Jesus creates a revolution by addressing prayer to the one he calls Abba — a term so familiar that the church will generally use the term which follows it the three times it appears in the New Testament — … Father.
In response to my query regarding Abba and Our Father, in Aramaic, Vic Alexander wrote:
“The opening of the prayer is: Avvoon d’bish-may-yah…
“Awoon or Aavoon is written: Abboon = our Father. Abba is = Father. The conjugation changes; the word is the same. However, it’s pronunciation is Avvoon or Awwoon, depending on dialect. The soft b is typical of Galilean and Ninevite Aramaic. The hard b is typical of Chaldean Aramaic, which tends to be more like Arabic. The Galilean is a Jewish dialect of the time of Jesus.”
The Lord’s Prayer is as close to being the world’s central theological document as any other text. If one accords to Jesus even the secondary importance given to him by religions that are not Christian, and if one believes as I do that he is more important than that, then we need to pay attention to the words he would have us pray.
Every time we can cut through the creedal-messianic overlay that accompanies the New Testament narrative — not “word of god” but reconstructions of us — we get to a stratum that is Abba-related. We get to Jesus not being the third person of a Trinity, but the first person to claim that God is not who we say he is, but rather Abba in heaven.
Where is this heaven where Abba is?
This is a key question. A place is the general answer given. Not here. Somewhere out there. Or up there. A close person dies and looks down on us from heaven. Even if you are cremated you are up there … maybe.
Funny, though. Jesus does not talk about this idealized, religious heaven so much. For him at least half the time heaven is at hand at hand. In other words, heaven is closer to us than we think if we open our eyes.
If one is a spectrum thinker, as I believe all thinkers should be, then heaven is not out there but all around, at the end of the spectrum where things are as Jesus would have them. It is not that heaven cannot be at all places in the spectrum, but that earth becomes heavenly when Abba’s will is done here.
The original gospel of Jesus is that the kingdom of Abba is at hand. Abba is the father in the Prodigal Son story. When that story is repeated, Abba is manifesting. When we worship no graven images, Abba is near by. When we do not maim, rape and murder, Abba is not far away.
So where is heaven? It is in us, around us and beyond us.
So what is the Lord’s Prayer? Incendiary. A baptism of fire to those with eyes to see and ears to hear.