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Careful What You Ask For!

October 20, 2018

A couple of weeks ago, we decided to go on a Moose search in Rocky. As we made our way through a meadow, and crossed a stream I saw something out of the corner of my eye. This fellow was laying down and all I could see was a set of antlers sticking up out of the grass. When we went looking for a Moose we had no idea that we would have a personal audience with the big fellow!

We spent at least half an hour with this Bull Moose who was snoozing, grazing, and in all other ways completely comfortable where he was. I kept an eye on exit routes just in case, but this fellow was so cool with having us there that eventually, I just enjoyed the blessed gift and the moment.

But this reflection is not about a Moose search or Rocky Mountain National Park. It is about the readings for this Sunday. The portion of Psalm 91 is a part of the larger Psalm which has become known as the warrior’s prayer. We used to hand out cards with Psalm 91 to our deploying forces when I was an Air Force Chaplain. Years later I wonder as I read the words of the Psalmist… if one group is protected against the snares of the Evil One, that assumes that others aren’t… if you take this further, you assume that God actually ignores some of those who are created in God’s own image in favor of others… that no longer brings me comfort… God’s children taking up arms against God’s children… surely God must weep at the thought and the reality. Plus, when I compare the vision of stomping on snakes and lions to the vision of Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom, I truly weep.

As I reconsider this prayer in the light of my own personal and professional experience and my own contemplation of the world and God’s wishes for it, I wonder. If we call upon a warrior god (yes, lower case is intentional) to be “on our side” do we go against the great commandment? You know… love God and love ALL neighbors. I tire of bloodshed and hatred in the name of a nationalistic or exclusive god against another. Surely God must weep. Careful what you ask for… who’s blood may be spilled as a result of that prayer? As Dr King said: “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

So, after pondering deeply the reading from Psalm 91, my heart turns to the Gospel reading for the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost. As we begin to read in Mark 10:35-45, James and John (aptly known as the Sons of Thunder) approach Jesus about the seats of power on his right and left hand in the coming Kingdom. Hey Jesus, can we have the seats of power? I can almost hear Jesus saying in the vernacular of today: Seriously guys? Do you really know what you are signing up for? Do you know what this request will require of you?

I think about what we often flippantly request of the Lord in a way that makes God appear as a Cosmic Vending Machine. In the movie, “Bruce Almighty” we see the results of such a flippant request. Bruce thinks he can play God and when given the opportunity, he immediately says “yes” to all requests. The results are both comical and horrific. The lesson for me in that movie was this: “Be careful what you ask for.”

Instead of asking for power or influence or control, how about asking to be humble instruments of God’s peace? St Francis of Assisi was on to something when he gave us this prayer… not about power or prestige, it was about far more than that!

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy. 

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive, 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

This prayer was selfless and not selfish… asking God for this prayer request is not about us… it is all about God and God’s children… ALL of God’s children.

Will you join me, dear reader, in seeking to be God’s instruments?

  1. I will. This is a moving, beautiful and inspiring word. Thank you, Michael! ❤

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