Our Trespasses

The sixth “line” of the Lord’s Prayer will take more than a single blog post. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” There’s a lot there.
    I begin with a clearing of the throat. “Trespass” is one of those double-footed words. Both syllables are accented. It’s not TRESSpuss. (That’s the UK, not the US, pronunciation, according to the Cambridge dictionary. It’s well-known Americans are more pious than Brits.) Don’t try to rush over it. It’s not a word quickly left behind. TRESS-PASS. Two beats. I know people who try to “lead” the congregation by saying this line very loudly and very quickly, tripping right over it, and creating havoc in the congregation. Don’t.
    You can’t get past your trespasses quickly. It should be a hard word to say. You should slow down here. You need to look at your sins.
    That we have sins is a truth that’s hard to look at squarely. I have said before that I like to meditate on the Lord’s Prayer as I do a morning run. I have told you that it might take me ten minutes to say the Prayer. Well, it’s worse than that. I might take all the time I have, and enjoy meditating on God as my father, then going on to his wondrous accessibility (“in heaven”). I can think of so many aspects of creation that I wish hallowed his Name. I can think of parts of creation where his kingdom has not come and where his will is not done, and I can long for those parts of creation to be brought under his gracious rule. I can even take several minutes thinking about what I need today, the “daily bread” that I want him to give me.
    And guess what? Time’s up! So sorry . . . didn’t get to the end of the prayer today.
    It’s hard to get there, and we would love to just rush over it. But we can’t. The trespasses exist. And they aren’t somebody else’s. They aren’t the ways other people act against God’s kingdom. They are ours. Yours. Mine.
    We need to slow down. Let this sink in.
    Jesus did not assume that his disciples would be good, complete, integrally functioning human beings. He allowed as how we might sin.
    But more: Jesus did not assume that his disciples might (from time to time) sin; he didn’t tell us to pray “And if we have sinned, please forgive us.” (And isn’t that such a weaselly way of speaking! “If I have offended you, I’m sorry” so easily means “I regret you are such a super-sensitive person that you took offense.”)
    No: Jesus assumed we would sin. Every time we say this prayer, we will have sinned in the time leading up to it. It’s an ongoing reality.
    We need to see that. We need to slow down.
    (I need to slow down and stop here. More to come.)
    Out & About. Sunday, July 14, I am to preach at the traditional services at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas: 7:30, 9, and 11:15 a.m.
    My sermon on Trinity Sunday (“The Father’s Day”) is here: http://www.allsoulsokc.com/sermon/6309/. The Canadian reference was provoked by the impending retirement of the rector of All Souls’ Church, Patrick Bright, who is retiring to Our Neighbor to the North.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."