December 14, 2014

Rector’s Reflection – December 14, 2014

I got this in an e-mail the other day… you know, one of those Fwd> Fwd> Fwd> things. I generally avoid those, but I knew the sender and thought I’d give it a chance.

Once upon a time there was a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart, but she was very frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart and her personal life wasn’t doing that great either. One day, she decided do indulge in that time honored custom of retail therapy. She went shopping. She got to the mall and walked in one of the stores. She was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. (She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the paintings she’d seen in museums and in devotional books.)

Finally she got up her nerve and asked, “Excuse me, but are you Jesus?”

“I am.”

“Do you work here?”

“In a way; I own the store.”

“Oh, what do you sell here?”

“Just about everything,” Jesus replied. “Feel free to walk up and down the aisles; make a list; see what it is you want; and then come back and I’ll see what I can do for you.”

Well, she did just that. She walked up and down the aisles, writing furiously. There was one aisle that featured peace on earth and no more war. An aisle over was no hunger or poverty. There was a section devoted to peace and harmony in families. There were shelves of no dissension ranging from interpersonal to global geopolitical to ecumenical. There was also a no addiction section, as well as an extensive section on healing diseases and conditions. The store had it all.

By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list. Jesus looked over the list, then smiled at her and said, “No problem.” Then he bent down behind the counter and picked out all sorts of things, and when he finally stood up, he laid out a whole slew of packets on the counter.

“What are these?” the woman asked.

“Seed packets,” Jesus answered.

“You mean I don’t get the finished product?”

“No, this is a place of dreams. You come in with your prayers and dreams, and I give you the seeds. You go home and plant the seeds. You water them and nurture them and help them to grow, and someday someone – maybe even you – reaps the benefits.”

“Oh,” she said… and left the store empty-handed.

Beginning on page 810 of the Book of Common Prayer, there is a directory of Prayers and Thanksgivings. There are Prayers for the World – for things like the Human Family, For Peace, For Peace among the Nations, and For our Enemies; Prayers for the Church – For the Mission of the Church, For Clergy and People, For the Diocese, For the Parish, to name just a few; Prayers for National Life – For our Country, For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority… For Courts of Justice, For Sound Government, For those in the Armed Forces of our Country, and For those who Suffer for the sake of Conscience; Prayers for the Social Order – For Social Justice, In Times of Conflict, For Agriculture… For the Poor and Neglected, For the Oppressed, For Prisons and Correctional Institutions, For the Right Use of God’s Gifts, For those who Influence Public Opinion; Prayers for the Natural Order – such as For the Conservation of Natural Resources, For the Harvest of Lands and Waters, For the Future of the Human Race; Prayers for Family and Personal Life – For Families, For the Care of Children, For Young Persons, For Those Who Live Alone, For the Aged. There are prayers For Travelers, For those we Love, For a Person in Trouble or Bereavement, For the Victims of Addiction, For Guidance, For Quiet Confidence, For Protection, and A Prayer of Self-Dedication.

There are 70 of them in all, as well as directions as to where you can find more prayers in the BCP for all sorts and conditions of men (good 1928 language!).

Now I will be the first to commend to you, for reasons too numerous to mention here, a solid prayer life. But in light of the Fwd> Fwd> Fwd> story I just shared, perhaps thinking of prayer as sowing seeds can be a useful model in this season of waiting, because let’s face it, just as God’s clock is wound in a way different from ours, seeds run on their own time.

Take the prayer For Young Persons (#47) which says this: God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Just saying the words “Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world…” is pretty much an exercise in elocution; sowing these words as seeds that grow to produce attitudes and behaviors that actually will “Show them…” a Godly life is the ultimate point of this… or any prayer, because we are, after all, God’s eyes and ears and hands in this world.