Monthly Archives: September 2016

Sunday sermon 25 September 2016 – The Lord’s Prayer Part 6: Forgive

Readings: Colossians 3:12-14;  Matthew 6:9-12

Sermon:

When people ask me for forgiveness if they have done something wrong, my standard response is simple. I usually quip: “it’s just as well. I’m in the forgiveness business.”

If last week’s message was about daily bread, this one is about a bread and butter issue. Forgiveness. God forgives us through Christ, and we forgive others. They belong together.

That’s why both versions of the prayer involve the partnership between God and us:

Mat 6:12  Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Luk 11:4  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

Debts was a way in which people understood what we owe against God’s accounts book.  It represented sins in Jewish teaching. There was a word in Aramaic (Jesus’ mother tongue) that covered debts and sins as a single concept.

Trespasses which we use in the traditional prayer is the word in Matthew 6:15 and means transgressions or offences, or sins again.

Story: Of course the classic case of figuring this out is seen in the notice on the abbey put up by the nuns reading: “Trespassers will be prosecuted”. A tagger wrote on the wall: “what happened to forgive us our trespasses?”

Forgiveness has to be in this pattern for prayer because it is part of the Christian’s DNA. We are forgiven on the cross – not just the Romans and the Jewish authorities who put him there.

  • And the Father in this rescue mission is seen in the story of the prodigal son – running to meet us in a most reckless inappropriate manner driven by love.
  • God so loves the world that he gives Jesus John 3:16). God sends Jesus into the world not to condemn the world (John 3:17) but to rescue us.

We are forgiven – we forgive. It’s not either or – it’s both and.

It plays out beautifully in two stories.

FIRST STORY

One for Peter – who needs heaps of forgiveness when he denies Jesus. Matthew 18 is the context if you would like to turn to it now. It starts with the story of the lost sheep. That’s God’s heart reaching out as He does to the Prodigal son. And then the chapter deals with church discipline – trying to get people restored so they can start again.

Not surprising Peter has a question then about forgiveness. Have a listen:

Mat 18:21  Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Mat 18:22  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Peter is feeling magnanimous. Probably please with himself as he is going the extra mile with this up to seven times story.

Jesus pushes him further – 77 or 70 times 7 (a deliberately ambiguous option).

The story rams it home. It’s a kingdom of heaven story in v23 – remember “Thy Kingdom Come” as the tone of the prayer?

Grace upon grace is extended to this man – his debt is forgiven.

But he sends his mate to jail for not paying a paltry amount in comparison.

The King writes off a debt that would take about 200 000 working day’s wages to pay. The forgiven servant throws his friend into prison for the wages of 100 days. The extremes speak volumes.

Who gets offended? The other servants – because injustice is clearly seen and recognised as out of sync with what was happening. They are greatly distressed (v31). When grace is received it is too powerful not to be extended to others.

The man who received grace and did not extend it ends up being tortured.

And the story ends – especially for Peter as leader I suspect – not with a discussion on writing of debts, or even that when people are good to us we should pass it on. It ends with Jesus’ declaration on forgiveness -just for Peter but also for us of course:

Mat 18:35  “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Does that mean we should set up torture chambers?

No not at all.

  • We are meant to extend grace.
  • How can we not forgive others when we ourselves have been forgiven?

If God judges anyone based on this story it is not the unbelievers who are in the firing line – but the ones who have been forgiven – that’s us.

Judgement begins with the household of God. (1 Peter 4:17)

We are not to judge the world now (perhaps later we will). We are to hold each other accountable.

Like children we can say to each other – it’s okay to share the sweetness of the lolly jar – look how much you have been given – there’s plenty to go around. Grace has to be extended to others. We forgive.

And note verse 35 – it’s from the heart. It’s not superficial – or given begrudgingly. Like children who roll their eyes and say under instruction to a  sibling “I’m sorry”.

It takes time for us to allow our hearts to be softened and changed.

