I didn’t know that!
r.cpcfairfax.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/man_question_mark.jpg” alt=”” width=”286″ height=”359″ /> I have to admit that my recent two week vacation was a true blessing. Taking two weeks meant that somewhere in the middle of it I was able to stop worrying about what was being left behind and not worry about what was to come when I returned. As one member of our congregation said, “A vacation is the right length, that when you get back to work you have forgotten the building access code.” This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t concerned and didn’t pray about Christ Presbyterian Church. I kept tabs on things, but tried my best to release everything to God.
It was also a blessing because I was able to spend some time with my parents and my sister’s family that all live in the Daytona area. This year my father is celebrating his 80th birthday and I want to make sure that Colin and Johnny have some lasting memories of their grandparents. We were able to spend time talking, eating and even playing miniature golf.
This time an interesting thing happened while we were there. My mother dug out some old photos and newspaper articles. These clippings were about my grandparents and great-grandparents on my father’s side. I never met any of them since they had gone to God’s glory either before I was born or soon after. These articles revealed some new facts about them that I had never known. My grandmother, who I knew was a piano teacher and church organist, was also an accomplished soprano. Even though I had never met her, perhaps this is where my musical interest comes from. I also saw for the first time, advertisements which featured my grandmother as a model. I had heard in passing many years before that she had done this, but never actually saw the copy. Another part of my family history that I discovered in those clippings was that my great-grandfather owned a dance studio. I have to say this not only shocked me but made me laugh. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone in my family dance. (At least not well.)
These discoveries about my family led me to think about how little we really know. I believe that we often give ourselves more credit than we deserve. Here were hidden treasures about my family that all I needed to do was look for and ask about. Far too often we deny ourselves the opportunity to be inquisitive. We worry about being seen as dumb or unknowing. The church is one place where I believe that it should not only be permissible, but encouraged to explore. Even the most seasoned member cannot know all the mysteries of heaven.
More times than not, my job as a pastor is not to provide answers, but instead one of my chief responsibilities is to help those who are seeking God to ask the questions. Giving permission to ask the questions of faith and to be present with folks when they begin to receive the answers. I’m sure that if I dug a bit deeper into my family history I would not just find singers and dancers, but maybe a horse thief or other type of scoundrel. Asking the questions and exploring God can be that way as well. Many times we don’t get the answers we want or expect. Nonetheless we should ask those questions. What are the questions that you are struggling to ask? What are the answers that you don’t know what to do with?
This sparked a few random thoughts:
I was given a newspaper article about my grandmother recently – who knew she was quite a hot to trot young thing in the roaring twenties?? And part of a fashionable 4-women singing group that had gigs in clubs? I had never seen her with a skirt above her knees. Oh the controversy! That said – your own discovery reassured me that many of the things I save for my kids to see later can indeed serve a purpose.
I also was thinking about “how little we know” in regards to the life of our own church. CPC is over 50 years old, and I realized what I know about it barely covers 15% of that time. A few months ago I found myself browsing the original records book – founding members, first officers and baptisms. It’s amazing what you can learn from just a bunch of names, dates and numbers. And it was sitting there the whole time.
Related to your last paragraph…I read the following quote from D. Bonhoeffer on Sunday: “But I can’t help but share my thoughts with you, for the simple reason that that’s the only way I can clarify my own mind” (Letter and Papers from Prison). I was reminded of this quote as you mentioned your role listening to others who are asking the questions. It is quite reassuring to have someone with whom we can speak out loud the often jumbled and incoherent mix of thoughts with which our faith presents us.