Lead us not into temptation
“Lead us not into temptation” The Lord’s Prayer, line 9
In the traditional version of The Lord’s Prayer, line 9 of the traditional setting reads, “Lead us not into temptation…” What exactly does that mean?
The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer the Lord Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Our traditional Lord’s Prayer is based on the Matthew 6:9-13 scripture which reads in the NIV Bible,
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’”
The more familiar wording we find in the BCP is a combination of the Elizabethan period and dates to Tyndale's New Testament translation of 1526. The doxology at the end also dates to that period as an ‘add-on,’ most likely based on King David’s exultation of God in 1st Chronicles (29:4-19), which says, “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory and the victory and the majesty ... thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.” This added ending was most likely a prayer practice and liturgical use decision which is in common use all over the world. With regards to our question for the day, line 9 of the modern translation of The Lord’s Prayer found in the BCP reads, “save us from the time of trial” and this translation will help us understand Jesus’ intention in teaching.
First, we know that God does not tempt us or lead us to sin: James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” On the contrary; in 1 Peter we are told that God’s plan is that we be holy and righteous in God’s self,
13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (13-16)
Here, Peter is referencing several passages from scripture found in the Book of Leviticus:
19:2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
20:7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.
20:26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.
21:8 You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.
In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13), Jesus teaches the disciples to ask God to lead them away from the pitfalls and difficulties that they will stumble into. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (verse 13) teaches us that avoiding temptation should be one of the primary concerns of the Christian life.
We pray to not be led into temptation because we cannot overcome temptation on our own—we know this. Left to our own devices, we will find ourselves in the place of temptation. So, Jesus tells us that to avoid this trial we need to pray before we get there. Basically, we are saying, “Father, left alone I will lead myself to a bad place—don’t let me do this! YOU take charge and lead me away instead and protect me from the evil one who entices me in my travels.”
Praying for God to “lead us not into temptation” means God can guide our steps in such a way that we avoid the people and places that can tempt us. We ask our Father to take providential charge of us to keep us out of situations where the evil one can tempt us.
Peace in Christ,
The Need for Sacrifice
Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Psalm 50:13
I was recently asked the question, “Why does God want the sacrifice of animals, but then say that “I do not eat?” This is related to the more general, larger question, “Why does God want sacrifices at all when Jesus has already sacrificed himself for us?”
Great questions! To get to the root of the need for sacrifice we need to go all the way back to the beginning. In the Book of Genesis chapter 3, verse 3:21 states, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” This event took place after the Fall: the apple bite and cover-up fiasco. In this passage, we learn that the “cover” for sin was blood, or specifically, to provide modesty and (only necessary because of sin) blood had to be spilled (an animal had to die). In effect, God sacrificed God’s own creation (an animal) for the recovery of humankind. It is important to pause a moment here and realize how horrific this event would have been to Adam and Eve. The result of their sin had an immediate and irreversible effect on “the other,” beyond themselves.
Now we jump ahead to the Book of Leviticus where, in the 6th and 17th chapters, God instructs Moses in the way and why of animal sacrifices:
“The Lord said to Moses: If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord…They must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day they present their guilt offering. 6 And as a penalty they must bring to the priest, that is, to the Lord, their guilt offering, a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. 7 In this way the priest will make atonement for them before the Lord, and they will be forgiven for any of the things they did that made them guilty." Vs. 6:1-2, 5-7
“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.” 17:11
In this instruction and in God’s example in the Garden, God was teaching a lesson to another, not needing an action for the self. Sin was born out of deception: deception from outside (the serpent) and inside (the desire) and could not be irradicated, only treated. Sin led to death. It was serious. In order to avoid their own destruction because of their sin, the Israelites had to offer something innocent to die in their place—in this case, an animal without blemish. Unfortunately, no amount of animal blood could completely wash them clean. The practice of blood sacrifice would be corrupted even as the cause of the sacrifice was a corruption. The sacrifice of innocence was consumed in the sin it was designed to cover--to pay for, and death remained in practice and in spirit. Through sin, no amount of animal blood could change the hearts and minds of the people. While the blood served as a reminder of the people’s endless guilt, it also lost its meaning as a reminder of innocence and life.
