by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The Gospel for Sunday, July 12 and July 19:
Mark 12: 32-42
How interesting to return to the Garden of Gethsemane, here in the middle of the heat of summer. How fascinating to see Jesus praying some of the most fervent prayers we will see him offer. There's a powerful lesson here.
Many of us approach God as Santa Clause in our prayer life. We ask for what we want, and there's nothing wrong with this.
But how do we respond when we don't get what we ask for? Do we see our prayers as unanswered? Worse, do we see ourselves as unworthy?
In recent years, I've seen a surge of friends and colleagues who develop cancer. I've prayed for the restored health of each. Alas, some of them have died.
Would they still be alive if I was better at prayer? I don't believe this.
If we believe in an all-powerful God, then why doesn't God intervene and make the world better? It's a thorny theological question, and many writers offer many explanations. Perhaps God has a different plan, and we only see the corner of it. Perhaps God created a universe based on free will, and thus, God cannot intervene. Maybe God isn't as powerful as we want to believe. Maybe God loves cancer cells more than humans. Maybe my friends and colleagues had done something to deserve these cancers.
One can see the potential for dangerous paths when we ponder these questions. In my younger years, I'd have been happy to debate these theological questions for hours.
In my later years, I've gotten some comfort from this picture of Jesus at prayer. Even Jesus, a part of the Trinity, does not have his prayers answered.
In the case of Jesus, we know how part of the story ends. We know that greater suffering will come to Christ when he leaves the Garden. We see this savior crucified. But we also know that out of this ruin will come triumph.
We do not know how--or if--our prayers will be answered. We do know that God is present in our suffering. We do know that God can transform every type of wreckage, and often in ways we can't anticipate.
Sure, I, too, often wish that God would be more like Santa Clause. But a person of mature faith grows out of expecting that. It's enough to know that God is like the skillful fabric artist, weaving a whole cloth out of all of the threads of any life.