I currently am using Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Young Radicals (edited by Shaine Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove) for my daily prayers. Yes, I think of myself as a young radical. Today’s prayers included Psalm 109. “But you, O Lord my God, oh, deal with me according to your name: for your tender mercy’s sake, deliver me.”
Below these words a few spaces is the daily prompt to pray for the world. And my world of prayer right now revolves around Ryan and Jessica Woods and their family. It was not hard to tie today’s words, “for your tender mercy’s sake” to Ryan and Jess. You see, Ryan’s doctors have given him just a few months to live. He has a tumor that has encased his spine and that will, if things continue this way, end his life.
I keep making the case that there’s a lot in it for God to heal Ryan, “according to your name.” I’ve known Ryan’s parents and his uncle and aunts and his grandparents and cousins and siblings for a long time. I went to church camp with his dad and his uncle was my first youth minister. This one is close for me.
Ryan has become increasingly important to me in the past few years. He was in our first class of graduates for our master’s degree in missional leadership. Ryan is an outstanding student. He has a keen mind and an open heart. And he immediately sees why things are important and how they might make a difference in the world. He is a church catcher (my designation) in Vancouver, WA. By that I mean he is living with his neighbors in such a way that a church will be the inevitable result. He’s there to catch it when it emerges. And he’s doing a remarkable job.
This one is close.
But its closer to Ryan. It’s his life and death after all, and many of us have marveled at his ability to speak truthfully and hopefully through the midst of his ordeal. He believes in resurrection and beauty. And in his suffering, dying body, we have seen both.
After a conversation at Ryan’s home a few weeks ago, we decided that if his health permitted, it would be fitting for him to come to Streaming, our ministry conference at Rochester College, June 18-20, and talk about his life in relation to our theme, “Mercy, Not Sacrifice.” We are buying the airline tickets today for Ryan and Jess to be our guests at the conference.
I’ve told people this is the conference I’ve always wanted to host. I’ve got Walter Brueggemann coming, the biblical scholar who has most shaped my understandings of God and the world. I’ve got my great friend, Richard Beck, coming to talk about his wonderful book, Unclean. Greg Stevenson will give a wonderful presentation on Matthew’ gospel. We will have great worship and preaching with Sara Barton and Mike Cope. Ro Diaz and Caryl Parker will amaze us with their artistic gifts. But I think now the thing we might take with us the most from the conference is listening to what Ryan has to say.
Please pray for him. Listen to him. Learn from him.
But you, O Lord my God, oh, deal with us according to your name: for your tender mercy’s sake, deliver Ryan.