Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Flotsam and jetsam--World Day of Prayer

What to call it?--a leaflet, a tract, an ad?  Maybe it's something churches slipped into their weekly church bulletins back then, in February, 1939.  How it slipped into my possession is beyond me.  It's something akin to loose change, stuck in the edges of my office bulletin board.  Like so much else lying around, it had escaped my notice for years, so long I have no clue about its origins.

More fastidious folks would keep a cleaner office. Good Calvinists shouldn't have flotsam and jetsam lying around uselessly, stuff unaccounted for, not in its rightful place.  But then just how much self-righteousness does it take to be a really good Calvinist?--and if the tally be known, who'd really want to be one? Lord knows, my sins are more than I can count, but no one's ever called me anal.  

Besides, it's a kind of joy to uncover treasures an arm's length away--like this little item, featuring Durer's famous portrait of praying hands.  

I'm guessing, from the info it offers, that not many Christian Reformed churches would have stuck it in their bulletins in 1939. Listen to this petition from the back of the leaflet:  "Father, grant that I may take my religion seriously and invite the spirit of Jesus Christ to permeate everything I do."

There's nothing abhorrent about such supplication, but the language, my forebearers would likely have said, waffles dangerously--"spirit of Jesus Christ" has a touch of modernism.  Why not not use the name of the Holy Spirit, after all?  Beware, my grandfather might have said.

"May the law of love be the law which governs my everyday life.  May I seek to reproduce the warm friendliness of Jesus in my home. . ."

I'm guessing the lights would be flashing on his heresy hunter, not that he was stiff-headed.  

"Help me to seek out some person or group whose immediate needs cry out for Christian service. . ."

Sounds like "social gospel," don't you think?

What I'm saying is, it's origins are probably not any church in which my grandpa preached.  I have no idea why this little green ad is mine.

The date is ominous--February 24, 1939, just months before the invasion of Poland,  and less than a month after Hitler stood before the Reichstag and told them that it was within the power of good Arian people to end, finally and totally, the pervasive treachery of European Jewry.

Europe will not have peace until the Jewish question has been disposed of. The world has sufficient capacity for settlement, but we must finally break away from the notion that a certain percentage of the Jewish people are intended, by our dear God, to be the parasitic beneficiary of the body, and of the productive work, of other peoples. 

Maybe the authors of this little thing had that in mind when they penned this petition on the back:  "Help me to study, work, and pray for better understanding among people of all races and nations.  Help me to be willing to live dangerously that peace may come in this our day, O Lord."  There is a certain prophetic character here.

It's little more than a mint-green leaflet calling the nation to prayer.  What did they know of what was to come just down the block?--Blitzkrieg, Pearl Harbor, Anzio, Guadalcanal, the Battle of the Bulge, D-Day, Iwo Gima?  

Had they known, would they have prayed differently?--more passionately?  I'm guessing that it wouldn't take too long before people like my own grandparents, scared of modernism, would have read those petitions in a far less fearful way, five of their children serving in a war that would linger horrifically for four long years.

But would all those pray-ers talk to God differently if they had known the score of horrors to come just down the road?  Maybe so.  

And maybe I should too-or so suggests this little green tract from who knows where, having been discovered behind stuff slovenly stuffed into the edge of my bulletin board.

1 comment:

Dan Knauss said...

Why anyone doesn't expect horrors down the road is beyond me. We should be less "optimistic" and more comical about it.

Interesting find and retrieval of the thoughts between-the-lines. If this was an ecumenical call to pray with others outside one's own denomination, it would indeed have been regarded as a temptation to sin by a lot of midwestern Lutherans and Calvinists who had rules and theology against those things.

As a result of those convictions, as you probably know, merely having chaplains was problematic and strongly opposed from many quarters. The wars generated huge internal and external pressures to assimilate to a less particularistic identity and understanding of the church. Who could stand against men of different faiths praying together as they went to their deaths? A good story about that worth checking out if you haven't seen it: