Saturday, July 25, 2009

Time out in the whale's belly

Sometimes the charismatic prayer group is a joy, like last week when we heard from an accomplished predicador who gave a simple but inspiring message on how to pray with more power, based on the story of the withered fig tree (Mark 11:20-25). Two ingredients: faith and forgiveness. You have to really believe God can and does answer prayers and you cannot be holding grudges that interfere with the flow of the Holy Spirit.

Other times it's just a drag. After last night's complete misreading of the book of Jonah, I was praying for a whale to come and swallow me up so I could get the h--- out of there! The predicador, who said he has been unhappy with how things are going in the prayer group, used Jonah 4 to lecture us on our lack of commitment and willingness to do the will of God. According to the predicador, Jonah got angry and said it was better to die because he didn't want to do God's will.

Problem is that by the time we get to chapter 4, Jonah, having had his "time out" for reflection in the whale's belly, has done God's will and gone out to prophesy against Nineveh. So why is Jonah angry? Because he lost face. He put his spin on what God sent him to do, telling the Ninevites precisely: "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed." But the Ninevites repent and God spares them. So Jonah is mad at God for putting him through all this grief and then making him a laughingstock ("But God, you said...") God sends a gourd plant to provide some shade to Jonah and then a worm to destroy the gourd plant to teach Jonah two lessons:

1. I am God and I can do as I please.

2. If you, Jonah, care so much about this measly gourd plant that you get upset when it is destroyed, why should I, God, not care that much more about a big city like Nineveh and its thousand of inhabitants and animals? Judgement goes hand in hand with compassion and redemption.

But all this was lost last night because the predicador had his little lecture he wanted to give us and he also wanted to talk about Jonah, so he tried -- unsuccessfully -- to cobble the two together.

Nobody felt inspired at the end of this scolding. It certainly didn't move anyone to embrace the coordinators' idea of a separate night each week to study the Bible (something we should be doing as part of the regular prayer group instead of listening to a constant stream of outside predicadores). Those who are interested in more Bible study can enroll in Padre Alex's classes and get a reliable interpretation from him instead of listening to a lay preacher with an ax to grind. I think I'll sit this one out, even if it means a divine "time out" in a whale's belly.

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