April 11, 2023
When I was in high school, there was a best-selling pop-Christianity book called, “The Prayer of Jabez.” It was a strange book, and hugely popular. The book was strange because it centered on a character in the Bible that no one had ever heard of. It was also strange because it really wasn’t about the Bible at all, but about the reinforcement of capitalist ideals, cherry-picking one line out of the entire Bible as if to say, “See! God loves what we are doing in our conquests and competition-driven culture!” It is no surprise that it was popular.
Jim Wallis, the author, and leader of the Sojourners movement in Washington DC, who also writes books, but none of them as popular as The Prayer of Jabez, once wrote that the current form of leadership is a bunch of people with their fingers in the air trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing. The popularity of the Prayer of Jabez is an example of this. People wanted to hear that they were not selfish for wanting more and more stuff. They wanted it blessed by God that they wanted more money, and more power, and this book gave it to them.
I was hiking up to Megiddo in Israel in 2013 after being recently ordained with a recently retired clergy friend of mine. It was just the two of us who chose to hike up instead of riding the cable car. As we were walking back down, I asked him, does it ever get easier to know what to do? I walk into hospital rooms and don’t know how long to stay, what people need, what people want, and what people are comfortable with. When I get a phone call, I don’t know whether to go immediately, wait, stay out of the way, or plunge into the middle. I expected him to say, yes, with experience, it gets easier. Instead, he said, “No, but that’s kind of the point.”
As we navigate this life, in the reality of the Resurrection we celebrated on Easter Sunday, listening to the Word of God in Scripture and Spirit, and being faced with uncontrollable situations, it doesn’t get easier. But it sure helps to have someone walking with you. Our faith does not exist to sprinkle blessing fairy dust on what we already want anyway, it is there to walk alongside us and call us to something more in line with God’s world.