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Pastoral Ponderings May 8, 2022

Some random pastoral ponderings…

I must confess, I have a bad habit of trying to answer people’s theological questions for them. What I’ve discovered is that the best way to shut down a conversation is by answering a question. Nevertheless, when we come to the Easter story and people ask me how we know that Jesus rose from the dead, I feel that, as a pastor, I should have a solid, faith-filled answer.

I can point to Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances…to the disciples in the upper room… to the disciples on the Sea of Tiberius…and to the two travelers on the road to Emmaus. Sometimes, the response I get is that those are just stories in the Bible. What proof do you have that they’re true? How do I show someone who is not a Christian that these are more than stories?

In my sermons I often encourage you to go out and tell your story of the ways God has been a part of your lives…how the risen Jesus has come into your life to bring you healing and hope in times of sickness and despair. How, in a very real way, do we do something like that? How do we overcome our fears and uneasiness when it comes to talking about our faith?

Maybe instead of giving you an answer, let me share a little story that was told at a conference years ago.

Rosa had the gift of illiteracy. She was a Hispanic grandmother who lived in the Chicago area and was a member of a largely Hispanic Lutheran church. Every Sunday she would bring her Bible to worship and, when the Gospel was read, she would ask a person next to her in the pew to mark the passage in pencil in her Bible. Then she would put a bookmark in the page.

During the week, as she rode the bus to her work, she would open her Bible to the page of the Sunday lesson and tell the person sitting next to her that she couldn’t read and ask them if they would mind reading the lesson to her. Rarely would anyone turn down this small Hispanic grandmother. How could they? Then, when they finished reading, she would askthem, “What do you think that means?” In this way she would engage people on the bus in conversations of faith.

This remarkable woman offers us an example of how we can use our humble gifts to spread the story of the Gospel. The story started with Rosa had the gift of illiteracy…which we would normally see not as a gift, but as a limitation. Yet Rosa found a way to use her illiteracy by humbly admitting it to the person sitting next to her on the bus. She also found a way to engage that person in a faith conversation by asking them to read the text and simply asking questions about it.

Our questions about God and Jesus are not like mathematical or scientific questions because God is infinite…beyond what our finite minds can comprehend. God is a deep, unfathomable mystery. So, there are no hard and fast answers. There are no proofs. There is only faith…and faith doesn’t give us answers, but only a sense of certainty that, to quote our namesake Martin Luther, “this is most certainly true!”

What’s left are the questions. And, as with Rosa, the questions lead to conversation, and the conversation leads to relationship. And relationship, I believe…with God and with others…is what God desires for us above all. So, I guess we don’t need to have the answers… only the courage to engage in the conversation…which begins with questions. What questions do you have?

Blessings, Pastor Karl

St. Paul's Lutheran Church of German Lake
22693 German Lake Rd
Cleveland, Minnesota 56017