SECOND STORY

The second story about grace that I want us to consider is the woman in Simon’s house in Luke 7 – Simon the Pharisee that is. Let’s look at it. You might as well read the whole story:

Luk 7:36  Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. Luk 7:37  When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, Luk 7:38  and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

Luk 7:39  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”  

Luk 7:40  Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. Luk 7:41  “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Luk 7:42  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Luk 7:43  Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Luk 7:44  Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Luk 7:45  You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. Luk 7:46  You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.

Luk 7:47  Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Luk 7:48  Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Luk 7:49  The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  Luk 7:50  Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace

Powerful isn’t it.

The more mess you have cleaned up and forgiven – the more you love Him.

And He loves us long before we understand how bad our sins are. Yes the prodigal son came to his senses and went home. But he only understood grace when he received the welcome and the blessing. The ring, the robe, the fattened calf, the party, the welcome and acceptance again to the family.

United Pursuit has this song “Hidden”.

I’ve given you the words so you can follow them.

It spoke to me because it could be my testimony. I was drawn to God in bereavement at 12 years old. Well follow the song. So often people say repentance leads to grace and faith. In my experience grace came first. It lead to repentance. Read the words then I want to play for you. It captures for me the powerful grace and love of God which draws us closer and gives us a desire to become purer.

Verse 1

There was One when I was young

Who knew my heart, He knew my sorrow

He held my hand

And He led me to trust Him

 

Chorus

Now I am hidden, in the safety of Your love

I trust Your heart, and Your intentions

Trust You completely, I’m listening intently

You’ll guide me through these many shadows

 

Verse 2

As I grow and as I change

May I love You more deeply

I will lean upon Your grace

I will lean because Your goodness is unending

 

Chorus 2

You are my vision, my reason for living

Your kindness leads me to repentance

I can’t explain it, this sweet assurance

But I’ve never known this kind of friend

I can’t explain it, this sweet assurance

But I’ve never known this kind of friend

 

Verse 3

The sun, moon and stars

Shout Your name, they give you reverence

And I, will do the same

With all my heart I give You glory

|2x|

 

Chorus 3

I want to seek You first

I want to love You more

I want to give You the honour You deserve

So I’ll bow before You, I am overcome

By the beauty of this perfect love

|2x|

Chorus 1

Have a listen:

 

I love that a new generation of young people is serving him like these guys.

You can see how much deeper our love for him grows when we continue to receive grace and kindness we don’t deserve.

Forgiveness comes naturally when we understand how much we are forgiven.

And we need to model this love and forgiveness as we share this greater story of what Jesus has done with others.

No matter how bad it gets – grace is real and possible. Jesus shared it by being friends with the worst of sinners. They repented later when overwhelmed by his love.

He loves you fully and completely too. Are you hidden in the safety of His love?

Do you trust Him completely? You can – and then you can take the risk of forgiving people.

Are you listening to Him intently?

Amen.`

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Sunday sermon 18 September 2016 – The Lord’s Prayer part 5: Daily Bread

READINGS:    Proverbs 30:7-9; Phil 4:10-13; Matthew 6:9-11

SERMON

I was reading about an army chaplain who had a question from one of his soldiers about those army rations – we used to call them “rat packs”.

The trooper asked: Padre, should this pack get “grace” or the “last rites”?

Great question. Ex-soldiers would understand the sentiment.

I have a habit at the end of our elders’ meetings when someone says “let’s say the grace together” to begin “for what we are about to receive…” I really have to concentrate as the night grows longer. And perhaps we should call our closing prayer the benediction and not “the grace”.

We need to say grace before meals.  And usually we have food on the table to give thanks for. When you think about it, though, there are few of us who when praying “give us this day our daily bread” really don’t know where our next meal is coming from.

There’s a huge chunk of the world who do have that problem. Their prayer for “daily bread” is literal.

Either way it’s the first part of the prayer that focuses on  our needs.

So what do we learn from this part of the prayer?

Lesson 1 – watch how you pray!

The first thing to learn from this line in the prayer is where it is. It’s not at the beginning.

Too many of our prayer go straight into what we call “petitions” or “supplication” – or asking prayers. Like little children we go bounding in to our Father’s presence with requests, without greeting or address. (Of course children as they grow into their teenage years learn to be more respectful in their approach – before they ask for their latest need, or want, or in time ask to borrow the car!)

