Sharp About Your Prayers

the challenges, absurdities, and joys of an urban faith

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Short, but Sweet

April 14th, 2016 · No Comments · Faith and the City

As a seminary intern leading a youth group at Seaside Presbyterian Church in Milford, Connecticut, I gave a dozen teenagers a simple assignment. “For next week, memorize your favorite Bible verse. Come prepared to recite it and to tell us why it is meaningful to you.”

Immediately, Patrick, a precocious fourteen year old responded, “Dibs on John 11:35.” Then he sat back, folded his arms and smiled. The rest of the youth group dove for the shelf full of Bibles.

Why was Patrick so smug?

The youth quickly discovered that Patrick had chosen to memorize the shortest verse in Scripture: “Jesus wept.” Soon the youth were turning pages, trying to find equally short and (they believed) corny verses to memorize.

Bibles-on-the-Shelf-570x380“Wait,” I implored, “Don’t forget, you have to do more than memorize. You have to explain why it is meaningful to you!” My words were lost in a sea of laughter. Another teen, Julian had just declared that he was going to memorize Job 19:17: “My breath is offensive to my wife.”

The next week, however, Patrick surprised me. Yes, he stuck with John 11:35. He recited the passage before his smirking peers: “Jesus wept.” Finally, though, he fulfilled the assignment–he fulfilled it beautifully. “This is passage is meaningful to me because it makes Jesus real. I can identify with someone who feel sadness like me.”

Patrick isn’t the only one.

Many of you answered our recent survey asking: What verses from Scripture inspire you? What passage is tattooed on your heart or scrawled on a card tucked in the corner of your bathroom mirror? The top two vote getters were: John 3:16 & 1 Corinthians 13. Not surprising. Solid standards!

Third place, however, may raise a few eyebrows: John 11:35. Yep, four of you listed the shortest verse in the Bible as your favorite. Were you mocking the question? I don’t think so. Like young Patrick, you offered powerful and poignant reasons for holding this verse close to your heart.

What could be inspirational about Christ’s tears? How do biblical laments guide us and give us hope?

This Sunday’s sermon is entitled: “God’s People Sing the Blues.”

See you in worship,


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