Thursday, August 27, 2009

Questioning the prayer

Questioning the prayer
By Nathan Day Wilson

How many times have you said The Lord’s Prayer? A few hundred times? Many thousands? Never at all?

The prayer is a work of beauty, especially Matthew’s version with its pleasant cadences and well balanced couplets. Try reading this aloud so you can feel the pulse: “Our father in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. They will be done.”

Did you feel it? Whether it means anything to your faith or not, you have to admit there’s wonderful rhythm to the prayer, smooth and melodic.

For me, the prayer evokes many memories. I’ve prayed it with close friends and with complete strangers. Those words have celebrated new lives and consoled recent deaths. In rooms where all spoke the same language, and in rooms where languages were as numerous as people, I’ve claimed and clamored this prayer that Jesus taught his followers.

Yet for a prayer so beautiful, so evocative and so central to whom and whose I am, rarely have I thought about what each phrase in the prayer means or why Jesus decided to include it. So I asked myself some questions.

For example, I asked myself, “Self, why did the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray? After all, prayer was a pillar of Jewish piety. Public prayer, spoken aloud in the morning, afternoon and evening was common.”Then I thought, “Hmmm, Self, that is a good question.”

Then I considered rewarding my good question with some mint chocolate chip ice cream, but decided I should ask more questions instead.

What do you think? Why did the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray? Or what’s your answer to these questions: Why did Jesus organize the prayer the way he did? After the beginning invocation, is there anything significant about the order of his six requests? How was the prayer radical at the time when Jesus taught it?

And the big one: Does this prayer have relevance for you; or, do you just say the prayer now because that’s what others have always done?

Not to be rude, but if you’re not going to speak up with some answers, I’m going to ask one more question: Of all the images or ways that Jesus could have addressed God at the beginning of the prayer, why did he start by saying “Our Father?”

After all, Jesus could have said something like, “Holy One who loves us more than there is water in the deepest sea.” It would have been true, and poetic if I may say so. God does love us, and all creation, more than there is water in the deepest sea — or even all the seas combined.

Or Jesus could have addressed God as “Ground of all our existence.” Or even, “One whose strength surpasses the strongest boulder.” Both are true statements; both are apt descriptions.

But Jesus did not start the prayer with any of those. Instead, he started with the Aramaic word, “Abba.” Why?

Those are the sorts of questions I’ve been asking myself. The good and exciting news for me is that this weekend I’ll be sharing some answers to the questions. The congregation I get to serve, First Christian Church, is beginning a worship series about The Lord’s Prayer this Sunday at 10 a.m.

One of the most requested worship topics, I think and pray it’ll be a good series. I guess I’m not the only one interested in deeply experiencing this much loved prayer.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Light of truth in healthcare

The Shelbyville News

Light of truth in healthcare
By Nathan Day Wilson

First of all, thank you for the many emailed, telephoned and in person compliments on last week’s column. And, thank you for the complaint: a good reminder of the difficulty of writing hyperbole. I appreciate them all.

It was a fun column to write.

This week’s column, I’m afraid, is every bit as important but not as much fun. In fact, this week I write with a sad and heavy heart.

Here’s why: The past couple weeks have been very difficult for the soul of all Americans. In the midst of discussing important healthcare issues that will affect your family and mine for generations, too many of our fellow citizens have decided to resort to lies and uncivil behavior.

Whether they support reform or the status quo, their misinformation and divisive tactics sadden me, embarrass me and concern me for the well-being of our country.

You may have received some of their emails. Usually without the names of authors or supporting citations, the emails claim such ludicrous lies as healthcare reform would force families to receive care ordered by a government panel instead of qualified, trained doctors and their staff.

Another popular email claims that elderly would be left to die if healthcare reform passed. This is also untrue, and sickening that anyone would even write such a lie.

Why are some people doing this? I’m not sure, and I pray they stop. My guess is they benefit from the system as it is – a system that delivers the best health care to the wealthiest and leaves 46 million fellow Americans with no health insurance at all.

My guess for why people circulate intentionally untrue emails and act in violent ways is that they want us to be afraid. I never appreciated bullies, and I still don’t.

I think it should stop. For those of us who are Christians or belong to other faith groups, it should stop. For all of us who embrace the Golden Rule, it should stop. For us who seek justice and fairness, it should stop. If for no other reason than just our common identity as Americans, it should stop!

Let’s ask for, even demand, a healthcare discussion that is factual. Let’s demand one worthy of your family and my family; a discussion that brings our communities together instead of fragmenting us further.

Proverbs 12 says that “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” Well, special interests, your moment is up. Now we want real healthcare discussion, not misinformation. We want the light of truth, not the heat of your fear-mongering.

Wilson is senior pastor of First Christian on West Washington St, which this week will celebrate all students, teachers, administration, staff and school board members at the 10:00 worship.