If the Lord’s prayer is a model –  a framework – a template – then quite a large prelude to asking is what we talked about in the first four messages in this series.

We should always begin with God – praise, adoration, thanksgiving – because it puts into perspective, apart from many other things, who we are praying too. This generous heavenly Father. This Holy yet loving God. This powerful creator and provider. Our first request is for His Kingdom to come and that means His will to be done in our midst.

Let’s watch how we pray. Don’t leap into requests too soon. Our needs are a couple of lines down in the prayer template.

Secondly:

Lesson 2 – pray regularly – daily!

It’s the regularity that counts. Whether it’s “each day” or “this day” it’s every day. (Remember the differences between Matthew and Luke’s record of this prayer.  Luk 11:3  Give us each day our daily bread. Mat 6:11  Give us today our daily bread.)

There are days that fly buy in our lives where we are too busy and too self-sufficient to think about God’s provision.

In our last hymn today we will sing the chorus “all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above…”

I suspect it originates in James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

And probably also Matthew 7:11: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

This prayer pattern recognises that every day is good for us – to ask – and to be thankful. It’s good for our perspective.  Self-sufficiency only works while you have a job and an income. Usually we pray less during those times.

When you’ve been unemployed – if you know how that feels – it’s amazing how your prayer life gets busier!

How’s your daily prayer life coming on? He wants us to depend on Him each day.

Then, thirdly:

Lesson 3 – be content with the basics. (It’s bread!)

We are to ask for daily bread. It’s bread. Not caviar or a lavish dinner out. That means being content with the basics.

From the temptations of Jesus – where he could have turned stones into bread – to the last supper – where bread takes on a new significance – we can’t escape bread in the Bible. Even “Bethlehem” where Jesus was born means “house of bread”.

It involves the basics. It’s a staple food. People feel satisfied when they eat their staple food, whether it be bread, rice, or some other sustaining food form.

It involves contentment. And contentment with daily bread as a desired state of being is found early on in scripture – as we heard in the prayer in Proverbs 30:

Pro 30:7  “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:

Pro 30:8  Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

Pro 30:9  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.

I wonder if the American dream has messed us all up? Listen to these famous words from the declaration of independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ——

That pursuit of happiness causes heaps of trouble – people need more and more in the pursuit – but they’re often never really content.

Contrast that with Paul writing to Timothy:

1Ti 6:6  But godliness with contentment is great gain.

1Ti 6:7  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

1Ti 6:8  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

1Ti 6:9  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

1Ti 6:10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Or the passage from Philippians which is often misquoted:

Php 4:12  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Php 4:13  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

It certainly puts that last verse into perspective. It’s clearly NOT about being a great achiever or conquering the world. Context in Bible reading is everything.

Daily bread it is then. Bread is a essential staple food for many. It also represents basic needs – which include food, heath, shelter, clothing, some kind of income, safety, friends, family.

It doesn’t have to be bigger and better – with endless upgrades.

Contentment is the key. Remember this verse in John 6?

Joh 6:35  Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

Just as Jesus is the bread of life – who meets every spiritual need we have – so too this prayer is a check and balance to us – to focus on the basics physically as well. To ask for daily bread every day.

In the context of the prayer as a whole – it’s the Kingdom coming in our midst, and his will being done that matters more.

Daily bread will give us what we need to do His work.

May we learn anew to be content. Each day. With enough for the day. “One day at a time, sweet Jesus” is what Chris Kristofferson used to sing. (his 6th no 1 hit).

Matthew 6 ends with this – quite logically:

Mat 6:34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

May you be content, and fruitful, in the Kingdom of God.

Peace be with you.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Sunday sermon 4 September 2016: The Lord’s Prayer part 4 – Thy will be done.

Readings: Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 6:9-10; Matthew 26:27-42

Message:

YOUR WILL BE DONE – On earth as it is in heaven. Another one of those lines we pray without thinking. And we pray about the will of God quite often in other ways.

“If it be your will” is a standard line when praying for difficult things. I am sure you have heard it many times over the years – or prayed it yourself.

