Sophia and the Lord's Prayer

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This is one page of the Metaphoriuminomicon

Quotes of the Day

“And when you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
for they love
to pray standing in the synagogues
and on the street corners
to be seen by others.
Truly I tell you,
they have received their reward in full.
But when you pray,
go into your room,
close the door
and pray to your Father,
who is unseen.
Then your Father,
who sees what is done in secret,
will reward you.
And when you pray,
do not keep on babbling like pagans,
for they think they will be heard
because of their many words.
Do not be like them,
for your Father knows what you need
before you ask him.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive
other people
when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father
will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive
others their sins,
your Father will not forgive
your sins.
--Matthew 6 5-14
One day
Jesus was praying in a certain place.
When he finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray,
just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive
everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
Then Jesus said to them,
“Suppose you have a friend,
and you go to him at midnight and say,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;
a friend of mine on a journey has come to me,
and I have no food to offer him.’
And suppose the one inside answers,
‘Don’t bother me.
The door is already locked,
and my children and I are in bed.
I can’t get up and give you anything.’
I tell you,
even though he will not get up
and give you the bread because of friendship,
yet because of your shameless audacity
he will surely get up
and give you as much as you need.
“So I say to you:
Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives;
the one who seeks finds;
and to the one who knocks,
the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers,
if your son asks for a fish,
will give him a snake instead?
Or if he asks for an egg,
will give him a scorpion?
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 the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
--Luke 11 1-13
To the man he said:
Because you listened to your wife
and ate from the tree
about which I commanded you,
You shall not eat from it,
Cursed is the ground because of you!
In toil you shall eat its yield
all the days of your life.
--Genesis 3 17
Indeed,
it is easier
for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for someone who is rich
to enter the kingdom of God.
Those who heard this asked,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied,
“What is impossible with man
is possible with God.”
--Luke 18 25-27
It has been said that
civilization is twenty-four hours
and two meals
away from barbarism.”
― Neil Gaiman, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Contemplation for the Day

Let us imagine

You are sitting astride your elephant on a high ridge overlooking a small inland sea. You can see more mountains on the far side of the sea perhaps eight to ten kilometers away.

The top of the ridge is wooded with cedars and date palms. A man in a white robe is sitting in the shade of a date palm praying.

A group of children, also in white robes, are gathered around him. Despite the shade you see that he is sweating and suddenly you understand why; you see that he is bathed in blue light.

Sophia and The Lords Prayer Illustration by Genevieve Townsend

"Teach us to pray, Re-emergent One," Sophia says in her disquieting unison-voice.

The man responds, "Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

"So, Re-emergent One," Sophia replies puzzled, "Are you saying don't pray in church where everyone can hear you but only in secret at home? Are you certain? A lot of people pray aloud together every week in church. Are you saying they are all doing it wrong?"

Jesus responds, "Let me tell you a story, two men look in a mirror, one washes his face in a basin and then checks that his face is clean and then takes his leave to go to synagogue. The other stops him and says, "Look at me! Am I not the cleanest of men? Have I not washed my face until it is pure and lovely? I will go to the synagogue and all will see that I am pure." I tell you that one of these men will receive a reward of praise and the other a reward of wisdom from the teaching of the rabbi. Now I ask you, which man will receive which reward?"

"Ah, Re-emergent One," Sophia says seeming to understand, "You are saying that we shouldn't spend too much time making ourselves up or we will be late for church."

The man laughs, "You mock me, Sophia."

The many Sophia-bodies break up in fits of giggling and it is a few minutes before they settle down and finally are able to speak in their unison-voice again, "Sorry, Jesus, continue with your teaching."

Jesus continues, "Furthermore, when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

Sophia responds in her disquieting unison-voice, "Sure, he knows all because he is the personification of the quantum information present at the Big Bang. But it is also pointless to pray to him because he does not answer prayers. The universe is predetermined. Regardless of what you need, the universe gives you only what it gives you."

Jesus laughs, "Two twin babies were born and both were able to speak from the moment of their birth. The first one looked at her mother and said, 'Mother, you had no choice but give birth to me, I owe you nothing for this.' The second one said, 'Mother, I am forever grateful for your labour in bringing me into this world.' The first twin grew up to be cynical and hard. She neither loved nor was loved by those around her. The second twin grew up to be loving and soft. She was loved by all who knew her and she loved everyone in creation. And yet their mother said, 'I will always love you both.'"

