When the days were completed for their purification according to the Torah of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to KYRIE, just as it is written in the Torah of the KYRIE, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the KYRIE…” Luke 2:22-38
When Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and deviation offerings you took no delight. I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.“ Hebrews 10:5-10 Second Reading Fourth Sunday of Advent
Christianity has had a love/hate relationship with liturgy. Moses lays out the foundations of liturgy in Exodus 22, in Leviticus, and in the Psalms. The prophets condemn liturgy. Genesis 4: 1-4, the story of Cain and Abel, gives the first recorded use of liturgy and explains the why of this love/hate relationship. Cain brings an offering to the NAME from the fruit of the ground. Abel brought the fatty portion of the firstlings of his flock. Abel brings from the first of the flock. Cain, whose name means upraised/prideful one, brings his whatever. The contest rests upon the key word, “first.”
The Jewish understanding of liturgy, from Leviticus, tells us what we bring as sacrifice represents ourselves. The leader brings his bulls, representing leadership. The poor, as related in Luke, bring doves, representing the suffering of these birds in sacrifice. We bring who we are, and who we are manifests itself by what we do. Cain brings his whatever, not making sure that what he brings is the best of what he has. When we give each other presents, the general rule of thumb is not to bring what we like. We bring what speaks to the relationship. God asks for the gift we bring to him to speak to our relationship with him by doing his will.
When we pray the Our Father, we ask, “Our Father,” the first words speak to the relationship of father, and we, as children of the church, his bride, to our relation as children. “Who are in heaven…” Heaven is the air. We like to think of heaven as up there, somewhere, but the air is here. As the air blows as wind, coming and going as it wills, as John tells us in his Gospel, God calls us to breath in this wind, allow it to remain within us, and move us to heal and transform.
“Dedicated is your NAME.” We dedicate God’s Name, not by words we say, but by what we do. You represent your family by your actions, whether you like it, or know it, or not. When we behave well, we dedicate God’s name by being an example. Others dedicate God’s Name saying, “I teach you customs and precedents as the NAME, my God, commanded me, that you guard to do them in the land you are entering to possess. Guard them carefully, for this is your wisdom and discernment in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these precedents and say, “This great nation is truly a wise and discerning people.” Deuteronomy 4:5-6
In Hebrew and Aramaic, prayer is a reflexive verb. It is sitting down with God and asking him to work with us as we do his will. “Your will be done, your will be done…” This is a request that he give us direction to do his will. Then comes his will. “Give us this day our daily bread.” The Greek for “Daily,” most properly translates as, “Over being.” It is the bread of over being or spiritual bread. As “daily bread,” the emphasis is upon, “Us.” It means we ask God to help us make sure all of us have the bread we need to live and survive as human beings. This is not subsistence living. This is living with the over bread, the bread of being human, with all it means to be human. We pray for the where withal to make sure all people on this planet have sufficient for their needs.
Then we pray that we forgive others as God forgives us first. We pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” King David, in Proverbs 30:10 says it well, “Two things I ask of you, do not deny them to me before I die: Put falsehood and lying far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need (daily bread); Lest, being full, I deny you, “Who is the NAME?” Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God.” This fulfilled is being lead not into temptation. “Evil?” The Hebrew word means rot. God wants a healthy world. God put us on this planet to guard it and to keep it. He wants our best.
When we give our best, God loves and looks down well on our liturgy as it is bringing the best of ourselves into his presence. When we do less. When we give second best to our world, not making sure all have sufficient to their needs, now and into posterity, taking care of our planet, God does not look well upon our liturgy. This is today’s lesson.