Be brave Pandora. Open the jar again.
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Wednesday, March 10th: Ezra 6:1-16; Psalm 84; and Mark 11:15-19. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
This evening at 7PM I will take my turn at leading a session of our annual Lenten Discussion Series. (If you would like to attend, send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org) My topic is “Be brave Pandora. Open the jar again.” It’s about the tenuous relationship between curiosity and faith. Faith is not merely the content of what we believe. Faith is the act of believing. When we say something like “My faith,” this is a reference to our efforts to connect with God. I mean the Creator of everything who also hears our prayers. And yet, somehow, we have allowed this encounter to sometimes become boring and contrived. We are too often not surprised or challenged by faith, and that may have a lot to do with religion’s hesitancy to be questioned. Then, we settle for answers.
Have you ever walked through a children’s section of a store? Ever notice how many items are for sale whose purpose is to teach? Ever see how a child will get all excited about the prospect of learning? How the adults with them are equally enthusiastic? That’s a joy.
I give so much credit to teachers, parents and students during this year-long pandemic shut-down. Teaching and learning from home in front of a computer screen for this long must be a battle. I know I would not do well at it. Contrast this battle with the joy of the pre-schooler, then apply this to religion.
Some people even refer to the practice of religion as an obligation. It must be done and if it’s not then it registers as a sin. This is faith as a battle. It is something you just do or else. Well, is it any wonder that this sort of faith leaves people unmoved?
And yet faith is our personal connection with the infinite of God. Faith should be the strongest bastion of curiosity. It should lead us constantly by insights, and then questions, and then insights. There should be the excitement of challenge and exploration in the faith. There should be the religious joy that the Psalmist expresses today. A transporting joy that takes us to new places in the lives of our faith.
As a pastor I don’t worry so much about religious questions as I do about religious apathy. Questions won’t kill faith; apathy will. Questions can challenge and advance the faith; apathy drains it of life.
I guess people can be scared into heaven, but a fear of unbelief is not the same as the joy of belief. It’s not the same as the excitement of: “My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” May our remaining days of Lent help us to find that spiritual enthusiasm that shakes us up and wakes us up, for after all, we are following a crucified God, a wholly unexpected God, so there’s nothing wrong with being surprised.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.macucc.org/lectionary.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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