God did not need the sacrifice; there was no sustenance or power that God received from this practice. God initiated this practice to teach and lead, as offensive as this may sound to some, as a symbol of the absolute necessity of personal awareness and personal responsibility. In a much simpler way, parents make their children relive the offense by having them “own it” in a personal apology and Mea Culpa before the injured party. Why do they do that? To teach how important it is to take responsibility and to not want to do it again. They may also be required to pay (sacrifice), in one form or another, as an atonement for the harm they did to the other.
St. Paul reflects in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death,” physical death, emotional death, spiritual death, and no amount of personal sacrifice would change that. Though the lesson was still being taught by God, it was still being corrupted by the people. Ultimately humankind could only be redeemed by the blood of a sacrifice that we could not corrupt; a sacrifice that transcended the individual, yet was offered for each person. God offered God-self as the sacrifice; not out of God’s need, but through love and compassion for our need.
So, God did/does not need our sacrifice then or now. WE need our sacrifice then and now. We sacrifice of ourselves, our time, energy, and focus as a response to the sacrifice that God made on our behalf, that we could never make. Animal sacrifice pointed the way to God offering His very own Son as the ultimate sacrifice. Still a covering for sin, it was a painful, horrifying slaughter of the Innocent on our behalf, but it was the ultimate lesson; the ultimate gift of a loving God that the sinner would be made innocent by the blood of a perfect Lamb.
Peace in Christ,
“On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread…After supper he took the cup of wine” BCP pg. 363
Several weeks ago, I was asked, “Is the Eucharist a Sacrament like the other Sacraments?” And “What exactly is a Sacrament?”
Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines a Sacrament as, “a Christian rite (such as baptism or the Eucharist) that is believed to have been ordained by Christ and that is held to be a means of divine grace or to be a sign or symbol of a spiritual reality.”
The section entitled, An Outline of the Faith, commonly called the Catechism, begins on pg. 845 in the BCP. On pg. 857 of the section The Sacraments, the first question and answer is:
Q.What are the sacraments?
A.The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.
As we covered Grace in my last post, I will not spend time on it here. It is important to note that the second Q + A of this section is the follow-up:
Q.What is grace?
A.Grace is God's favor towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.
The reason the Catechism moves directly from Sacrament to Grace is precisely because they are intimately connected. A Sacrament is the outward and physical action/expression which represents (is the symbol of) and facilitates the inward and spiritual reality of God. These two cannot be separated outwardly without hindering the inward spiritual revelation of God.
In the Episcopal Church, we observe two Sacraments ordained by Christ: Baptism and Holy Eucharist, which are required for full participation in the faith. There are five additional sacraments that evolved through devotion and worship and are affirmed as pathways of God’s grace but are not necessary as faith practices. They are:
The Articles of Religion, often referred to as the “39 Articles,” are
. . . a brief and condensed statement of what Anglican Christians believe and teach. These carefully summarized statements of biblical theology were compiled by the English Reformers (Thomas Cranmer and Joseph Ridley) as a means to guide and guard our identity in Christ. Adopted by the Church of England in 1571, the 39 Articles are designed to assist believers in thinking, discussing, applying, and sharing “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). These theological principals remain relevant for our spiritual health and maturity as we follow Jesus Christ today. (Grace Northridge 39 Articles)
Article 25 states:
The sacraments instituted by Christ are not only badges or tokens of the profession of Christians but are also sure witnesses and effectual signs of God's grace and goodwill towards us. Through them he works invisibly within us, both bringing to life and also strengthening and confirming our faith in him. There are two sacraments instituted by Christ our Lord in the Gospel—Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The five that are commonly called sacraments (confirmation, penance, ordination, marriage, and extreme unction) are not to be regarded as Gospel sacraments. This is because they are either a corruption of apostolic practice or states of life as allowed in the Scriptures. They are not of the same nature as the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper since they do not have any visible sign or ceremony instituted by God. The sacraments were not instituted by Christ to be gazed at or carried about but to be used properly. It is only in those who receive them worthily that they have a beneficial effect or operation. As Paul the apostle says, those who receive them in an unworthy manner bring condemnation upon themselves.
