Friday, July 30, 2010

Are you praying about ketchup stains too?

Did you know that it is possible to begin a conversation with a digression? Because that is what I am about to do.

When I was younger, I told a fellow PK (pastor's kid) friend three things I would never do:
1. I would never go to seminary
2. I would never go into ministry as a profession
3. I would never marry pastor

I have learned since to not make statements that begin with "I would never." They are dangerous.

Technically, ministry is not my "profession," but having invested ourselves in years of theological education, I can't promise it will never be in our future. Besides, mommy-hood is quite the ministry. My mom used to call the four of us her sheep.

And technically, I am not married to a "pastor," but I am married to a preacher. And I love being married to this preacher. For one thing, he gives great illustrations.

End of digression.

In my previous post, I recycled Hans' ketchup stain illustration. Originally, he used it to explain the scenario in Matthew 9:1-8. Seeing the faith of his friends, Jesus healed the paralyzed man -- by forgiving his sins.

What's that? The guy can't um... move? In Jesus' eyes, apparently, that was secondary. Jesus' main concern was the sickness of his heart. He declares, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matt 9:2). In the following narrative, while "sitting with tax collectors and sinners," Jesus identified himself as the physician to those who were sick.

Too often, my prayers must sound pretty silly. They go something like this: "Dear Lord, please remove the ketchup stain from my hospital gown, and please remove the mustard stain from so and so."

Yes, Jesus was able to cure the man of his paralysis, and he did. But the concerns of this body and this life are like ketchup stains. Temporary. Superficial. To God, the sin of the heart is our true death, incurable except by his mercy and forgiveness.

Years ago, when I was teaching inner-city youth, delinquent girls in the juvenile justice facilities and schools for pregnant teens, I was feeling pretty useless toward the end of the year. They were dead and dying before my eyes, and I was teaching them futile things like "your need to love yourself," "feel good about the way you look," "please, don't get into abusive relationships." Ketchup stains!

Lord, teach us to pray.


winifredlam said...

so good. so thought provoking. I'm thinking. Thank you

Michelle said...

Good thoughts about a good illustration. We don't always know how to pray as we ought. I need this lesson too.

E! said...

i really, really love this post. also, it nudges me to finish writing one i have had saved to drafts since we brought church service to an AIDS hospice in the south bronx... the invitation to live never sounded so clearly to me in a church service as that sunday morning, worshipping with other bodies of death. i think often of casa promesa, especially now as i'm transitioning churches and riding the tension between getting oneself to a community in which my heart can come alive... and staying put, knowing that every body is broken and obscures the saving gospel in its own way?