Monday, February 19, 2018

Two Masters

Admittedly, this post is meant more for those who believe in the words of the Bible, but I hope these words resonant outside of that.

I enjoy the Lord's Prayer. I appreciate the simplicity of it and there's a certain poetry to it. There's a certain comfort that comes from saying it, knowing that many of the great believers, theologians and heroes of faith have said that prayer when they found themselves in times of turmoil and also in times of epiphany. That even when things are at the bleakest, that I could say the same words Jesus prayed. Maybe even in the garden before he was turned over to the authorities.

I remember saying that prayer in school. To me, it didn't seem out of place. It was a continuation of how I understood the world. That God was a given. That we could pray to Him and know He was present.

I also remember when we stopped saying the Lord's Prayer in school. It didn't bother me either. My understanding was that God was everywhere. He was not some kind of divine vampire that was not allowed into school unless He was invited. He was bigger than that. My six hours a day being inside the confines of a school building did not disconnect me from God.

Now, I can think of when God may seem distant or even not present at all and in the middle of junior high would definitely qualify as one of those times. When people are picking on you and you may feel worthless or you feel like you have to take advantage of other people's weaknesses to ensure you're not the one who's ostracized. It was times when it felt like you were alone and the future is clouded by uncertainty. I would pray sometimes for help and it was a small comfort in those times.

But to be honest, those prayers would be like a little bit like getting a text from a good friend. It was nice to know God was not gone but it still was so far from what I needed.

The times that I could point to God showing up, almost always involved a person showing up. Maybe it was a classmate in a moment of courage that stood up for me. Maybe it was a person who I rarely talked to who I found a connection with, reminding that people are not really that different. It was a person that gives you a big hug or warm words or quiet solidarity in times of pain or generous gifts that you needed but couldn't ask for.

When I think about "Let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven", I think about those people, both Christian and not, who in those moments do good things. I believe that is God doing His will on earth. The answer to many prayers involve a person who is listening to what God wants to bring about in the world.

I don't believe that God has been kept out of schools as long as people continue to listen to His will. He didn't turn and sulk that we weren't praying to Him. He didn't "Well, they aren't praying publicly anymore, so let them have their fill of school shootings."

Funny enough, right before Jesus told his disciples the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus said this in verses 5-6: "When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you."

There's a sense that prayer is best done in times where there is quiet. Perhaps in a time where reflection can happen. I believe that the Lord's Prayer is supposed to inspire us to think about how we fit into this idea of "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Praying the prayer in a school with others who may have a distaste for all things religious are not going to be changed. Prayer is for those who are seeking the Lord. If one believes in the power of prayer, they would also be the kind of person who would seek to the answer the prayers of others especially if you have been given the capability to help.

That all said, I admit that God has been replaced by many people to man-made idols that they believe will save them. Money is the most obvious one preachers will point to, but to me, the American idol is the gun. Although not specifically an American god, as I have seen many Canadians also believe that guns will save them, it is uniquely worshipped by the American society. So much has been sacrificed in the name of making sure no one removes high-powered, automatic weapons from the hands of anyone. For many, guns are sacred, they offer deliverance and security. They are considered holy, even.

But like all false gods, they also demand sacrifices for no return. And the sacrifices are mounting. The people are crying out. But who will answer their prayers? Perhaps people who are listening to the will of God.

In 2nd Kings, King Josiah realized that people had split their allegiance between God and Baal. They were praying to God, but they were also praying and sacrificing to Baal, believing they needed both. His decision was to rid the land of all idols from the lands in all their forms. King Josiah listened to the will of God.

Jesus himself said that no one can serve two masters. He will love one and hate the other. You may love God, but if you also love guns to the extent that no small measure of gun control is allowed, then you are serving two masters and you are choosing one over the other.

Jesus spoke about how if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It sometimes hurts to remove the thing that is causing you problems. Guns are beloved, but they are causing sin to be multiplied by several bullets a second.

Other countries face the same problems as America. Mental illness is everywhere. Violent media is everywhere. Angry vengeful men are everywhere. But there is only one country that faces the nonstop tragedy of mass shootings. It is the one that worships the gun.

Other countries have removed prayer from schools, but they don't face mass shootings on such a massive scale. Rather it is the one country who believes that guns are God-given.

I think it is appropriate to invoke the words of one of the prophets, Isaiah, who had hard words for those who believed they were doing the right things religiously while ignoring what the Lord wanted. Originally, it was more of a metaphor, but it is fittingly on the nose. Isaiah 1:15-17 says, "When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows."

Guns will not save you. They only know how to destroy.

This brings me back to where I started. Prayers are being offered all over America about the violence that it is flooded in, but who will be the ones who listens to the will of God in this case. Is there enough faith in the God of peace that America can let go of its worship of the gun? I hope so. May God bless America and may God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Finally, for the NRA and their corporate friends:

"You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
While the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
While the young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud.

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins.

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do."
- "Masters of War" from the Bob Dylan album "The Free Wheelin' Bob Dylan

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