The Feast (I): Prayer
“Thou preparest a table before me
In the presence of mine enemies…”
Responsible theology. What is it? Can something like that be defined, described properly? I hope so! Because without it it will be chaos out there – even worse than it is the case now. It is a theology that can firstly be counted for by the Bible, of course, by always staying within context without committing “verse-picking”. Further, it must be counted for by life – experiences of people, faith experience or otherwise – but real life with all its hurt and pain, its fun and good, its ups and downs. It’s a theology that can be compared to a restaurant you have to book a month in advance to get a seat and where yout wait a long time for your order, but when it comes, it is worth the wait through and through.
What, then, is irresponsible theology? It is a theology that proposes a cheap, plastic religion. A Theology of easy answers, quick fixes, pattern-prayers and small books with little flowers on the cover. It is a theology that is almost like a fast-food restaurant: it has quite a wide variety of the same stuff and easy answers and if you do not get it, you’re not asking in the right way. It comes folded in wax paper or polistirene-containers and only lasts for a little while before you need some more. It is very popular and everybody uses it, but deep down inside we know it is not sustainable. Just look at the guy from Supersize Me!
Now, the problem comes in when we start relying on the latter. Imagine SPUR or DROS runs out of patties. Quickly they run to the McD’s next door, buy a few burgers and put it in front of their own clients and, to top it all, expects the client to appreciate and pay for it – the price that a regular SPUR-burger would have cost. This is absurd, right? But it is what we do. People come to a church service or religious gathering to get some solid food and then we give them bread and water and most of the time just plastic. And, when they then, like the people in the restaurant would stop visiting that place, stop attending our gatherings, we suddenly start asking why? Then we suddenly come up with new “menu’s”, maybe a new look for our restaurant, maybe we change our name to attract people again. But our food? We keep on fooling our clients and serves them lukewarm, secondbest food with a reformed sauce just to make it look like the one on the picture.
Enough with all the food-metaphors! You would say. By this time your mouth must be watering…or there may be a disgusting aftertaste that is left behind in there, or heartburn that is coming through after the last meal and what happened there. In a society where food is a integral part of everybody’s culture, I think the food-metaphor is most appropriate. Everyone can relate. So, put on your apron, because this might just turn our to be quite messy!
The children sit in the pews, excited, with hearts beating eagerly. The prayer marathon is about to start in about 20 min or so – 25 hours of prayer for the town and the coming beach outreach. Everybody is divided into shifts and there are 15 different pray-stations where you can pray for different matters. But first, there is (and I am struggling to type the words, because of the way it makes my hair stand on end) prayer training. Firstly we are now, within 20 minutes, going to teach the children (whose ages vary from 12 to 17) how to open their minds so that we can hear God’s voice, or else we won’t be able to hear his voice.
The first woman comes forward with a writing board on which she drew a circle, divided into 3 parts. We all know we are separated into body, mind and soul, she starts. Our body is the part that we cover with dirt when we die. Our mind and spirit is the part with which we think and feel. Our soul is that with which we pray, the part that is in contact with God.
When you are born again, you become part of the spirit world, then you have access to the spirit world, therefore our “spiritual eyes must be opened” so that we can see what God is saying to us.
Can someone please do some proper exegeses of Ephesians 1 please??? Thank You!
So, than you are still here on earth, but part of the spirit world.
Did I miss something? Did we go back to a dualistic worldview where everything that is flesh is sinful and everything that is spiritual is pure? Did Jesus not yet conquer the world? Are we still dealing with this two-world thing where we must just look out or we will be cut from the vine (luckily we can be inserted back, remember!)?
You must just tune in your spirit to God’s voice, you must open yourself, otherwise there’s no way for God to talk to you.
Like we can suddenly limit him to our abilities. I shudder at the thought. The woman is handing out small wrist bands with a verse from 2 Chronicles on it, for those that commit themselves to prayer.
In stead of ‘n life of prayer, a living relationship with God that lives through Jesus and the Holy Spirit in you 24/7, we now teach our children that they can only communicate with God and only hear him when they have done something amazing from their side. Only then the King (!) will honour them an audience, because they have done all the right preparations.
Remember I said the first woman stood up. Now it was the second one’s turn. Fairly obese, past her age of doing youth work (yes, I really think there is something like an expiry date on doing youth work. Think about it logically. It has nothing to do with your age, but everything with your point of view, mindset and approach) and ready to confuse this poor children’s heads in a horrifying way.
We have a wonderful dad, the beste there is! She starts, even if your own dad is not the greatest or even if you do like him, this One is better! If you ask your dad for the keys to the car, he won’t only answer you in three weeks time. You are not going to know what it is about. When we ask God something, he answers immediately. If you do not hear him, you are just not listening.
