Some random pastoral ponderings…
I must confess I have a bad habit of trying to answer people’s theological questions for them. What I’ve discovered is that the best way to shut down a conversation is by answering a question. Nevertheless, when we come to the Easter story, and people ask me how we know that Jesus rose from the dead, I feel that, as a pastor, I should have a solid, faith-filled answer.
I can point to Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances…to the disciples in the upper room… to the disciples on the Sea of Tiberius…and to the two travelers on the road to Emmaeus. Sometimes, the response I get is that those are just stories in the Bible. What proof do you have that they’re true? How do I show someone who is not a Christian that these are more than stories?
In my sermons I often encourage you to go out and tell your story of the ways God has been a part of your lives…how the risen Jesus has come into your life to bring you healing and hope in times of sickness and despair. How, in a very real way, do we do something like that? How do we overcome our fears and uneasiness when it comes to talking about our faith?
Maybe instead of giving you an answer, let me share a little story that was told at a conference years ago.
Rosa had the gift of illiteracy. She was a Hispanic grandmother who lived in the Chicago area and was a member of a largely Hispanic Lutheran church. Every Sunday, she would bring her Bible to worship and when the Gospel was read, she would ask a person next to her in the pew to mark the passage in pencil in her Bible. Then she would put a bookmark on the page.
During the week, as she rode the bus to her work, she would open her Bible to the page of the Sunday lesson and tell the person sitting next to her that she couldn’t read and ask them if they would mind reading the lesson to her. Rarely would anyone turn down this small Hispanic grandmother. How could they? Then, when they finished reading, she would ask them, “What do you think that means?” In this way she would engage people on the bus in conversations of faith.
This remarkable woman offers us an example of how we can use our humble gifts to spread the story of the Gospel. The story starts with Rosa having the gift of illiteracy…which we would normally see not as a gift but as a limitation. Yet Rosa found a way to use her illiteracy by humbly admitting it to the person sitting next to her on the bus. She also found a way to engage that person in a faith conversation by asking them to read the text and simply asking questions about it.
Our questions about God and Jesus are not like mathematical or scientific questions because God is infinite…beyond what our finite minds can comprehend. God is a deep, unfathomable mystery. So, there are no hard and fast answers. There are no proofs. There is only faith…and faith doesn’t give us answers, but only a sense of certainty that, to quote our namesake, Martin Luther, “this is most certainly true!”
What’s left are the questions. And, as with Rosa, the questions lead to conversation, and the conversation leads to a relationship. And relationship, I believe…with God and with others…is what God desires for us above all. So, I guess we don’t need to have the answers… only the courage to engage in the conversation…which begins with questions. What questions do you have?
MAY IS MEMORY MONTH
May is a month of memory and memories. As I visited with some of my colleagues this week, I was reminded that in many congregations, the first Sunday of May is when their confirmands stand before their families and friends and make a public profession of their faith as they remember and affirm the promises of their baptism. It is a memorable day in the faith journey of these confirmands and their families.
On Sunday, May 8th, we pause to remember our mothers, those who fulfill the role of mothers, and all mothers throughout the world. We remember the love they share with us, the sacrifices they have made on our behalf, and the many ways they have nurtured, supported, and guided us through life. Often, it is our mothers who plant the first seeds of faith in our hearts. We also remember that, were it not for our mothers, we wouldn’t be here! So, remember to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of your mother and for all mothers.
On Monday, May 30th, we take time out from our ordinary routines and daily schedules to remember all those brave young men and women who have given of themselves to preserve the freedoms that we, as Americans, enjoy each day. In recent times we are becoming increasingly aware of the sacrifices made by our soldiers and their families…not only during wartime…but long after the battles are over. Many of our veterans come home to experience untold emotional and psychological damage that impacts them for the rest of their lives. Please remember to pause and give thanks for all those brave men and women this Memorial Day.
Finally, we remember the One who is at the very center of all we do and say…the One who is at the very center of our lives…our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. As we journey through this season of Easter into Pentecost, we remember that every Sunday is a “little Easter” as we gather to remember the freedom from sin, death, and the devil that has been won for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We remember God’s love through Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf as we gather around the Lord’s Table to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of him.
May is a month of memories. Please remember to “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His steadfast mercies endure forever”.
A FINAL THOUGHT…
I came across this quote from the Dalai Lama the other day. I think it’s worth thinking about. People were created to be loved.
Things were created to be used.
Perhaps the reason the world is in such chaos
Things are being loved, and people are being used.