When the prayer is not answered – we are let off the hook to some extent.  “It’s not his will to answer this prayer,” we may say, as we watch a loved one die, or someone suffer.

At a basic level – “Your will be done” in my view is really a parallel thought, another way of expressing the previous line “Your Kingdom come” in the prayer.

Your kingdom come, 

your will be done

– where? – on earth of course (as it is in heaven.)

You’ve heard me say that often before – I am sure. But it’s much more than that of course.

Just as the concept of “Kingdom” is much more than the ideas we talked about last week so too the will of God. We could spend weeks looking at the Kingdom through scripture.

Jesus clearly wrestled with the will of God – from his temptations in the wilderness to his prayers in Gethsemane.

At his temptations he keeps the devil in check by quoting scripture – which is what the devil does first – he’s always so deceptive is the evil one. A master of doubt who twists the truth. Knowing our bibles also helps us stay in God’s will.

In Gethsemane Jesus prays for a way out – and look at the progression as he wrestles with the prayer and the issues at hand:

Mat 26:39  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

If it is possible – may this cup be taken from me. YET not as I will, but as you will.

And then this:

Mat 26:42  He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

This time – if it is NOT possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it….

May your will be done.

If it was like that for him – we should not be surprised that this is a tough one for us too.

God’s will for Jesus was clearly a painful difficult journey with a good outcome!

What about us?

Firstly:

  1. GOD’S WILL FOR US AS INDIVIDUALS

 So that’s a good place to begin – with God’s will for us as individuals.

And like Jesus –  there is often some wrestling to do.

Paul understood that – he gives us this powerful passage in Philippians 2 – after the most profound hymn about Jesus emptying himself and taking on the form of a servant – humbling himself and going to the cross – and being raised and exalted and given the name that is above every other name (we talked about this last week as we looked at Jesus becoming King in the Kingdom of his Father)

When he has said all that, he gives us this amazing verse: Php 2:12  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  Php 2:13  for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

It’s the ultimate paradox – you work it out, because God works in you.

  • It’s that lovely contradiction – an apparent contradiction which is what a paradox is – like we had when I had burn out and needed time off to recover.
  • My dear wife and I were in the doctor’s room and he was saying that I needed to relax more and have time out. Rest etc.
  • Her comment – “he needs to put more effort into relaxing!”

I love it. It’s one of those things I can keep reminding her off – it was very funny at the time and still us.

Paul says: Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  Php 2:13  for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

You have to put work into it – like the 15 people who came here on  Wednesday night to learn together about hearing God.

And he works in us – how does he work? To WILL and to ACT according to his good purpose.

Now the word WILL which is a noun (we pray for his will be to be done) becomes a VERB – he wills and acts.

He WILLS – he wishes or determines that things will happen in our lives. According to his good purpose. (Like Romans 8:28-30).

It’s a huge debate for people who want to ward off the possibility of faith and believing in God – they say  – WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUFFERING.

We as Christians say that there are two aspects of God’s will.

His permissive will –  the things he allows.

And his active will – the things he causes.

You can’t understand the theory of this without the relationship. Like a human father when he says “no!” – it’s the relationship that makes a child listen and accept. And not be like the little boy at school told to sit down. He did, but said “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I am standing on the inside!”

Knowing God is everything.

  • He does not cause sickness. He does not tempt us. He does not bring about earthquakes and volcanoes. They are part of the natural world.
  • He does not make crazy suicide bombers blow people up. Or fly planes into buildings. Sin and evil cause that – inspired by the evil one.
  • And he does not cause us to get sick. But he does allow it. Sometimes to make us rest. At other times – I have no idea why he allows it. I have some suspicions. But as in my case at the moment it’s not that easy.

So yes – we wrestle with him on this too: Why do you allow it Lord?

Perhaps we should be saying “what can I learn from this God? You’re at work in me.” And probably this: “how do I work this out? How should I respond? Can I trust you God?”

His WILL to be done in our lives now – while we are between the coming of the Kingdom in Christ and the final consummation of the Kingdom (expressed in Revelation 21:4 where there are no tears and no pain), is no different from the will of God in Jesus life in Gethsemane.

