For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
It has been said that the Lord’s Prayer begins controversially, because some are offended by addressing God as “Father”. I suggest that there’s far more offence caused by “our”.
When we say “our,” it’s not because we are claiming God to be our property, as if anyone could do that, but because of the astounding recognition that God has willed to become our God. Before we reached out to God, God reached out and claimed us, promised to be our God, promised to make us God’s people. We can say that God is ours not because of who we are or what we have done, but because of what God in Jesus has done.
“Our” also reminds us that we have a relationship with other Christians as well as with God. By praying “our” we cannot claim we can be Christians in isolation, nor that our faith is private. We’re all in this together, and we aren’t the first to do this. We are the current manifestation of a two thousand year inheritance, which none of us paid for or earned, and regardless of whether we feel we deserve it or not.
There may be religions that come to you through quiet walks in the woods, or by sitting quietly in the library with a book, or rummaging around in the recesses of your psyche. Christianity is not one of them. Christianity is inherently communal, a matter of life in the Body, the church. Jesus did not call isolated individuals to follow him. He called a group of disciples. How did you begin the journey of following Jesus? Is this something you thought of yourself? Was it revealed to you by staring up into the sun, or walking in a field of clover? Or did you encounter other Christians, who told you the story, who lived their faith in such a way that we wanted to know more? This is why “our” is both important, and a significant challenge.
Lord Jesus, as part of a community of hope, we want to hear your words of encouragement. As a part of a community in need, we want to receive your healing. As a part of a community, we want to receive your word. As your community, make us willing to share all we have, in your name. Amen.
The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.