Again?

ShootingThere has been another tragic shooting in America. The headlines read: “Gunfire, then Chaos”; “Rampage at Washington Navy Yard”; “Gunman fires from balcony, killing 12, before dying in battle with police”; “Accused assailant, a former Navy reservist, said to have had anger problems.”

I read those headlines in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning, but a half-hour earlier I read this brief article in the Christian Century:

Scared of America

Following the killing of an Australian man studying in Oklahoma, Tim Fischer, the former deputy prime minister of Australia, suggested that Australians should avoid traveling to the United States. “Yes, people [who] are thinking of going to the USA on business, vacation, trips, should think carefully about it given the statistical facts you are 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the USA than in Australia per capita per million people,” Fischer said. He had championed gun control reforms in Australia nearly two decades ago. Gun control laws have virtually eliminated firearms crimes in Australia (CNN.com, August 20).

I know that gun control is a political hornet’s nest. I know that mentioning it in a blog post is an invitation to every reader with an opinion to post a comment (and believe me, there is no shortage of opinion on this issue). But if there is such a thing as an objective observer, would that person not ask why? Why is it that firearms crimes in Australia have been virtually eliminated? And why is it that I greet the news of another tragic shooting in America with a single word:

Again?

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?