There was a time when one could reasonably assume that most anyone who attended church regularly knew at least one thing from memory. The Lord’s Prayer or The Prayer of Jesus or the Our Father, depending on your tradition, was one of the first things learned by children and adults.
That may not be true anymore, but I don’t necessarily think that has to be a bad thing. It does present the opportunity to look at it more closely and wonder if, in learning it by rote, we may have lost some of the depth of its meaning.
For me, regardless of traditional or contemporary language or the various biblical and liturgical versions of the text, the prayer encapsulates what Jesus is all about: our relationship with God, which is both intimately personal and communal, and our participation in that relationship. By that, I mean that God is held to be holy, the kingdom of heaven can be here on earth and we are fed - in body, mind and spirit - not simply by God's will alone, but by our participation in it. What we understand as God's will, God's purpose, God's desire for us for a life of wholeness, filled with love and compassion, peace and joy, requires us to be active in living it, in living as Jesus teaches in his life.
Nobody, especially Jesus, ever said that was going to be easy, just that it’s going to be worth it. Of course, we tend to see so many things in life as problems to be overcome, tests to pass, battles to win and opponents to be defeated rather than challenges to be engaged, experiences to be shared and life to lived fully. Even our idea of justice is adversarial and based on retribution: those who are judged to have acted wrongly are punished. And that's more often about the law, which is not always justice.
Jesus, though, teaches that being "just" is about equity. Justice, for Jesus, is distributive. It's about living what is true with equity, fairly sharing all things so that everyone has what they need, with respect, love and compassion for all.
That all sounds wonderful, doesn't it? And utopian. Which it is, literally. It would be a world of such perfection that it would have to be, well, heaven. But the kingdom of heaven is near, says Jesus, and can be brought here on earth when we participate in living The Way that Jesus showed us. “Perfection” isn’t required, except in the sense that we are perfectly made to be who we are. We will strive and sometimes fail, we will not be the arbitrary “perfect” as society defines it, we will sometimes feel lost, sometimes feel like this heaven is forever out of reach. So why bother?
Simply, because this is the journey. It's not the beginning or the end, it is the journey and, as theologian and author Brian McLaren observed, we are "in the making,” an observation he made in the appropriately titled book 'We Make the Road by Walking.'
We aren't called to an earthly understanding of perfection, we're called to living. And that means we're called to do our best at living into wholeness with each other and the earth, with love and compassion and grace. Yes, I know, that still sounds so impossible, but the point is the trying, the engaging and the living - we make the road by walking.