The Greatest Prayer (Week 3)

This week we’re discussing chapters four and five of John Dominic Crossan’s book, The Greatest Prayer. Our reading is filled with definitions and re-definitions. Some are familiar terms; others quite archaic. If you have questions, pose them in a comment and we can begin the discussion here.

Discussion Questions

Chapter 4 – Your Kingdom Come

  1. The term “Kingdom of God” permeates the gospels, a common thread in the parables of Jesus. Most of us have never lived in a kingdom. How would you explain the Kingdom of God? Are there other terms you find helpful in understanding God’s Kingdom? Kin-dom of God? Reign of God? Household of God?
  2. Crossan argues the Kingdom of God involves a different process and style of rule from traditional kingdoms or governments. He suggests rephrasing the term as the “ruling style of God.” (p. 78) How does this affect your understanding of the Kingdom of God?
  3. Eschaton is Greek for “the end.” Eschatology, then, involves ideas about the end. But what end? Eschatology is often tied up with apocalypse–which means a revelation about the Eschaton. How have you understood these terms? Often connected with the idea of an end of the world, it is better understood as the end of an Age or period of time. How does this shift in definition change the ways in which you think about these terms?
  4. Crossan suggests we think about the eschaton as the “Great Divine Cleanup of the World.” (p. 79-81) How does he understand this Divine Cleanup? How will it come about? Who plays a part in bringing about this Cleanup?
  5. Compare John the Baptist’s vision of the Kingdom of God with Jesus’s proclamation of the Kingdom of God. (pp. 85-92) In what ways were they similar? How were they different?
  6. Crossan ends chapter four with a discussion of the idea of parousia, a Greek term for an imperial-level visitation now associated with ideas of Christ’s future return. As we pray “your kingdom come,” how do you understand that coming? is it a past, present, future event or some combination of all three?

Chapter 5 – Your Will Be Done on Earth

  1. Each Sunday we pray, “your will be done.” What does that phrase mean to you?
  2. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” How does Crossan relate this saying of Martin Luther King, Jr. to his discussion of God’s will?
  3. Using Anselm as a jumping off point, Crossan invites us to consider the possibility that rather than through divine punishment, God’s justice and righteousness are manifested through consequences of the actions of human beings. How do you respond?
  4. His discussion of God’s will leads Crossan to refute the view of substitutionary or vicarious atonement, focusing instead on collaboration and participation. (pp. 104-106) How did Anselm understand God’s will and Jesus’s death? In what ways does Crossan’s view differ?
  5. Crossan suggests a better rendering of “on earth as it is in heaven” would be “as in heaven so on earth.” He understands “as in heaven” to be “the eternal design of God for creation.” (p. 116) Does that change the meaning of the phrase for you? of the prayer?

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