The timer beeps. I press the plunger down, and I take time to choose my mug. Today, the Emily Dickinson quote. I pour out a full cup and stand over the fragrant steam, inhaling peace and promise.
Sitting at the end of the kitchen table, I can see the riotous green through the long and wide window, making a note to mow and weed at some point (in the distant future). Another deep breath, God breaths I call them, where I willfully push against the worry and the stress and the pressure, and the regular junk of day to day.
It takes me a few more breaths before I open the emails. A string of prayer requests come to my box every week, delivered to a slew of boxes in a slew of locations around the world. The requests are from the members of our funky little church, and every week, they tax my understanding of the world.
And that is good.
During the week, I easily get caught up in the latest “celebrity pastor” nonsense. I can read several exegetical blog posts about the meaning of submission. I can whip myself into a theological lather about the poor.
And then, I meet the poor on Sunday, in our funky little church, and I meet them head on in the prayer emails. Our church meets in a grocery store, a wholesale market in a subsidized section of town. Our members live in this community. They live a world I’ve never known, even if I visit regularly.
The simplicity of their prayers astounds me. Please don’t misunderstand; they are NOT simple people. They ask us to pray that they know God, that they can walk relationship with him. They pray that their parents get out of jail, or for the strength to stave off the tortures of addiction. They pray for consistent housing, and for the money to pay the gas bill.
They are not simple people, and they do care about the textual nuances of scripture. When we meet on Wednesday nights, we wrestle together with Abraham’s trek into the wilderness to sacrifice Isaac, and we shake our heads at the young and arrogant or ignorant Joseph. These people care about what God has to say. But they are not embroiled in debates on eschatology.
Email after email, the themes emerge. There is hope for financial relief, and hope for relational reconciliation. The people who live in the meagerest ways know something. They don’t care about what some idiot pastor in a far flung state said. They don’t need to assume a mantle of theological identity. They want love. And they want to love.
We like to say that our doctrine matters. And it does. But at what price? Are we so busy appointing ourselves arbiters of faith that we forget the very basic premise of the Cross? I don’t know. But as I read these requests, and as I echo them in prayer, I begin to know them. And isn’t that what we all want?