GNB 2.21

January 24, 2023

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:

“This then is how you ought to pray, [begin by saying] ‘Father, our Father, hallowed is Your name.” (Matthew 6.9)

TODAY’S REFLECTION:

Who is at the gate of your house? In the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Lazarus sat at the gate of the Rich Man’s house. We often find the weak, the wounded, the weary, the disenfranchised at the “gates of the Temple.” And we know why we find them there. They are there because the flow of human traffic is expected to be high in a place such as the Temple in Jerusalem. The odds are in their favor that someone will have compassion on them and bless them with an offering. Generally it is a token offering but enough tokens can become significant. It was a gamble worth taking. Made more sense than just sitting at their house feeling miserable and outcast. Who wants to go and see that?

Think about it. Who else was supposed to be sitting at the gates? When Samuel is directed by God to go to Bethlehem and anoint the next king of Israel, he goes to the gates of the city. Now this next king, mind you, would be a king of God’s choosing and not Israel’s. Israel was already seeing the failure of their choice. Remember, the people cried out “We want a king like all the other nations around have a king.” Perhaps that is not what they exactly meant but that is what they exactly got. It was one thing to have a leadership position called king. It was a totally different thing to have someone in that “king” position who was just like all the others who occupied that position for the surrounding nations. Let’s take inventory of some of the characteristics of “those kings.” They worshiped other gods. They put their own interests ahead of the people who called them king. They brandished military warriors and armies of disposable resources like human life as the source of their authority. They were immoral. They opposed Israel. Most of all they denounced the superiority and priority of Yahweh Elohim as the God of Israel over the “gods of their own making.” Now let’s go back and compare/contrast what the people of Israel ended up asking for. What did they say? They said, “We want a king just like the kings of the nations surrounding us.” So, there you have it. Saul had the potential to be a great king of Israel but he had no model to go by except for those other kings. Or was that the case?

Instead of being like other kings, Saul had the opportunity to be the model of true kingship. All he had to do was to go to the gates of the cities and speak with the elders who had long been trained to seek the truth in the word of God. The elders of the land had always consulted the leadership of Moses and Aaron and the appointed judges who led by God’s Word. The paradigm had been “trust in the Lord of Heaven and earth.” But, when that was forsaken then the truth we have come to know became reality: nature abhors a vacuum. If there is a gap, then something must fill it. Really? Strange that when we look at “wide open spaces” we have this tendency to call it empty. What is it that we are not seeing? It was that “not seeing” which impacted the Rich Man. Oh, he “saw” Lazarus and threw tokens at him. He kept the dogs fed who licked the wounds of Lazarus as a source of comfort. What he never saw was the opportunity to gain from Lazarus a source of life he himself had forsaken. And when the time of reality check came into the lives of both Lazarus and the Rich Man, who were they met by but “Father” Abraham.

Abraham was known as “the Father of Faith.” By faith Abraham believed in a One True God. By faith Abraham heard that God speak to him and he obeyed the words of that God. By faith, Abraham packed up his entire inventory of life which was under his purview and moved it to Haran and then on to Canaan. He hiccupped along the way and suffered some indignity for it. But, by faith he obeyed God and in trust took his son by Sarah and went to Mount Moriah. There he followed the instructions for making sacrifice with Isaac being the sacrifice. God, seeing the faithfulness of Abraham, offered a ram instead and blessed Abraham and Isaac with an abundant future. It took great faith for Abraham to be Abraham in the eyes of God, His Father by faith. Now, for Lazarus and the Rich Man, the next steps in their journey led them to the gate of Heaven where Father Abraham sat in waiting. He was not, mind you, a substitution for God as Father. But, he was a representative of the Father of them all whose faith was sufficient to bless them and redeem them. In some ways, the Rich Man could be seen as a potential representative of Abraham while he was “on earth.” Lazarus came to him for a blessing and for redemption. He received neither. He was offered tokens but nothing authentic, only dismissal. Now, they were both at the gate. Their lives reflected their faith in God and their fate in death. This time the Rich Man needed Lazarus. But the time for assistance was far passed. He was unable to bridge the chasm in his spirit. His family was unprepared for the truth of salvation. What he had dismissed at the gate of his life on earth was now gone. He missed seeing the fullness that was before him.

Jesus did not want the disciples to miss that full opportunity. They were struggling with the needs in their own lives. They recognized their disabilities, their lacks, their struggles and their hopes to be more in life than they had believed possible. In Jesus, they stood at the gate of Heaven on earth. They may have seen themselves more like Lazarus with great needs. Jesus saw them as potential elders of the faith who would bring the people of God together. Jesus was like a father to them much like Abraham was to the nation of Israel. But, both were the representatives of the One True Father of Heaven and Earth. With that in mind, He taught them to pray successfully to close the gap they felt saying “Father, our Father, hallowed by Your Name.”

Who is at the gate of your lives? The gate of your community? The gate of this nation? We have been given the benchmark by which to determine the best answers to those questions. It comes to us in the Lord’s Prayer.

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Father, our Father, hallowed be Your Name. It is good for us to remember to keep our representation of Your Name holy. We have been positioned at the gates of many venues not as beggars but as elders. We pray for the strength and wisdom of Your Word to guide us and empower us to be “sons of God” and “sons of the True Father of Heaven and Earth” so we may meet the needs of those who come to us and pass through us with a hope for abundant life. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

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