About ten months ago, when I had only been at Saint Michael for a few weeks, the subject of “questions” came up during worship. Thomas, that “doubting” disciple, had some questions for his friends who claimed to have seen Jesus raised from the dead. Interestingly enough, those questions eventually lead Thomas into faith instead of away from it and Thomas becomes the first to confess Jesus as “My Lord and my God”.
Questions are good. Questions open the door to active and living faith.
That’s why ten months ago, on that first Sunday after Easter, I invited the congregation to write down a few questions and I promised to find a way to have a conversation about them. This is the start that conversation, although with more than 150 of them, I won’t get to all of them today! Some focused on similar topics, many provoked profound insight, several were LOL, and a few I might actually be able to answer, so I’ll start with those! 🙂
“Dear Pastor, have you ever rode a horse?” – Why yes, yes I have. When I was little, we had a white, shetland pony named “Lightning”. When I was about ten, I begged my father to buy an old mare at a farm sale. $90 later, we came home with “Boots”, a bay mare with whitish ankles. She didn’t like to be ridden and would push out her stomach when I put the saddle on and then later suck it in so the saddle would come loose. She left a hoof print once on my chest. Eventually she had a foal I named “Clyde” which I broke to ride and had for many years. But it has been a long time since I ridden a horse since those days.
“Are you ever too old to be baptized?” Someone asked because a family member was baptized right before they died. Short answer: No. You are never too old to be baptized.
“How can we better share our faith with those whose beliefs differ from our own?” I like the phrase “share our faith” because it implies a conversation instead of a conversion. Sharing is within our ability. Conversion is up to the Holy Spirit. Sharing our faith does not condemn another person nor does it compel them to think like we do. So perhaps the best way to share with others is to know and live our own faith as fully as we can. “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” 1Peter 3:15 But there more to say about how exactly to do this and I hope this conversation keeps going.
“Can you put more jokes in the sermon?” Yes I’ll keep trying. I had several of them on the Sunday after Easter when I asked for these questions and it’s been kind of down hill since then 🙂
“Did God form the world and everything in nature like trees, rivers, lakes, hills and how many days did it take?” Great question! By faith, the church confesses that “God is the source of Life”. God is the Creator whose love gives birth to the reality we live in. There was a time in my life, when I was perfectly happy to understand the six days of Genesis chapter 1 as all the time that was needed. But eventually, I had a lot of questions about that. My education in biology and genetics, combined with an amateur love affair with physics, challenged the picture I had of God as the creator. And that’s OK because God is always more than any picture or idea we can hold in our heads. Science and religion talk about “reality” in different ways. Science tells us how things happen while religion speaks to the “why” and for what “purpose”. The opening poem in Genesis is a powerful witness about the goodness of creation and the purpose God intends for it. The details about “how” it all happens are largely left out. Yet a couple of phrases provide some clues: “Let the earth bring forth…Let the waters bring forth” suggest that God is using the creation itself to do the creating! The tectonic plates of the earth’s crust move and mountains are formed. Gravity causes water to flow downhill and lakes and rivers are formed. The DNA inside every living cell self-replicates, but never without some changes and the changes eventually lead to the great diversity of life. So yes, by faith I believe God is the creator but even a quick glance at life tells us that things are still being created! So there isn’t an answer to how many days because it is still happening. And besides, to God “one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” 2 Peter 3:8. God is the creator even of time and is not bound by it in the same way that we are. But again, there is a lot more to talk about when it comes to science and religion. I’d love to have those conversations.
“How can Christian people act and drive so poorly?” …because they are in a hurry? 🙂 No that’s not a very good excuse. The answer is probably that being a Christian does not inoculate you against falling into temptation. Luther liked to say that we are saint and sinner at the same time. 100% saint and 100% sinner. So Christians can “fail” as much as the next person. But I do think there is a way for Christians to improve their driving (and other actions too – like being better tippers at restaurants). It’s not a new set of rules or regulations. Rather it is stepping outside of our own “bubble” and considering what might be happening in the life of the other person. When someone cuts you off in traffic, assume they have an emergency to get to. When you see or hear and ambulance, say a little prayer for those involved. When you leave a tip at your table, imagine how much more your server might need an extra dollar than you do. It’s not easy to change our thinking in such a radical way, but when with God’s help we do, it makes the whole day a lot less stressful!
How do I get my child to be excited about his faith? Throughout generations of people, parents have been asking this question. Even the bible has examples of faith-filled people struggling with children who don’t see things the same way. I remember having my own crisis of faith and my parents questioning what was going on and why. This is one of those questions there are no good answers too. It is the Spirit who inspires faith. We can perhaps till the soil a little and make the seedbed ready but it is God who gives the growth. Perhaps then the best way to get children excited about faith is for parents to be excited about living out their own faith.
And finally for today (I’ll do more questions later):
“Should I get rid of the 1954 GMC truck that has been in my garage for 16 years and still is not even close to drivable?” No. No you should not. Back on the farm, I have a 1968 Ford pickup that my dad bought new sitting in the shed as well and I hope to restore it at some point. It’s good to have hope. Always good to have hope. (But my opinion can always be vetoed by your spouse:)