August 21, 2016 — “Holy Holy, Batman!” — A series on the Lord’s Prayer

Robin, the sidekick to Batman, is known for his cheesy exclamations that would sum up the situation they were in like, “Holy strawberries Batman, we’re in a jam!”  And if you spend any amount of time thinking about that word, holy, and how you use it in your life, if you’re anything like me, it’s not often used to talk about something that’s actually holy but is more in line with Robin’s use of the word holy. Or worse.

So let’s look back at a holy encounter in the Bible and see if we can get our bearings on what holy means. In the 3rd chapter of Exodus, Moses has an encounter with God. He comes upon this bush that is ablaze with fire, but it’s not been consumed. And just like any of us, Moses can’t just walk on by but stops to see if he can see what’s causing this weird thing to happen. And God calls out to him, calls him by name and Moses says, “here I am!” and then God says, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

It’s not just holy ground but a holy encounter with God that Moses has. And this is just the beginning of God telling Moses to go and free the imprisoned Israelites and Moses arguing with God at every step. Now that’s a prayer life!

Now, in the instructions Jesus gives his disciples in praying the Lord’s prayer, he does not tell them to remove their shoes every time there is something holy that happens. Instead, Jesus continues to teach us how to address God, how to view God: that when God is part of a thing, it’s holy. So God’s very name is holy. And when we have an encounter with God, it is holy.

The thing about holiness, about something being sacred, is that it’s set apart. Moses’ encounter with the burning bush and realizing it was God was an experience like no other. It was an experience that was set apart.

And today, right now, here we are in worship, in a time and a place set apart for the worship of the God we name as our Father or our Mother, as the one who is Holy. And it’s my priority, my duty and delight, to help lead worship around this God that we have a relationship with. That we are connected to. This time is not about making abstract points about an abstract and distant God. It’s about a time when my focus is to be abundantly clear that the God of the universe is madly in love with you. And I get to remind you of that each and every week.

But the thing is, God’s holiness, this sacred time and space, is not limited to this worship space, at 10:30am on Sundays. If that were true, then I’d only work on Sundays, people.

You see, God’s holiness is linked to the very nature of who God is, what God does: God gives life. And so that means God’s holiness is part of our relationship with God. It’s part of our daily life with God. Because it leads to us living into God’s kingdom breaking in now, God’s will being done here and now. The reality of God’s kingdom is reconciliation and peace and love that will take our breath away. And if God’s will is done, if what God wants for us were to happen, then God’s kingdom would break in and there would be peace that passes our understanding.

But we often like things in neat categories. We like to draw lines between the sacred and the secular, claiming that God is part of one but not of another. I was sick much of this past week and so was not at the fair as much as I usually am, but one afternoon I overlapped with Jerry and Jeanette Lindberg and asked them how it had been going at the booth. Jeanette said, “well, one guy came up to me and said, ‘beer and hymns don’t belong together, that’s just the way it is.’” She said that it was most certainly his choice, so there was no big argument or anything. But for us to claim that God would show up in a bar, cross that line from sacred to secular, that was just too much for him.

Yet if we limit God to being present only in a worship space, that God can’t show up in a bar or at the fair or in what we might see as terrible places or situations? Well, that’s not a holy God. That’s not a God who is all that powerful or mighty or creative. It’s a God who obeys our rules. Plays it safe. Plays it clean.

You’ve seen God in places that took your breath away, right?  Maybe you’ve had a burning bush moment with God. Maybe you haven’t.  I know that many of you have experienced God to be present with you in terrible times, hard times. At a loved ones death bed or as you hug your crying child or watch someone you love suffer or as your health continues to decline. Many of you have pointed to God, to God’s faithfulness and love, to the very presence of Jesus in those terribly hard times. Those are holy and terrible times.

If it were up to us to decide what was holy and what wasn’t, we box God in in a heart beat. And I think the church is guilty of this. I know I have been guilty of this. There is a perception that Christians are or are supposed to be “holier than thou…” A sort a snooty, self-righteous, pecking order of who is holy and who isn’t. But we don’t have control of that. God does. God loves everyone and wants to be in relationship with everyone. So that’s a pretty big club we belong to with no easy lines to draw. God decides.

Because reaching out to someone on the first day of school who is new or who you can tell is completely afraid? That’s holy ground. That’s God’s kingdom come, that’s God’s will be done.

The runners in the Olympics this past week who tripped and fell and then one stopped to help the other up? That’s holy ground right there. That’s God’s kingdom come, that’s God’s will be done.

It all hinges on relationship because God needs us to love God’s people. We pray, your kingdom come, your will be done – well, that can’t happen with us alone or with God alone. It takes our relationship with God and God’s love to power this thing.

It’s why we will soon gather around the baptismal fount with Olive and pour water over her head and make bold promises in God’s name. God initiates a relationship with her through this water and God’s promise to claim and love her that not only makes her a precious Child of God, but also plunges her into relationship with all of us. When God spoke to Moses, he identified himself in relationship, saying, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. I am the God of people you know. I go way back before you even drew breath. I’ve loved you all along. And so we gather around this water and we proclaim this God of faithfulness to be true for Olive. Just as we proclaim this faithfulness, this love from God to be true for each one of us.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Always.

For me. For you.