As we continue our exploration of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, take a moment to read it again:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don't let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Last week we were prompted by the beginning words: Our Father. Today, it continues: Our Father in heaven.
Take a moment and think about that word. Heaven. What comes to mind?
For John Lennon whatever heaven is was something he wanted to imagine away. For him, it was preferred to think of "only sky" above him. I don't know exactly what Lennon's imagination of heaven was, but I don't think it was what the Bible seems to teach or have in mind.
The consistent reality of heaven, in scripture, is not that it is "up there" somewhere. It is that it is the dwelling place of God. And that is what is noted here, in Jesus' prayer. Our Father, God, is in heaven. There is a place that is different than this world. A place where things are right and in line with the beauty and love of God.
I believe the hope of heaven is important for us as we live our life. Not to drive us to some kind of moral behaviour so that we can earn our way there. Heaven is not used that way in the Bible. Rather, the hope of heaven tells us that the suffering of this life is not all that there is. The pain of this world is not the end of the story.
This prayer invites us, as we begin our approach to God - carrying all of our struggles, pains, and weights with us - to find some level of access to that place where he dwells and things are - heaven - even while we remain where we are. How wonderful is it that we don't need to fix everything or anything in order to enter the presence of God - that place of heaven. We are invited simply to come to Our Father in heaven.
And so we respond to the invitation. And we come, with hope, to our Father, in heaven.