Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Parable and Rant

Parable: an old lady is in the grocery store shopping. she has a walker, so her progress is very slow. she creeps around and gets the things she needs and puts them into her small basket which hangs from her walker. she heads to the checkout and is greeted by a young mother who is ahead of her in the check out line.

"Ohh..." says the young woman. "I see you have a walker. Can I pray for you?"

The old lady agrees and the young woman launches into a prayer that asks Jesus to help the old lady's ailments fade and restore her youth and help her walk again making sure to command the body cells to get their act together "in Jesus' name."

The young woman then turns, pays for her groceries, and goes home. The old woman then struggles to check out, lugs her bags to the bus stop, and heads back home alone.

What good was done in Jesus' name?

Rant: it seems as though we Christians have a choice. we can either be Dogmatic or Doctrinal. either Catholic and embrace sexism, patriarchy, and oral-tradition or Protestant and be narrow-minded, rigid, and literal. both are topped with ego, racism, homophobia, and a colonialist mindset. this seems to be the perception others outside the faith have. i call this the American Pop-Christianity.

these are two options, but simplistic and flawed ones. so what are we to do about it?

KNOW YOUR HISTORY. take what is good, leave the bad. Luther had a good thing going with the emphasis on grace, and Table Talk is just straight funny! But leave the stubbornness and esp. the Tract on the Jews and their Lies. view it, see it, and learn from it.

Being a Christian is not about wishing someone well. It's about love and service to all people at all times. Let's live like it.

i don't care about your view of the afterlife. i don't care about your politics. i don't care about your view of the bible. none of these things matter in this instance. it is simply, if you say you're a Christian, stop being a jerk and start spreading the Good News (and if necessary, use words).


Anglican Gurl said...

"What good was done in Jesus name?" -Luke

This all depends on how the old lady reacted to the prayer of the young woman. How did she react? Did the young woman pay for the old lady's groceries, you're not clear on that.

sher said...

I think the point is she just prayed for the old lady. the young woman did not physically help the old lady. IMO, the old lady actually did the good deed by letting the young woman feel all good about praying for her.

Luke said...

@ AG: it's a parable... it is what you make of it. what do you think?
and my intention was that the young lady paid for her own groceries... but once again.. it is what you make of it.

@Ma: oooohhh... good twist! the old lady did the good deed! interesting... didn't see that myself.

Kate said...

As the person who witnessed that, my comments are...

The old lady didn't have any groceries. She just had her walker. I didn't hear the actual prayer or see the old woman's reaction to it (other than the young woman had her hand on her shoulder and her eyes closed, and the old woman was staring straight ahead). The young woman walked away very proud of herself.

I thought it was all rather awkward. Especially because I thought the young woman had said, "Can I PAY for you?" which I immediately thought, "Wow, what a nice gesture!" And then when I realized it was "PRAY" I didn't have such a good feeling. That probably says something about me, too!

sher said...

Luke said she had groceries.
It seems the old woman believes in prayer or at least does not want to be rude.
So Kate, we had Luke's parable to deal with.
I have seen such scenes. In fact, after my Mom died, actually had that happen to me in a Tractor Supply store. It was all the lady could think to do to help me. And it did! Just because she cared so much. And I do believe in prayer. It might have been awkward for those around us but I honestly did not notice. It was a Good thing.
Maybe the young mother had no funds to pay, was on a tight schedule and that was all she could think to do.
Maybe she was a holier than thou person showing off.
I choose the first and I hope everyone got something good from it.

Erudite Redneck said...

That prayer was self-serving.

The young woman woulda done what Jesus said we should do if she'da payed the ol' lady's bill, or helped her get along, or given her her own place in line -- or DONE anything for her.

Prayers are cheap if offered in lieu of providing an obvious need. And no prayer in public, whether "in Jesus's name or not," is a prayer in a closet.


It's not faith OR works. It's faith AND works!


Come see me, Luke! I need all the seminary buddies I can come up with. :-)

Anglican Gurl said...

I would have had the young lady pay for the old lady's groceries after the prayer. In that way, the prayer is both one of faith and one of action. If the lady didn't pay, then it is like Erudite Redneck says, completely self-serving.

I also really like that it was the old lady that ministered to the young woman, not the other way around. We do not often take advantage of the wisdom that age brings in our culture, always going for the fresh and new thing.

I would have had the young lady pay, carry, and take the old woman back to the old woman's home. I then realize that when have I ever stepped outside of my comfort zone and did anything remotely like this, no matter how small? I stick to my routine and do not even notice those around me most times. I see a call to wake up here. That is something I must stress to myself and my boys.

I really enjoyed this parable and discussion after it. I would love to see more of these!

OneSmallStep said...

**"Ohh..." says the young woman. "I see you have a walker. Can I pray for you?"**

I have iffy feelings about the aspect of prayer right now, so my immediate reaction is a sense of manipulation. The young woman prays that the old woman feel better ... but given how God is described, why is such prayer necessary? Wouldn't God already be intervening in the first place?

That, and it almost removes a sense of responsibility from the young woman. The only "act" demanded of her was that she ask God to do everything. That is a lot easier, and saves a lot more time, than helping the old woman to her car.

Anonymous said...

The old lady gained some comfort in the knowledge that another person (the young lady) cared for her plight.

Indeed, I think that's the principal benefit of prayer: that the person being prayed for knows that there are people who care for them. For this reason, I think if someone is going to be prayed for, they must *know* about it.

Erudite Redneck said...

I think I agree with Anonymous. Everything else about the Christian-type faith in God, and the advancement of "the kingdom" has to do with deliberate extension of one self to another, and-or others. Prayer, too, I think. BUT, I'd add that corporate prayer for one who does not necesarrily know of it, also has value -- for the prayers, if not the prayees.

Chris H. said...

To suggest that an omniscient and omnipotent deity with a master plan for everyone would change what he was going to do based on what one or even a group of people ask utter silliness. But like Anon. said, there is some good to come of a person knowing that there are people that care about them. However, she would probably be more convinced that this woman cared for her if she know...helped her with her groceries. So yes some good came of it but less than was possible with actual action.

I don't think prayer has anything to offer that action does not.

Anglican Boy said...

I agree with the previous posts that words and prayer can have a huge impact and be beneficial, and it certainly was a nice gesture (much nicer than just going home later that night and praying for a stranger, without their permission which is always rude, IMO) - but I think it's a little hollow since the person praying COULD have done more, and chose not too.

Erudite Redneck said...

As John Shelby Spong points out, words like "omnipotent" and "omniscient" are human words used in an attempt to explain the ineffable. In other words, it's a hell of an assumption. And a "master plan for everyone" is a doctrinal statement based on the assumption.

On the other hand, re: "To suggest that an omniscient and omnipotent deity with a master plan for everyone would change what he was going to do based on what one or even a group of people ask for ..." The Bible depicts God's mind being changed a time or two. Of course, Spong and others would say those old folk tales are just that: tales told in a similar effort: to understand and explain the ineffable.

LOL, he also would say that we pray because we can't help it, which is my own story and I'm stickin' to it!

Lorna said...

I think if belief in Jesus and Praying were to help anyone they would have helped the young woman to realize that actions speak louder than words and she would have helped the elderly woman with her groceries and a ride home. An added Prayer for healing would be a nice touch along with the actions. It's just to easy to say I'll Pray for you but do nothing to alleviate the need at hand.

As individuals and societies we need to take action to help others. Pray too, but take the action, God works through people.

It would have been cute if the elderly woman said "yes Pray for me, Pray that some nice person comes along and helps me with my groceries"

Cheers dude. :)