Monday, November 19, 2012

Finding God in Our Story

     Recent events – Frankenstorm in New Jersey and New York, the escalating ground war between Hamaas and Israel - remind us that this world is in need of repair. We don't have to watch TV to know this is true. Our own communities, our own homes, our own souls remind us this is true. While God will one day wrap up human history and create a new heaven and new earth, the course of human history has always been and will continue to be pretty grim.
     Paul once wrote to the persecuted church in Thessalonica: “Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this" (I Thessalonians 5:18).   I don't particularly like that verse. It's hard. The “whatever happens” part of that verse means, literally, “in every condition, or in every matter,” give thanks. It's worth noting that Paul does not say, “Feel happy.” He says to give thanks because it is God’s will.
     When we talk about thanksgiving, or giving thanks, we are not just talking about an emotion or feeling (though it can be that). I wonder if more often than not thanksgiving is a decision, a perspective, a commitment to finding God in our story, a search for God in every memory.
     After his house and barn burned down, Japanese poet Masahidewrote wrote, "My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon." That's the idea.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sickness and Prayer

   In the years since my father died of cancer, I have done a lot of praying, studying, and reading about the intersection between prayer and sickness.  Many things remain murky, but one thing has become clear: We misread the Bible time after time when it addresses this issue.
    It's an understandable human mistake. We want God to make our lives better based on our definitions and expectations.  Physical health is one of those areas in which we long for a Savior, and why wouldn't we?  We are all part of a creation that groans.
   The book of James ends with an interesting paragraph:
Is anyone among you sick? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” - James 5:13-16 
    Seems pretty straight forward. If you are sick, the elders will anoint you with oil, and a prayer offered in faith will make you well. Period.
     Of course, I had to ask several questions: Why does it say "If you are sick" twice?  Why oil?  How will I know if my prayer was full of faith? And why just the elders? Are the deacons just not spiritually on the same plane?  So with close by, and the rest of James at my internet fingertips, I dug in.