Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Questions, questions, questions

This past weekend, I attended a Youth Quake in Morristown, NJ.  This is an event for junior high youth where there is music, a speaker, workshops, activities and more.  It provides a different kind of setting and experience where young people can see faith witnessed and shared.  You can go to www.youthencounter.org for more info.

One of the things that I like about these events - as an adult and a pastor - is that while much of what is shared is not "new" information for me, it is presented in a different way from different life experiences and perspectives.  Often it will spark an idea or reflection for me (or at the very least, provide new sermon illustrations).  As a pastor's kid, I could always count on new illustrations from my dad as soon as he came back from this kind of event - now, I understand why.

One of the workshops, I attended was simply called "Questions".  After playing a game where we could only ask questions (and win toothpicks), the young people were given the opportunity to ask any question that they would want to ask God.  Instead of giving them the answers, Dr. Luke Hartman (from Eastern Mennonite College who was also the main speaker) affirmed their question, the difficulty of sometimes living with that questions and even pointed to the mystery of God.

Dr. Hartman said that we - as the Church - often only ask young people questions for which we already have the answers or at least have a specific answer in mind.

Certainly our world is about finding answers and we can be very thankful for the seekers of these answers as cures and treatments are found for diseases, new places and worlds are explored and new insights into life are created.  We want the answers; we don't like to live with unanswerable questions. 

Yet, is the Church really in the "answer" business or are we about living into and through the questions of life and faith?  To the really difficult questions of life, there are no "easy" answers or even answers that satisfy the pain, sorrow or uncertainty. 

Often when people would ask Jesus a question, he would respond with a question of his own (for an example, see Luke 10:25-26).  Jesus was not about giving us answers, but rather inviting us to explore our own questions in a new way.  The Bible verses given as an example are from the lawyer's question about inheriting eternal life and Jesus' question about what it says in the law.  Jesus then goes on to share the story of the Good Samaritan which points beyond the question and ourselves to the greater concern of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Frederick Buechner explains questions in this way:  "On her deathbed, Gertrude Stein is said to have asked, 'What is the answer?'   Then after a long silence, 'What is the question?"  Don't start looking in the Bible for the answers it gives.  Starty by listening for the questions it asks." (from Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC)

What are your questions of faith and life? 
If you could ask God any question, what would it be?
How might you explore these questions further?
What question might Jesus ask of you in return?

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