Monday, 2 January 2006

Prayers for Winter

I'm using a new Bible reading and prayer guide this year, The St James Daily Devotional Guide for the Christian Year.

The lectionary (or daily Bible reading guide) therein is ideal. It ensures that some section of the Gospels are read every day, that the entire New Testament (even the uncomfortable bits) is read once a year, the entire Old Testament (even the nasty bits) is read over a two year period and that attention is paid to the seasons of the church year.

I really appreciate this because I have become increasingly frustrated by lectionary preparers' attempts to protect me from Bible passages which may offend me or others. They do us a disservice by denying us the opportunity to grapple with God's living and active Word written and as it impacts life as it really is; a marvelous mixture of joy, sorrow, nobility, injustice, satisfaction, yearning and tragedy.

I even enjoy the "begats." The names, the questions they generate about particular lives lived and why those particular names were recorded, I find endlessly fascinating.

This issue of the St James guide (Winter 2005-2006) has a section entitled, "Prayers for Winter: prayers in light of the ministry of salvation." The title reminds me that my job is not spiritual winterizing or helping people to be comfortable in the winterness of their sin. Mine is a ministry of salvation which is about the warm Gospel of Jesus Christ, spring, the new growth that brings and resurrection.

One of the petitions in the Prayers for Winter is "For those who do not believe, and those who have fallen away, that a saving faith may be kindled in their hearts." The words "saving faith" caught my attention this morning. All kinds of people have faith in all kinds of things, but not all faith saves. There is a winter faith which may well seem to be clear, serene, even beautiful, but which is cold and dormant. And there is faith which leads to warmth, spring, growth and resurrection; saving faith. How do I move from winter to saving? How do I help my friends do that?

Things that make me go, "Hmmm?"