John Dominic Crossan came to town a few days ago. Intriguing person. Brilliant. Engaging. Humorous. Provocative. He managed to do his assigned work with some of us and move on before the self-appointed "faith police" jumped into action. The raving and ranting quickly began after an article about him appeared in the newspaper. In spite of the fact that the article misquoted him at one point and did not really develop his thought in other ways, the FP's, who have not read his books or had a conversation with him, branded him guilty by association with the Jesus Seminar and pressed on with their condescending attacks on him and those of us who took the time to listen to his three lectures.
He addressed us on the subject of The Lord's Prayer. His book, THE GREATEST PRAYER, fills in details which time did not allow him to do in the lectures. New thoughts were introduced which make the praying and understanding of that prayer more meaningful.
I have had more trouble with the statement, "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," than any other part of the prayer. What was Jesus saying? Why would we think that God would ever lead us into temptation?
Almost any New Testament scholar, regardless of his/her position on the liberal-conservative spectrum, would say that the main theme of Jesus' preaching and teaching was the kingdom of God. Jesus announced that the kingdom had come. It's already here in our midst. It is within us. We do not have to wait to "go" into the kingdom at some later apocalyptic event. We are invited to participate in the kingdom, here and now.
Nor do we bring the kingdom into reality. No matter how faithful we strive to be, our efforts will never accomplish its realization. It is God's gift to give and sustain. Some however will sense that their efforts are so vital that anything and everything must be a part of the coming of God's reign on earth. It might even mean that our zealotry for this kingdom would be so intense that whatever action necessary must be taken to order its advancement. It could mean excluding some folk because of their unorthodoxy. It might mean the use of violence, including, but not limited to, acts of war.
Jesus lived in a time that knew its share of violence. That is the way that the Roman Empire settled its accounts and dealt with its issues. Some would want to aid the coming of Messiah through acts of violence. Their descendants are with us today.
Crossan left an idea in my heart that I can't ignore. Never think (or pray) that God will somehow do God's work through violence. The ugliness of it may be all around us. But never be tempted to believe that is God's way.