Monday, December 10, 2007

A Prayer at the U-scan

They had dirty fingers, sallow eyes, and forty-three items in their shopping cart. The cart alone should have been a sign they were in the wrong line. Clearly posted was the rule: 15 items or less. I'm not typically a legalist, but when it comes to the universal law of counting, I don't bend.

It didn't help that I was carrying a squirmy two-year old in one hand, and a frozen pizza, Diet Pepsi, and gallon of Vitamin D milk in the other. Nor did it help that at one point, the squirmy two-year old wiggled free and ran to the Christmas toy display, displacing us in line.

I started to pray. The first prayer was rather imprecatory--it was addressed to the God of Angel Armies and Kroger Checkout Staff. I called down ice from the heavens (sorry Northern Indiana) to sheath their car. I begged for faulty bags to tear at the handles. I requested power outages in their kitchen to spoil their groceries.

Then, as I felt the frozen pizza thaw in my armpit, I realized a challenge I'd heard from a sermon the previous week. The pastor (a dashing chap) asked the church to pray that God give Jesus' eyes of compassion each time one of them shopped during the Advent season.

There I was, shopping, eyes set on petty injustices, and I thought I should change my prayer. God gave me a gut check, much like Jesus when he saw the five thousand chase him around the lake. They had no groceries. And they were without a leader, too.

Suddenly, the dirty-fingered, sallowed-eyed couple looked less deplorable. I still watched them cheat a system, but I knew it's because they felt like systems never served them. And not just U-scan systems.

(Sorry Wayne Grudem, that includes you're theology book, too.)

And [Jesus] took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward the heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied... (Mark 6:41-42, NASB)


Dale Harris said...

Hi Tim,

Great blog. I enjoy reading your stuff. I was intrigued by your comment about Wayne Grudem's system, and I'd be interested in your thoughts on the helpfulness/drawbacks of systematic theology in our time. And if we make our theology more narrative in presentation, do we lose anything valuable? Just curious about your thoughts.

4suchatimeasthis said...

I had some interesting shopping experiences yesterday, too.
An odd old woman came up into my face to tell me an off-colored joke - so strange! I am afraid I didn't immediately think to pray for her.
Then when I was trying on some clothes (that didn't fit), another shopper that I had struck up a conversation with - an interesting younger woman - yelled over into my changing room, "How are those clothes?" When I said they didn't look good, she hollared back, "Well, I'm praying for you!"
Should have been a hint, right? I missed the hints, but I have now prayed for both of those unusual women... thanks for the reminder!

Sprained Ankle said...

Even Paul was systematic in some of his theology. The epistles certainly don't come across as vivid narratives. However, I will say that even buried in his prose is a bit a poetry that we should consider (e.g. Phil 2:5-11). My generation seems quicker to discount systematic theology than its forerunners. I understand the tendency, and I might too if I figured systematic theology was simply a creation of the Enlightenment. Even the patristics had a systematic way of organizing their apologies (e.g., Martyr, Augustine), albeit with a tendency for allegory. Because of this, I approach systematic theology knowing that it fits on an historical continuum of people trying to make sense of God's Word and their cultures. My culture, according to Hollywood, Netflix, CBS, and Random House, loves stories. And thus I preach.