KOH2RVA: Day 254

YosselinPray for the people of Oklahoma today, friends. The headline of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reads: “Massive Tornado Pummels Oklahoma.” The sub-heads carry the grim news that at least 51 people are dead and more than 140 injured; that a school was devastated and children, some dead, were pulled from the debris; that it was a powerful storm—a half-mile wide—packing 200 mph winds.

It’s that image of children being pulled from the debris of a school that gets me. There’s something about their innocence and vulnerability that makes that scene especially tragic. And even though I don’t believe this tornado was God’s judgment on the people of Oklahoma I still want to know why:

Why do children have to suffer?

I was asking that question on Sunday afternoon as I watched a documentary about modern-day slavery and human trafficking. Often it is children, some of them very young, who are the victims of traders and traffickers. Little boys forced to work in rock quarries or make bricks day after day in India. Little girls prostituted in brothels in Cambodia and hotel rooms in Richmond. It’s their faces that break your heart.

There is no joy there.

On the table in front of me on Sunday was the face of a boy from Africa. He was up for “adoption” through Compassion International. And even though I might never meet this boy face to face Compassion International assures me that for a little more than a dollar a day he can receive food, clothing, shelter, and education. In other words, he can be rescued from a life of suffering.

I already sponsor a child through Compassion (Yosselin, from Mexico, in the picture above), but on Sunday I thought about sponsoring at least one more. I like what Tony Campolo says, that “every Christian should have a kid’s picture on their refrigerator.” If we did that—all two billion of us around the globe who call ourselves Christians—it would make a difference. And beyond that we could support the work of the International Justice Mission abroad and the Richmond Justice Initiative here at home, both organizations working to set children free from slavery and the sex trade.

There’s not much we can do about tornadoes, but we can do something about this. We can do our best to bring people to justice who trade and traffic in human flesh, and we can give children a chance to live a different kind of life. Our efforts may not make a difference to all the children in the world, but as I look at Yosselin’s picture, above, I’m hoping they will make a difference to her.

KOH2RVA: Day 202

joyinthemorn2

It’s Holy Saturday, the only day in history when Jesus was dead.

If there is one day on the calendar when we shouldn’t be out there joyfully bringing heaven to earth, when we should, instead, put on sackcloth and ashes and mourn the death of our Lord, this is it.

So, other than presiding at the funeral of a beloved church member, I’m not going to work to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, today, but I am going to work. I’m going to write a sermon that I hope will help us celebrate what happened on the day after that mournful Saturday long ago, and I hope you will be in church tomorrow to celebrate with me.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” –Ps. 30:5

A Prayer for Your Wedding Night

I have one of those big study Bibles that includes the Apocrypha, although we Baptists don’t read that part of the Bible very often.  It’s more of a Catholic thing, since Catholics include those books in the canon of Holy Scripture.  Us?  If we look at them at all it’s often only to marvel at the strange things you can find in there (not that there aren’t a lot of strange things in the 66 books we include in our canon.  Just take a look at Ezekiel sometime).  But since I probably bought the big study Bible to impress people, and since it looks more impressive with the added bulk of the Apocrypha, well…there it is.

But this morning when I was finishing up my devotional reading I thumbed through that part of the book, and stumbled on this interesting wedding night prayer.  It’s from the Book of Tobit, chapter 8, verses 4b-7, and it’s offered in unusual circumstances. Tobias wants to marry this girl named Sarah, see?  She is “sensible, brave, and very beautiful.”  There’s only one problem: she has married seven men and each of them died in the bridal chamber.  Things don’t look good for Tobit.  But he asks for her hand anyway, brave lad that he is, and when he goes into the bridal chamber he puts the heart and liver of a fish on the glowing embers of the incense in the room.  It gives off such a stink that it drives the evil spirit (the one that was killing all of Sarah’s husbands) to the remotest parts of Egypt, but Tobias’ guardian angel–Raphael–follows and binds the demon hand and foot, just so it won’t do any more mischief.

Now, you would think that this would be the end of it, but Tobias isn’t taking any chances.  Before he gets into bed with his new bride, Sarah, he invites her to join him in prayer.  I’ve printed the prayer below, and I think it’s one of those things every couple could pray on their wedding night, and maybe should, just to keep the evil spirits away (wink). 

Tobias began by saying:
‘Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors,
   and blessed is your name in all generations for ever.
Let the heavens and the whole creation bless you for ever.
You made Adam, and for him you made his wife Eve
   as a helper and support.
   From the two of them the human race has sprung.
You said, “It is not good that the man should be alone;
   let us make a helper for him like himself.”
I now am taking this kinswoman of mine,
   not because of lust,
   but with sincerity.
Grant that she and I may find mercy
   and that we may grow old together.’
And they both said, ‘Amen, Amen.’
Then they went to sleep for the night.

And when they woke up the next morning, they were both still alive.  How’s that for the power of prayer?