In pm's words
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September 21, 2015, 9:00 AM

the one about staying silent...


Sermon from September 20, 2015

Sermon Text: Mark 9: 30-37

Grace and peace to you from God our father and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

I don’t know about y’all, but I was amazed this week by one news story in particular. The story out of the Dallas, TX area this week that sent ripples and shockwaves around the world. No, I’m not talking about the Cowboys’ improbable comeback against the Giants or the Rangers finally overtaking the Astros for first place (but, those were pretty fun stories in my world). I’m talking about the story this week about a teenager at an Irving, TX high school who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school.

The skinny kid in thick-rimmed glasses wearing a NASA t-shirt - who wanted to show his engineering teacher what he made in hopes that a robotics club could be established in his high school – was marched out of his classes and his school in handcuffs because those around him wouldn’t talk. People wouldn’t talk to him about what it was that he brought and when they did have words, they didn’t listen.

I see this story and I cannot help, but remember the story that we read in Mark’s gospel this morning. Specifically the part where in the disciples confusion about what Jesus was saying they didn’t say anything for they were afraid to ask.

What is it that makes us – all of us – all of humanity – seem to not want to talk. To be in conversation with those around us? Whether it be talking to a teenager to understand why he brought a homemade clock – and not a bomb – to his school. Or perhaps being able to talk about the fact that sometimes there are things we just don’t understand – especially when it comes to our faith and our beloved scripture.

There is a sense in the world today that if you have to ask questions than you don’t need to be a part of the conversation. There is a sense that if we feel like we don’t understand something that we are the only ones who feel that way – we must be stupid, not smart enough, we must just not ‘get it.’ It doesn’t help that some of the loudest voices in our world and media today don’t have conversations with one another – especially when they are trying to clarify what they are saying or understand what another is saying. No, they just yell or they don’t say anything at all.

In our lives of faith, I have met too many people who have said that they don’t ask questions because well – they don’t want people to judge them, think they they’re dumb, or be treated poorly simply because they wanted clarification. Too many times, I hear from people, “I’m sorry I ask so many questions pastor – I know I should know this…”

Why do we behave this way? I know I am victim to this way of thought as well. When I was in seminary there were quite a few times that my professor would say something and I wouldn’t understand it fully. I’d think, “I probably should ask her to go over it again, but I’m not going to be that guy.” Even though after class we’d get together and all share in the same question, “Did y’all understand any of that?”

Like the disciples, we are afraid. We’re afraid that others might think of us in a different way. We’re afraid that when we start asking questions, we may get answers that we are not ready to hear. We’re afraid that when we enter into a conversation with someone that there is a chance that we might be wrong.

When we think about our faith, when we go over the verses of our scripture, there are so many things that can trip us up. Why are there two creation stories? Where did the other people after the flood come from? What does Jesus really mean by taking up a cross? Does Paul really mean nothing separates God’s love from us? Why are their four gospels and they all have different stuff in them? Why this way? How do you know how to pray? What do you say? Am I really ‘enough’ in God’s eyes?

When it comes to questions and our inability to ask them, we can be very stubborn because we are full of pride and we don’t want to seem ‘less than’ to those around us – especially those who we love and respect. When we act this way – when I act this way – I am reminded of a picture I saw on the internet a while ago that was of a medical billboard that stated, “This year thousands of men will die because of stubbornness.” Spray painted below that was a message simply stating, “No we won’t.”

We’ve become stubborn in our search of truth and openness. We don’t want to be vulnerable, we don’t want to appear weak. We don’t want to ask ‘stupid’ questions. When it comes to our faith, we might not ask enough questions. We think we’re the only ones that think that way – no one else is as ‘dumb’ as me, so I’m sure not going to prove it to the world.

But, we shouldn’t live out our faith this way. It isn’t healthy – it really isn’t. When we close ourselves off from one another and we don’t ask the questions that are burning in our hearts it makes it that much easier to fall away because we’re not engaged. It also doesn’t help as Karoline Lewis wrote in the latest Christian Century that ‘monologue seems to be the communication mode of choice these days when it comes to faith. Rather than an act of conversation, faith has become an act of coercion. It seems to demand immediate acceptance, with little room for ambiguity.’ She finishes with a brilliant line here, ‘The way people talk about faith is less about the mysteries of faith and more about the mastery of convictions and doctrines and beliefs.

It is easier to stay silent or to be in monologue. There’s less risk involved. It’s safer that way.

Even though all of us have those perplexing questions that there’s a good chance that at least one other person near you has asked as well. We still shy away from being in those conversations – especially when it concerns our faith, caring for one another, learning about another culture.

It’s easier that when we receive that chain letter or that post on the internet that disparages another person or group or culture to stay silent. It puts us in a vulnerable spot when we ask the questions that bring us into conversation with others.

There are many who will say that by having faith you shouldn’t have to ask questions. That faith keeps us from having to ask because we’ll already know the answer. Yet, life doesn’t really work like that. Because of our faith – more opportunities for questions arise. If I am to follow Christ, how am I supposed to deal with this? Why does God want us to do this – when the other way is so much easier? Am I capable of following and living the truth of Jesus’ passion?

Questions aren’t bad. They aren’t seeds of doubt. They aren’t a sign of a weak faith.

Instead, I believe that questions are the fruits of those living and struggling in discipleship. No one said living a life following Jesus would be easy. We don’t live this life of faith alone as lone rangers out in the wilds. No, we do this together. We support one another. We talk to one another. We have conversations with one another.

We have honest conversations where we support, love and guide one another in this life of mysterious faith.

Be open, don’t be afraid to speak up. It isn’t as fun to remain in silence. Remember – we are reminded in Paul’s letter to the Romans that not ONE THING will separate God’s love from us. Not even that question – or that one.

Jesus doesn’t throw us to the side when we speak up, Jesus enters into conversation with us and through us so that our faith is deepened and strengthened even more. Amen.

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