We have to pray it through and face it with faith and courage – knowing that this is only part of the picture. Remember – Keep your fork in your hand – the best is yet to come!

So when we pray “Your will be done” for ourselves, as individuals, we are praying

  • that He will have his way
  • whatever that means
  • whatever he allows for our good – to grow our faith
  • what every he wills for us directly – to teach us
  • whatever he sends us specifically for us to wrestle with in faith

His will is that we remain faithful and say in the words of that great hymn by Adelaide Pollard (from Jeremiah 18:3):

Have thine own way Lord, have thine own way, Thou art the potter, I am the clay.

Mould me and make me, after thy will, While I am waiting, yielded and still.

That’s our individual growth path with God. It helps to know Him well. The relationship is everything.

Then there’s our life together. His will for us as a church family:

Secondly:

  1. GOD’S WILL FOR US AS A CHURCH FAMILY

 Praying for His will to be done on earth “as it is in heaven” has greater implications for us together.

“On earth” is not just about our individual lives – what we suffer, how we succeed or fail, in relation to whether we feel happy or not, successful or not. The individual quest to achieve is not at the centre of God’s will. Listen to Phil 2:3 again: “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…”.

God’s will is always for us together – to be what He wants us to be together. Christians are by default in the body of Christ. We can’t do it alone.

What is clear about heaven is that God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are in perfect unity and love. You see it in Jesus’ prayers – he is doing what the Father wants. John’s gospel is rich with these images.

And the Holy Spirit too gives glory to Jesus.

Just two verses to unpack this a bit. You will know others:

Joh 17:1  After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.

And this one: Joh 16:13  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. Joh 16:14  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.

It’s about one another in heaven – and it should be so on earth if God’s will is to be done.

Unity is everything.

Let this be a reminder to those who may be cliquey or divisive in church. Read Psalm 133 again! God bestows his blessing where there is unity.

You can’t just hang out with your mates, folks. As an aside, the whole point of name tags is that you can meet new people and take an interest in their lives.

We are to be united together – that’s the will of God. To be one body, interdependent.

The New Testament is full of “one another” sayings, and suggestions that we care for others and not ourselves.

The reading in Philippians 2 today begins with this – before the hymn about Jesus being given the name that is above every other name:

Php 2:1  If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, Php 2:2  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Php 2:3  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Php 2:4  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Php 2:5  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

And off he goes with that powerful hymn about Jesus making himself nothing – you know it already.

That’s the will of God that we pray to be done on earth.

And thirdly:

  1. GOD’S WILL FOR US AS A WORLD

 There are huge implications that apply to the wider community too. They are very obvious and come out of our wider sense of stewardship since Genesis 1 and 2. We are to care for creation. It’s not negotiable. It’s a gift to care for well. And for people in need.

  • God’s will is for peace, not war.
  • Love, not hate.
  • Care for the world he made, and not destruction.
  • Support for the poor, not indifference.

But you know this. These are the easy bits.

It is his will for Christians is to take an interest in community issues, pray for those in authority, and sometimes get involved in local and national politics when he calls us.

Our prayer life together is essential – and if we follow Paul in 1 Timothy 2 – well listen to what he says:

1Ti 2:1  I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 1Ti 2:2  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1Ti 2:3  This is good, and pleases God our Saviour1Ti 2:4  who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

TO CONCLUDE

When we pray for his will to be done – for ourselves, the church family, and the community and world beyond these walls, we often are part of the answer to our prayers. Particularly beyond these walls.

  • His will is for us to be salt and light in the community.
  • Centres of disturbance of hope and joy.
  • People with answers. This time it is Peter who comes to our aid:

1Pe 3:15  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1Pe 3:16  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1Pe 3:17  It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

So keep praying “Thy will be done” and listen to God.

  • He will show you what to do when there’s nothing to be done about the situation you find yourself in – he’s there and he will help and guide you. He will work in you if you work out your salvation with fear and trembling – if you put some effort into it.
  • He will work out his will in the unity and well being of the church family.
  • He will work through you if you make a real decision to be a centre of hope and joy where you go each day – as you do his will in the world.

His will be done.

Amen.