On Pope Francis, the Lord's Prayer and Us

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Recently the Pope called for a new translation of the clause of the Lord's Prayer, “lead us not into temptation,” for God does not require of us harmful events and effects. He intends for us good, and leads us away from harm. All this is true enough, though there has been, in the history of theology, more to say. Since the Lord is all-powerful, He does permit us to wander into temptation. Thomas called this his “permissive will” which is tied up with the mysteries of His creating us freely to love and obey Him.  We may recall that God's Son prayed that the cup of suffering might pass from him, and then rose up to face what His Father asked of Him. 

There is one more thing to say here, and it has to do with eschatology, the doctrine of the last things so important in Advent.  The word for “temptation” refers to the testing, the great trial, which must come before the Kingdom. This is where the example of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane is pertinent. This is the moment of witness before the world, literally of “martyrdom,” of a public and costly “Yes” to Jesus. He does require this of His saints according to His will, though we like Jesus may pray to be spared it. The saints did not try to get themselves martyred, but they needed to be faithful.  

Shall we then stop speaking of being “led” to or from “temptation?” I don't think so. All I have said is background to the smaller, daily summons to each of us to rise up and witness with our lives. 






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As you may know, there is a debate anew about a revision of the BCP in the Episcopal Church. I think it's ill-conceived theologically, and we as a church have other fish we'd better get on with frying!  But there is another interesting issue one often hears about, which I want to focus on here, a generational one.  Basically, the revision is so very boomer, and we the soon-to-retire are out of touch and need to let it go. It's interesting since we imagine it to be the opposite, but that's rather boomer too, isn't it?

What is the evidence? First, there are younger Episcopalians who may be more progressive than I on social issues, but don't want revision either. A more traditional kind of worship is what attracted them. In addition to this evidence from the pews, there is evidence from the world of theology. The revisionists who mutter about softening atonement language failed to get the memo about the enormous popularity of a scholar like Rene Girard. Third, and finally, we can learn from sociology. A scholar like Mary Douglas taught us that incessant revision is not a sign of enlightenment but only of a rootless, mobile, commodified, spiritual equivalent of constantly rearranging your furniture. 

The job of the aging is to move over gracefully, the one thing which proves so hard for us Boomers. 



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