The Christian faith has always recognized the participation in the Sacraments as a necessary part of our faith and worship, and the Anglican/Episcopal Church reflects the belief in the primacy of the Holy Eucharist as the “Principle act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day and other major Feasts…” BCP pg. 13
So, the Holy Eucharist is akin to Baptism but different from the following five. The most important components of our faith are growth in spirit and depth of relationship. These lifelong goals are reflected by the intimacy of Christ present in Communion, and growth in understanding and devotion to the Sacraments will both enable and enrich our spiritual life.
Peace in Christ,
Recently I was asked, “just what exactly is “grace?” And “why is it important?”
To start, Merriam-Webster defines grace in several ways:
1. Unmerited divine assistance granted to humans for their regeneration or sanctification
2. Approval, or Favor
3. A charming or attractive trait or characteristic
4. —used as a title of address or reference for a duke, a duchess, or an archbishop
5. A short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks
6. Disposition to, or an act, or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
We can narrow this down to two as we seek the answer to this question, #1 and #6.
Taking #1 first: John Stott+, Anglican Priest, theologian and author wrote, “Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.” Paul Zahl+, Episcopal Priest, theologian and prior Dean and President of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry wrote, “Grace is unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it.” And St. Paul wrote, God raised us up with Christ…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:6a, 8-10
Our English word “grace,” as we refer to it in Holy Scripture, is a translation of two biblical words: Chesed and Charis. Chesed is Hebrew from the Old Testament; it means God’s provision which delivered the people from their enemies or afflictions. Charis is Greek from the New Testament; it refers to God’s caring for those who do not deserve God’s caring.
The Grace of God is the most beautiful and powerful thing we will ever encounter. Grace is God reaching downward to a people who are constantly pushing back against Him, who are in rebellion against Him. Grace is love to those who don’t deserve it, reject it, and deny it. Grace is assurance and peace and hope and joy unmerited, always there and always offered without reservation.
Tullian Tchividjian wrote in his book, One-Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World:
Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable…. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing.
Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love. Pg. 32-33
To be a Christian, to seek after God and know Jesus Christ, is to accept the Grace that only God can give. We are only who we are by the Grace of God, it is by God’s grace alone that we can participate in what God is doing in the world. Through God’s Grace, God calls us to be a part of His mission, we participate in the plan of redemption given to us by Jesus on the Cross. So, here we have the answer to the question by way of expanding definition #1: "Unmerited divine assistance granted to humans for their regeneration or sanctification." But what of #6?
The sixth definition in our list, "disposition to, or an act, or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency," refers to a different kind of grace; a grace that is derivative, born out of a manor life. As recipients of God’s Grace, we are privileged to serve as agents of Grace. We receive Grace (Acts 11:23), are encouraged to continue in Grace (Acts 13:43), and are called to testify to the Grace of God (Acts 20:24). Grace empowers us to go to the sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors of our days and love them with the love of Christ. We extend God’s Grace to all people because of the Grace God has shown to us, and in this, our manner of life is changed.
Living a “Grace-Filled Life” (def #1) we are able to live “grace-fully” (def #6) in the way we act, communicate, and interact. In Titus 2:11-12 Paul writes, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Grace transforms our desires, behaviors, actions, and motivations.
Accepting God’s Grace is important because, from it, all Spiritual growth flows and in it, all spiritual awareness radiates. When we live in God’s Grace, we are transformed, and grace becomes us. Max Lacedo, Pastor and author wrote in his book, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine: "Grace is God's best idea. His decision to ravage a people by love, to rescue passionately, and to restore justly - what rivals it? Of all his wondrous works, grace, in my estimation, is the magnum opus." Receiving God’s Grace, we live to pass it on.
A true understanding of Grace—of God’s unmerited favor—always provokes a life of grace, gratitude, and obedience.
Grace be unto you!
Father Bill Burk†