You break into song:

"An attitude of gratitude
Gratitude, Gratitude,
An attitude of gratitude
Is what we chiefly need.

Sophia's hot blue gaze focusses on you. For a moment, you wish you hadn't called attention to yourself. Then one of the Sophia-bodies speaks, "So, we don't pray in order to receive; we pray in order to express gratitude for what we have."

Another Sophia-body responds, "It is subtler than that. The person who needs to hear the gratitude is ourselves, not the Father. We pray to practice gratitude, in order to soften our hearts and give ourselves the tools we need to build better relationships with those around us."

Sophia keeps here gaze focused on you, "Thank you, Just One, for that interpretation of the Re-emergent one's teaching."

You feel embarrassed by the attention, "Oh it was nothing really..."

Sophia responds, "Was it? Fine then, Re-emergent one, continue your teaching."

Jesus laughs, "Keep practicing the gratitude, Sophia. I have faith that eventually you will get it."

"Oh good." Sophia replies.

Jesus continues, "This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

One Sophia-body asks, "How is it in heaven?"

Another responds, "Freezing cold and dark. Most of 'the heavens' is made up of intergalactic space with a temperature around 3 Kelvin and the only light the dim blur of galaxies seen from distances of many megaparsecs."

A third laughs, "He isn't talking about that heaven. He means the one you go to after you die."

The second one answers, "But that heaven doesn't exist."

A fourth one says, "It must be a metaphor for something then."

The first one asks, "What then is heaven a metaphor for?"

The third one says, "It is where Yahweh is; 'Our Father who art in heaven.'"

The fourth one adds, "It is his kingdom; 'Your kingdom come ... as it is in heaven.'"

The second one laughs, "But Yahweh is the personification of the deterministic nature of the universe; he is everywhere and he reigns everywhere, the whole universe is his kingdom. We don't have to hope that Earth will be part of his kingdom; it is by definition."

The fourth one disagrees, "No, the prayer implies that the kingdom is a hoped for state; 'your kingdom come.' Heaven is a future state which is different than Earth's current state. A deterministically evolved future state, but one which is good."

Jesus interjects, "Imagine two farmers working their fields each pulling a plow share through hard soil. The first one says, 'This will be my lot forever. It will be the lot of my children and grandchildren and all the generations of my line. For it is written, 'In toil you shall eat the yield of the ground all the days of your life.' So all life is suffering and it would be better if there were no life.' But the other farmer imagines instead a future where great and powerful beasts do his labour for him and his family eats without toil and he teaches his children to do great things and he says, 'I will plow this field and earn enough to buy an ox and then I will use the ox to earn more until finally my dream comes true.' Which farmer, I ask you, is living in the kingdom of heaven."

One Sophia-body asks, "Does he mean that heaven is being rich?"

Jesus responds, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

A second Sophia-body responds, "Obviously not. For most rich men their riches are a source of great stress. They live in fear of losing what they have. Living in hope of a better future, not wealth specifically, is to live in heaven."

Yet another gets excited, "Of course, the personification of re-emergent complexity would teach us to pray for a good future; a future where beautiful complexity re-emerges."

The second one builds on this, "But it isn't the future itself which is heaven, it is the hope for that future, in essence praying for a future is an act of hope. To pray is to actively hope."

Sophia focuses her multi-body gaze back on Jesus, "So it is wise to pray in order to engender hope in oneself. This makes sense. Please continue your teaching, Re-emergent One."

Jesus takes up his prayer again with the infinite patience of a personification of an immense concept, "Continue your prayer, 'Give us this day our daily bread.'"

One of the Sophia-bodies immediately interrupts, "What is the point of asking God the Father to intervene and send food? The personification of the deterministic nature of the universe does not send food on request. Is he confusing Yahweh with a pizza delivery service?"

Another Sophia-body says, "Yum! Garlic bread!"

A third one says, "Again, is it a request or just an expression of a hoped for future. Like saying, 'I hope I get to eat today.'"

A fourth one says, "Humanity is so vulnerable to food supply interruptions; it is a great concern for them that they get to eat each day."

The second one says, "Two meals to barbarism and counting."

