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.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday morning meds--Covenant

“They are always generous and lend freely; 
their children will be blessed.”

Most people in our church wouldn’t think it was a proper worship if we didn’t do “Joys and Concerns" every Sabbath, an open-mike opportunity for people to air their griefs, list their needs, and announce their happiness. It's quite sacramental—that may be overstatement; but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that most of our congregation—Covenant Church—thinks of the public, weekly prayer bulletin board as a signature of our fellowship. It’s part of how we’re us.

I don't like being Scrooge, but I'm not always so fond of it, not only because only certain joys and concerns will get mentioned--others are too personal. Some folks don’t get any air time because their timidity keeps them seated; boldness animates others. Who knows why, but I’m always cautious about public righteousness—I know, I know, that’s my problem.

Most basic to my hesitation is my sense that communal prayer becomes, by way of “Joys and Concerns” almost entirely supplication, which may well be the least significant aspect of prayer in worship. 

I know I sound like a professor. And I’ve been wrong before. Besides, I’d likely be banished from the fellowship if I ever dared say what I just have publicly.

What's more, nice things happen in “Joys and Concerns.” We rejoice with births, we cry with those who watch their spouses go to war, we know and feel others’ heartaches—some of them at least. Going public has bountiful rewards, and I’m no longer itchy about it. Sometimes I even enjoy it.

One woman offers the same petition about once a year because she, like other parents, carries the burden week after week, when others’ plights and exaltations come and go. She stands in the middle, where she and her husband sit, and asks in her slightly quavering voice for the congregation to remember those children of the fellowship who aren’t living in faith.

No Christian parent is ever joyful about raising that concern, no matter how constant it weighs on the heart; and this woman is thinking of herself when she says it—everyone knows that; but she’s also thinking of others, probably more than a few who aren't saying it aloud.

David’s claim in this verse is no hollow promise, but neither is it absolute. Who can forget the priest, Eli, whose sons were holy terrors? David himself had a boy who in blind lust raped his half-sister. And then there’s seditious Absalom, ready to kill his own father, a really handsome kid whose life ends when he hangs by his hair from a tree. David was heartbroken.

So why does David say what he does here?  It's an if/then premise that wasn’t even true in his own life, for pity sake? Who’s he trying to kid?

Maybe—just maybe—the woman in Covenant Church who stands up annually to ask us to remember all the wayward sons and daughters holds, tooth and nail, to “covenant” theology, the idea, as Spurgeon says, that “the friend of the father [and/or mother] is the friend of the family."

Covenant theology on this score is the only comfort in her—and our—heartache. That’s what’s there to hold on to, when there seems so little else. 

King David, the world’s foremost poet, sometimes wrote better than he knew. That’s certainly one definition of inspiration, I guess, isn’t it?

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