Friday, August 2, 2013

The Oncologist and God

When my father was sick with the esophageal cancer which eventually killed him, he was treated by an oncologist whose waiting room was decorated with Christian symbols. There were crosses on the walls. There a dove figurine on the reception desk. A small stack of Bibles sat on a table in one of the corners.

When the doctor learned that I was a pastor, he engaged me in conversation about matters theological. I quickly realized that he was a premillenial dispensationalist, a theological position with which I take exception. I didn’t want to argue theology with the oncologist who was treating my father, so I mostly listened as he waxed on about the Rapture, an event which he expected to take place very soon.

As we drove home from the appointment my dad asked, “What did you think of the doctor’s religion?”

“He gave me a lot to disagree with,” I said. “What’d you think?”

“It’s nice to meet a doctor,” my father said wryly, “who doesn’t think that he is God.”

My dad could be witty like that. I think he was also making a serious point. My father was more comfortable being treated by a doctor who, for all his scientific knowledge and training, for all his skill and high tech wizardry, recognized that he was still, after all, a fallible human being.

That, for me, is one of the benefits of worship. To put myself deliberately in the presence of God reminds me of my own limitations.

That, I believe, is the great value of preparing for worship with an order of confession. It’s not that we need to wallow in guilt. It’s that we are reminded once more of our humanity and God’s gracious divinity.

That, I think, is one of the most important reasons we pause to pray before a meal. It reminds us that the food on our table is a gift, a gift to be shared with the people around the table and with those in our world who are hungry.

Now don’t take me wrong. I’m still no fan of premillenial dispensationalism. I’ll argue against it until Jesus comes back. But I think my dad had it right. It’s good to meet anyone who doesn’t think that they are God.

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