who are downtrodden are at the center of God’s concerns. o In contrast, the characteristics of the next four types of people who Jesus calls blessed (hunger for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers) are meant for us to emulate. Though our world does not always values these characteristics, they are valued in God’s economy. Read or have someone else read the next block of text and pose the accompanying discussion question. o The accompanying discussion question is intentionally open-ended. Encourage participants to reflect on what this vision of God’s kingdom means to them.
III. “Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”
Background: When we ask for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven, we are acknowledging that God’s will is already at work in the world even as we still long for it to come more fully in the future. In Christian theology, this is called the “already/not yet” nature of God’s kingdom. Read the first block of text and the accompanying question. o You might note that discerning God’s wisdom is not necessarily the same thing as asking God to reveal details about the future. In Christianity, we can’t know what the future holds but we can know that God holds the future in his hands. Read or have someone else read the next block of text. o If you are interested in a more detailed account of the Joseph story, listen to the session on Joseph from the summer 2017 Sunday School series at First Pres. Read Genesis 50:20-21 and pose the accompanying question. o The common Christian cliché “everything happens for a reason” implies two things: (1) God is directly responsible for everything that happens, including evil and suffering; and (2) we can always clearly infer what God’s will is from events in the world.
Living the Lord’s Prayer
What Joseph says is not the same thing. Rather, he is able to see how God continues to work in caring and compassionate ways in the world despite the evil intended by human agents. This is not the same thing as saying that God causes evil in order to bring about good from it.
Read or have someone else read the next block of text and the accompanying discussion question. o Group members may want a reminder of the significance of this moment in Jesus’ life. o Answers to the question may be general. Encourage group members to be specific in their answers, too.