Friday, June 19, 2009


I've noticed that we use the word "our" in two very different ways. It can be used both for sharing and for alienating. For inclusion and exclusion. For example, If I say "this is our bread" I could mean that it is yours and mine to be shared among "us," that is all of us. This usage would be empowering to all those voices who are usually excluded. It would be uplifting and unifying, bringing people together. I could mean the whole human race. Or I could say the same thing, "this is our bread," as in it belongs to us and not to them, as a way of excluding some from sharing in our meal.

Another example is when we talk about "our" people. Today, this is rarely inclusive (unless it is reactionary) and is more often than not alienating (even dehumanizing) to all those whom we do not include in our "our." Consider how we talk about "our people" when in time of war. I've heard it said that we must kill "them" in order to save "our people" (and sometimes the "them" includes civilians/collateral damage... as it always does in war), as though the very lives of people can be qualified into "us" and "them"--"ours" and "theirs"-- categories. In war, we justify certain things, even horrific events, with the word "our."

More examples could be discussed including immigration, torture, world hunger, economic poverty, health care reform, and even ecumenical divisions. And whether our "our" is empowering or dehumanizing all depends on who we identify with. Do we train ourselves to empower by inclusion or to dehumanize by exclusion?

The crucified messiah calls us to share with him in his life, suffering, death and resurrection. He calls us into his "our" in which there is room for ALL people. If we are to include the crucified Jewish revolutionary named Jesus into our "our" we'll have include all people. It's all about who you identify and associate with. Jesus identified and understood himself as "the least of these" (Matthew 25). If we are to identify with Jesus we must identify with the least as well. Who are the least? Perhaps they are simply the ones who don't fit into our "our." They are the unwanted, the forgotten, the collateral damage of our world. We train ourselves to empower when we move toward and begin to identify with them. We empower, uplift, and unify when we say, "our Father in heaven... give us our daily bread..." while seeing the least of these in that word "our."

Have you ever thought about the significance of praying "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" sandwiched between two "ours"--"our Father" and "our daily bread"? We can't authentically pray that prayer without seeing the whole earth, including all people, in our "our." So when the church says "our," we must eventually mean everyone. Some of the darkest tragedies in church history happened because we didn't mean all when we said "our."

That's what devotion to the kingdom of God is all about--bringing everyone together and identifying with one another across the barriers and boundaries of all other kingdoms. A kingdom is an imagination, God's is one that is big enough to include the whole world, others (such as America's) simply cannot include the whole world. Other kingdoms cannot sacrifice themselves for they do not have the power to defeat death. Other kingdoms must have borders and armies and missiles, etc. But God's kingdom crosses borders, and beats swords into plowshares. God's kingdom transcends all "us" and "them" distinctions.

So when you pray "our," pray it in all it's beauty--in the beauty of empowerment and unification--rather than it's potential horror. Identify with the least of these.

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