Luther Memorial Lutheran Church is a caring community of Christian believers in Jesus Christ, dedicated to worship, study, prayer and serving the world as God’s hands, doing God’s work. In praise of God’s creative diversity, we welcome and affirm all of God’s people, regardless of race, ethnicity, faith tradition, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Jesus teaches that prayer is simply a conversation with God: there’s no right or wrong way to pray. Jesus isn’t concerned with the exact words we pray, but rather that our prayers should always be honest, built on the trust in God that we receive by God’s baptismal covenant with us. God has promised never to abandon us, and that promise should inform how we pray.
For four centuries Christians have prayed the beloved words of the Lord’s Prayer, beginning with, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” That translation was composed by scholars who produced the 1611 King James Bible using Hebrew and Greek texts. Yet Jesus’ native tongue was Aramaic, the language he spoke with his family, his disciples and his neighbors. In the past 150 years, scrolls dating to the fourth century were discovered featuring the Aramaic version of the Lord’s Prayer; when we read the Aramaic text, we see that Jesus acknowledges our Creator God as both Father and Mother. That “all in all” understanding of God is an important point of welcome for persons who struggle with gender identity and patriarchal oppression.
While some prefer the King James’ version of the Lord’s Prayer that they learned as children, to suggest that contemporary or inclusive versions of the Lord’s Prayer are ‘wrong’ puts God in a box: Jesus didn’t speak King James English, and neither do we. Language evolves to serve the humans who speak it. God gives us the gift of language to express ourselves and form relationships with each other, and with God. God creates humans to be unique and have preferences, but when we impose our preferences on everyone else, insisting that our way is ‘correct,’ we hinder the work of God’s Holy Spirit, who is always making God’s Creation new.
The translation of the Aramaic prayer on this chart represents the life’s work of religion scholar Dr. Neill Douglas-Klotz, who researched Semitic languages including Aramaic. Aramaic was the root language of Abraham and the Israelites, and it eventually morphed into Hebrew. Click here to listen to the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer.
Using inclusive language isn’t just something that the ELCA encourages: it’s a respectful way to behave, and it’s our public proclamation that Luther Memorial is a faith community where judgment and exclusion has no place, as we gather in the name of the Risen Christ. We give thanks for God’s gift of language that is always evolving to suit the needs of our complex human existence; we give thanks for the work of the Spirit who stirs new friends to join us here; and we give thanks to God for always hearing and answering our prayers, no matter what words we use.
~Peace to all here, Rev. Monica Weber