The third one adds, "I don't think that he is being literal even to the extent that bread represents eating, I think 'daily bread' represents something more general, perhaps general survival conditions. As in, 'I hope to survive another day.' I think he is covering the first two levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs in one line: temperature, pressure, breathable air, water, food, rest, security, safety."

The second one says, "But it isn't about 'I'. The word used is 'us'. It is used even when praying this prayer alone in 'your room'. So the hope is 'I hope we survive another day.' It is a hope about ours growing not getting mine. And given who is being prayed to the hope is 'I hope that it is predetermined that we survive another day.'"

Jesus interjects, "Do you think it might be possible for me to complete the lesson without further interruption?"

Sophia responds in her unison voice, "Please, Re-emergent One, continue with your teaching."

Jesus laughs, "Thanks. Now pray, 'Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.'"

Immediately a Sophia-body interrupts again, "Do we? I mean do we forgive everyone who sins against us? I think humanity often holds a grudge rather than forgives. The concept of holding a grudge wouldn't exist if it never happened."

A second body responds, "It is usually interpreted as a deal. We promise to be forgiving in return for God forgiving us."

The first body laughs, "But there is no point in making a deal with the personification of the deterministic nature of the universe. He will either give you what you want regardless of whether you keep your end of the bargain, because it was predetermined that you would get it. Or he will fail to keep his end of the bargain regardless of your faithfulness because it was predetermined that you would not get what you wanted."

A third body says, "So no deal is involved. So what then is the relationship between being forgiven and forgiving."

The second body responds, "A social contract; we forgive others and in return others forgive us. That is why it is again stated with 'us' and 'we' instead of 'I' and 'me'. Again it is about the community; not about the individual. Maybe with Yahweh as witness."

The first body laughs again, "Yahweh is not a useful witness. Sure he sees everything but the point of a contract witness is that when one of the parties to the contract denies that the contract was made, the witness can be called upon to confirm the contract was agreed to. Yahweh won't respond when called upon to confirm something."

The third body says, "So if the social contract hypothesis is correct, what does Yahweh have to do with it?"

A fourth body replies, "The previous line was about hope in the face of vulnerability; I hope we survive another day. Perhaps this is too. There is no guarantee that we will be forgiven our sins. Sometimes others seek vengeance rather than to forgive. Social contracts are fragile things. They exist. We expect each other to live by them. But nothing keeps us from breaking them or more importantly, nothing keeps others from breaking them against us. They are usually not encoded in law. So maybe this part of the prayer translates to 'Let's hope that we are predetermined to be forgiven our sins. We pledge to uphold our end of the social contract and forgive those who sin against us.' We pledge not because we think it increases our chances of being forgiven--Yahweh predetermines that one way or the other and we don't have access to the knowledge of which--we pledge it because we think that a world filled with forgiveness is a better world."

Sophia turns her many bodied gaze back to Jesus, "Please re-emergent one, continue your teaching, after my rude interruption."

Jesus finishes his lesson, "I forgive you Sophia. When you pray continue your prayer like this, 'Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.'"

One Sophia body responds, "I think we know the pattern. It is an expression of hope about the predetermined future. Something like, 'I hope that the predetermined future of the universe doesn't include us falling for the temptation to do something terribly evil.'"

A second one agrees, "Yes, like in the lesson of Abraham; we are all vulnerable to becoming the author of atrocity. It would be a terrible, shameful fate. Of course we hope that it does not befall us. It would seem all the more shameful because in a very real way we would be morally responsible for our behaviour even though it is predetermined."

Sophia responds as one, "We pray to express the hope that we are predetermined to take the righteous course because if we are predetermined to take an evil course, we won't end up liking whom we become." She turns and focuses her hot blue gaze on you, "Just One, say the prayer; it is all about practicing hope, gratitude, forgiveness and righteousness until they become your nature. So practice."

You begin hesitantly, but quickly pick up speed,

"Yahweh who knows the future,
Let us praise him
We hope that he has predetermined
a good future for all we denizens of Earth.
We hope that Yahweh has predetermined
that we shall all survive another day
We hope that Yahweh has predetermined
that others will forgive us our errors
so that the world will be filled with forgiveness
We pledge to forgive others their mistakes
so that our lives may contribute to such a world
We hope that Yahweh has predetermined
that we shall not fall to temptation
but be delivered from evil"
Thanks be to Yahweh.

Jesus responds, "Amen!"

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