LORD, PLEASE HELP!!!
How can we proclaim such absolute nonsense, such rubbish to our children in the forming years of their faith and then ask why they walk out of the church later only to never come back?
But wait, there’s more:
Okay, now we are going to exercise hearing God’s voice (!). Turn two by two to each other, somebody you do not know well. Okay. Now ask God to tell you something nice about that person that is sitting next to you. And God is not a blabbermouth. He will never tell you something bad about that person. Okay, one two three, pray.
The command comes just like that, as if she is telling the children to quickly write down the 2x-tables and see who finishes first. I am just sitting there, my eyes closed, shocked to silence, just before I wanted to leave this madness, but shame, there is this girl and I am sitting next to her. Lord, please, I pray, for the purpose of this exercise, please just show me something, I can’t handle or…whatever this ridiculous woman. Please Lord. All that I see is…nothing, just the girl sitting next to me and that funny mist spots you see when you close your eyes after looking directly into the sun for too long.
Amen, she ends the children’s prayers. Good, let’s hear what the Lord has told you (as if we all just made an order at the Wimpy, let’s see what toy each of us got.). You two first.
She starts off at one side and as the children are saying something, she interprets and declares, without explanation and without stopping. Her big body drills forward like a steamroller while my heart is turning colder the closer she gets to me. This cannot be from God, can it? Okay, I’m probably in no position to say she may not prophesize or whatever, but please, may it be handle responsibly? May it be taken into consideration that this children are all on a different faith journey and on top of it, everyone in a different place on their specific faith journey?
What did you hear? Nothing, tannie, the answer comes from the small boy in the first row. What did you see? Any pictures? Maybe a piece of scripture? No, tannie…not yet, he adds as a last thought. Don’t worry, you just need to practice some more. Close your eyes and try again.
Hello? Are we in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that we can just by trying again (hilarious – our efforts, we that try!) suddenly perform this charm, this spell, successfully?
Then she reaches the reverend.
What did you see? She asks. No, I just thought the whole time of the verse in Matthew that say blessed are those that are gentle…Yes, she interrupts him. See, the Holy Spirit talks through scripture to the reverend, because he has a lot more scripture in his heart than you, with you he talks through pictures.
Excuse me. I’m gonna go outside and puke.
The worst part is that I did not make up this insident. It really happened. In a normal, small town NG congregation. It upset my whole day and I was really quite sick for the rest of the day. I remembered sadly my own high school-catechism and realized that it was this type of stuff that hurt me the most in my life. I’m deliberately not saying “faith life”. To me there is no differentiation between my “faith life” and my “normal life” or some bollocks like that. I have one life and all aspects thereof, my religion, my academics, my playtime, whatever, are integrated with each other. Like I said: this type of approaches was the things that hurt me the most and cut the deepest. It is this things where verses was plucked out of context to serve some purpose. The question is: what happens when no fruit is bore? What do I do when I can not do “everything through Christ that strengthens me”? When I do not experience “plans to prosper and not harm you”, but exactly the opposite? What do I do when my parents are praying for so many years for a place of their own where they can serve the Lord and proclaim his word? God is supposed to answer “immediately” – if he doesn’t, it is we who are “just not listening”. I had to learn the hard way that you can never, ever tell anybody something like that. It only hurts people.
Let’s take a look why: the child is praying now, with an opened soul or spirit or mind or whatever (the Holy Spirit has conveniently suddenly left him/her) to God. His/her parents are having marriage trouble and it is going bad, or there is illness in the family, the dad has cancer and the mom has a relationship with another man. There is some praying that God will intervene and solve the marriage trouble or heal the dad’s cancer. But it doesn’t happen…the parents do end up divorcing, the dad dies of cancer after a long sickbed and the mom continues her relationship with the other man, now without the previous feel of guilt. Now what? Now the child experiences: I did not pray correctly, because God didn’t answer me immediately. Or I did not listen, but one thing is certain: I am not good enough for God and my prayers even less. Or I am not a good Christian, because why do I not hear God’s voice? Why did all this bad things happen anyway, despite my prayers that were done with an opened heart, mind, soul and spirit? The child now goes to seek comfort in a place that offers it: the world. A place that waits with arms wide open and says: come share your pain here. We do not hand out solutions, but at least we can buy you a drink. Here you only need to ask other people for their help and when it doesn’t work out, you can take them on about it because then it is them that are not delivering, it is not you that asked in the wrong way and now we are giving you the exact opposite of what you asked for.
We lose our people, not just out of congregations, but out of the Church of Christ, because we hurt them with the rubbish we proclaim to them in the name of the Bible.