Beliefnet
Prayer, Plain and Simple

I just went out and bought 5 fresh, hand wrapped tamales, all in honor of Cinco de Mayo! Hallelujah for Mexico and a blessed Cinco de Mayo to her and to all Mexicans living home or abroad. You have contributed much to the world, and tamales are the least of these treasures!

Today, the 5th of May commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla. The Mexican army won on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin. Patriots the world over celebrate today in honor of Mexican pride and heritage. We join them. May God bless Mexico.

Mexico, like all nations and cultures has strengths and weaknesses. Yes, Mexico suffers from a stark separation of haves and have-nots. Yes, Mexico is afflicted by corruption in government and business. Yes, some border cities in Mexico are nearly crippled by drug trafficking and violence. But with all their problems Mexico is still a wonderful, beautiful country, with a rich and glorious history, filled with hospitable, hardworking and creative people. God has blessed Mexico with a deep spiritual passion as well. Her people have a rich faith in God. I know from times I’ve visited Mexico that few people on earth can worship with as much abandonment, can pray with as much faith, and can serve with as much graciousness as our brothers and sisters in Mexico. Today, we lift our voices in prayer that God’s destiny for Mexico and Mexicans would be realized.

“God, today is Cinco de Mayo and we join with Mexico and Mexican’s around the world, thanking you for this nation and her people and asking for your blessing on them. You have made Mexico a rich and healing, where healing is necessarily. May your power purge Mexico from corruption and an abuse of power. May you do battle against the drug cartels and may this blight of violence be shattered by your own hand. We pray for a growing balance of provision in Mexico. May those who have much learn to open their hearts and hands to those who have little. And may those who suffer in poverty have the faith and courage and wisdom to rise up and take hold of the opportunities available to them to rise above their lot. God, we bless the spiritual life of Mexico. Bring revival to their love and knowledge of you. Bring your Kingdom, Jesus, into the life and heart of Mexico. As they remember this day as a sign of your provision and protection, may they also look to you as their only true hero and the author and profector of their destiny. God, we bless Mexico today. Let your Kingdom come… In Jesus we pray.”

It’s a tough day in Nashville. The torrential rains that have swept across the Southern States killing 29 people have hit Tennessee particularly hard. The Cumberland River has flooded and submerged parts of Nashville’s historic downtown. Now rescuers fear more bodies will emerge as muddy flood waters begin to ebb.

Let’s join in a pray for Nashville, and for all the areas in the South suffering the outcome of these storms.

“God, the earth is yours. You have made it beautiful and yet at times terrible and fierce. We know that you do not cause such things as this. Your character is love and mercy. We do know however that the laws of nature you have created sometimes release a torrent of destruction and death. At times like this we have to turn to you and call out to you for help and relief and comfort. We pray first for the victims and the families of victims of these floods and storms. God, bring rest and comfort and healing. We also pray for the safety of those still in danger. Rescue them and provide protection. God, we ask that you would calm the storms. The earth sometimes seems to rise up in fury. We ask you to lift your hand and as Jesus did in the boat with his disciples command, ‘Peace, be still!’ Bless Nashville, all of Tennessee and her neighbors today. Give these people confidence, faith, strength and hope. In this stressful situation help them band together and not drift apart. In all this we trust you and worship you as a God who can bring something good out of every tragedy. In Jesus we pray…”

 

Pope Benedict XVI came close to an outright endorsement of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin on Sunday. Speaking in Turin, the Italian city where the relic is kept he called the cloth that many believe is Christ’s burial shroud an icon “written with the blood.” Benedict didn’t address the scientific questions and controversies that surround the linen and whether or not it might be a medieval forgery. Instead, he delivered a meditation on the faith that holds the Shroud is Christ’s burial cloth. Benedict focused on the message that the blood stains conveyed, saying the Shroud was “an icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was whipped, crowned with thorns, crucified and injured on his right side.”

Much like the reported discover of Noah’s Ark last week, the Pope’s elevation of the Shroud as a relic raises the question of the importance of physical evidence and historical accuracy in matters of Christian faith. Among religions in the world, Christianity is unique in this. Christian foundations claim historical validity. We believe God really did create the world – though not necessarily in 6 literal days, and possibly using natural processes. We believe that God miraculously rescued the Hebrews from Egypt, that Jesus healed blind people, that his followers did miracles in his name, and that Jesus himself, literally, actually, and verifiably came back to life after a real and documentable death. Whether or not this Shroud is the actual burial cloth of Jesus is intriguing but only secondarily important. The real matter is that there really was an empty burial cloth that bore Jesus body and that inexplicably it was left behind in an empty tomb.

Christians believe in the objective, literal reality of the resurrection. We have always been willing to subject our claims to the observation and testing of science and history because of course we claim science and history as witnesses to our faith. This is where Christianity and Judaism differ from other religions. We claim that our stories are more than myth. Our faith rises and falls on objective validity. And so far science and history, when addressed with an honest, unbiased and open mind have been thoroughly supportive of Christian faith. This is what drives skeptics mad with frustration. No one has ever produced the body of Jesus. The tomb is empty. And that’s a historical fact that can’t be explained… away… short of believing what seems impossible – that Jesus literally rose from death.

“God, grant us faith to believe what is possible only through your hand. But also give us courage to subject our convictions to the scrutiny of skepticism. We believe, but help our unbelief by giving us the opportunities to see the living proofs of our convictions. Give us open hearts to face the truth, but also open eyes to see it when it is hidden. God, we believe you have acted in history. Show us the signs of your presence. Show us your fingerprints in time and space. Help us to find the significant relics that show your active hand in our world. And give us the faith to accept the consequences of these signs – that if you are present and active, then you also have a claim on our lives and choices. You are real and you are LORD who must also be served and obeyed. And that, we admit is the real challenge to those who do not believe. In short, they do not want to believe. Give us grace to follow the evidence where it leads… right to the foot of your cross… In Jesus Name…”

 

 

 

Have you heard the one about the rabbi who went to the Vatican to tell the Pope that he has the solution to the sex abuse crises scandalizing the Catholic Church? Catholics should give up giving up fish on Fridays, he said, and instead do Shabbat dinner, the traditional Friday family meal of Jews.

No joke…

American rabbi, Shmuley Boteach had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday to encourage the Pontiff to encourage Catholic parents to eat dinner regularly with their children. A “Turn Friday Night into Family Night” as he called it would re-establish the Catholic pro-family image battered in the wake of recent priest sex abuse scandals, Boteach claimed.

“If the Church embraces an initiative like this, which is positive, it could put a lot of the scandal behind it,'” Boteach said. “People will see the Church doesn’t just speak about opposition to gay marriage and abortion.'”

The pope appeared to be receptive to the challenge. “We have to work together on this, we have to work together on this,” Benedict XVI responded.  

Certainly no joke…

The challenge seems enriching to me. I’m not Catholic but I think our family will give this a shot… After baseball season perhaps.