How Questions Lead to Holiness

      I remember being about 3 or 4 years old, riding in the backseat of my brother's car on the way home from church. I was sitting pondering the world, and looking out the window, when I asked my college aged brother, "What is God?" He looked back a bit perplexed, and so I expanded my question. "I mean, He's not a ghost, and He's not a person, not with skin and a body like us. So what is God? Like, what is God made out of?" I don't remember the answer my brother gave me, but I don't remember him scoffing, or shutting down the conversation either. Whatever his answer was, it satisfied my young mind, but this memory of asking questions, of asking perplexing theological questions, is one of the earliest memories I have.
      As I grew, the questions didn't end. After Sunday morning worship service, I would often walk up to my mom while she was preparing dinner and ask all of the perplexing questions I had from the sermon that morning. "If the devil is a real person with free will, than does the devil have free will to repent and re-enter heaven? Or is it too late? Is there a point where it's too late to repent? What does that tell us about God?" She never shied away from my questions or told me to stop asking them, despite not always having an answer. Sometimes her answer being "won't it be great that someday we can ask Jesus all of our questions!"
       After bombarding her with thousands of questions she finally told me to write them down as I had them, and to ask my pastor prior to the evening church service. I did just that.
      I would walk into church on Sunday nights, and search all over for my pastor, with my list in hand. He took the time to go through each and every question I had, to the best of his ability, at times even reaching for his systematic theology notebook from seminary. Sometimes asking if we could resume the conversation after the service, which of course only lead to more questions.
      He gave me books about world religions, and helped me to delve even more deeply into the scriptures. He never turned away from my questions, but continued to challenge me in my thinking. Those questions often led to other questions, questions I'm still continuing to ask.
     Now I am a pastor myself, and I think at times that people perceive us as the people with the answers. That we sat through classes on Biblical Hermeneutics and Theology 101 to have better answers for our congregation, but I have learned that being a pastor is so very little about having the right answers, and so much more about asking the right questions.
     -Who is God?
     - What should our response to God be?
    -What is Love?
    -Is love even a what, or is love a who?
    - How do we live love in light of what/who love is?
    - What is the church?
    - Is the church a what, or is it a who?
    -What does it mean to be the church?
    - What does it mean to be free from sin?
      This is such a small sampling of questions that I ask, and that we ask as Christians. Our congregation wrestles with these questions on a regular basis, in recent weeks we've wrestled with "What does it mean to love my enemies?", "What does freedom in Christ look like?", and "What should our response to the terrorist attacks in Florida be?".
       However, I have seen people fear questions. As someone who has always asked questions, it is perplexing to me as to why? Which only leads me to more questions. Why are some people afraid of questions? Why are some people afraid of those who ask lots of questions?
       It perplexes me, because I believe that ultimately it is questions that lead us to holiness. A professor of mine used to say "you are never more holy than when you are confessing." It seems that that our questions are what ultimately leads us to confession.
      Someone asks "Who is my neighbor?" Which leads to a story about a man getting robbed and beaten on the side of the road. The religious leaders pass by out of fear of touching a dead body, or blood, making them unclean. Hoping to uphold the law. Then a man, who is by every definition of the word an outcast, an enemy to the man hurting and bleeding, and he is the one who picks him up. Who bandages his wounds and pays for his care. Who goes above and beyond to meet his needs.
     We learn from our questions that it was this man who was truly being a neighbor, which leads us to pray "Oh LORD have mercy on me a sinner! For I walked by on the other side instead of meeting my neighbor's needs. Forgive me, and help me to see those around me as my neighbor!" It is in that moment, that great moment of confession that we are made holy, as God is faithful to hear our cries and forgive us.
     It is this movement, this progression from question to confession to holiness that moves the liturgy of many of our churches. This is part of why we go from the sermon (questions and story), to a prayer of confession, to the Eucharist. It is a progression that reminds us of who we are and whose we are, that ultimately we might better serve the world. That we might ultimately look more like Jesus.
     Shutting down questions does not just shut down conversations that are uncomfortable for us to have, but inevitably it shuts down room for confession which ultimately creates roadblocks on the path of holiness.
     If we truly want to be a holy people, we must first and foremost be a people who ask questions. Who don't shut down conversations, but wrestle in the hard work of moving towards confession together. We must respond like Jesus did to the questions around him, the questions of "who is my neighbor?", "how can I be born again?", and "where can i find this well, so I might drink and never be thirsty?" not with criticism, not with an arrogance that we know all of the answers,  but with the embrace my brother, my mom, and my childhood pastor gave me. We must respond with stories and more questions, that we might confess together "Lord, I need to be a better neighbor", "Lord help me to be born again", and "Lord, I am dry, fill me again with your living water." That we might ultimately be made holy through the grace of the Holy Spirit who is faithful to forgive.
     May we ask more questions. May we listen and embrace those who are asking questions. May these questions ultimately lead us to confession that we do not have all the answers, and that we are so very dependent on the grace of a great God that we are far too small to comprehend. May that confession lead us to be the holy nation of God, a people set apart for God's great work in the world.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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