THIS WEEK at ReadTheSpirit, we welcome internationally celebrated Bible scholar John Dominic Crossan, who you’ve seen in television specials about the Bible, Christianity and the ancient world. Perhaps you’ve read some of his earlier best sellers like “God and Empire.” Do you recognize him in that classic Crossan pose above? On Wednesday, our weekly interview features Crossan, where he’ll talk at length about his newest book that’s terrific for small-group discussion.
BUT FIRST, A PRAYER: Consider these words …
God, I’m suddenly seeing our world in new ways! We’ve somehow made this world, Your Household, into such an unjust place! I’m only waking up to this, today, and it’s making me turn back to prayer.
It’s because I’m losing my home. What a devastating shock! I never imagined this could happen! Now, I’m suddenly so painfully aware that, in your world, every family should have a safe shelter. I never saw it this clearly before, but you’re the God who created a world in which every family should be able to have a safe home somewhere.
I’m not asking for special favors. I don’t even want that big old house back. I don’t know what we were thinking when we bought such a huge place, anyway. I can survive even the loss of that home. I can move in with others. Millions of people are doing it around the world. Maybe billions.
I’m seeing our world in new ways, God. And, now, my prayer is getting down to the real heart of the matter: I need to feed my family today. I’m a hard worker. But I’m suddenly aware that not everyone in this world can even hope to get enough to survive another day. We all need to feed our families today, God.
And, tomorrow? I need to hope that tomorrow it’s possible to survive this crushing debt that my family faces. There are probably millions like me, praying this same way today. Maybe billions are praying this: Food for today, freedom from crushing debt tomorrow.
I’m seeing our world in new ways, God. I understand the anger so many are feeling. I understand the temptation to turn these prayers for justice into something dangerous—into violence, even into war to protect what we think belongs to us. Don’t let me go there, God. Don’t let me contribute to the violence even in small ways.
I’m seeing the world in new ways, God. It’s Your Household. In Your Household, I don’t need more than others. I just need enough for myself and my family. We can’t do all this alone. But, because you are the head of this great Household, we know that there is enough—if we pray together in Your Spirit and we summon Your Household to be what it should be.
I’m seeing our world in new ways, God. And I’m praying in new ways, too.
(readthespirit.com, September 2010)
Recovering meaning of The Lord’s Prayer with John Dominic Crossan
That prayer (above) comes from ReadTheSpirit, written by David Crumm, after reading Crossan’s new book, “The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord’s Prayer” and interviewing Crossan at length about his research into the meaning of the world’s most popular prayer. If you’re a preacher, teacher or small-group leader and you’re tihnking of using Crossan’s new book—you can feel free to reproduce our prayer, above. It’s our attempt to capture this “Revolutionary Message” Crossan sees in the prayer—as cast in the “voice” of millions of praying Americans today.
Crossan doesn’t do what we just did, above. He doesn’t rewrite the prayer in his book, so we offer apologies today from ReadTheSpirit for any criticisms Crossan himself might raise over our prayerful interpretation of what’s he’s writing and saying. In the new book, he invites readers through 8 thought-provoking chapters (perfect for a 2-month small group), exploring one phrase in the world-famous prayer after another.
In the end, his conclusion about the prayer’s enduring meaning is roughly what we have written above—as “voiced” from the perspective of so many of our neighbors in the U.S. today.
Do you doubt that perspective?
On the front page of the New York Times on Friday, the top headline read: “RECESSION RAISES U.S. POVERTY RATE TO A 15-YEAR HIGH—IS EXEPCTED TO WORSEN: 1 in 7 Struggled in 2009—Biggest Increase Is Among Children.” The report wasn’t based on some politician’s or advocate’s conclusion. The report drew on the cold, hard facts in the latest U.S. Census report on poverty. Summarizing the lengthy Census report, the Times reported:
The rate of poverty “could have climbed higher: One way embattled Americans have gotten by is sharing homes with siblings, parents or even nonrelatives, sometimes resulting in overused couches and frayed nerves but holding down the rise in the national poverty rate, according to the report. … The Census study found an 11.6-percent increase in the number of such multifamily households over the last two years.”
This is real! Millions of Americans truly are seeing the world in new ways. They’re praying in new ways, right now. Can you hear them?
Are we helping them?
Come back on Tuesday for a review of a controversial PBS documentary about terrorism that debuts Tuesday night. Then, come back on Wednesday for our in-depth interview with “Dom” Crossan.
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