Stump the Pastor

1 Kings 19:11-13

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

 

Thoughts on the passage:

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?  Can God make a rock so heavy that God cannot lift it?  Did Adam have a belly button?  When I think of questions to stump the pastor, these are not the sort of questions I like to get.  First of all, because obviously I don’t know the answer to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but also because I don’t think it matters any more than it matters whether or not God can make things so heavy that God cannot lift them.  The real value of questions is when they help us grow in our faith and deepen our understanding of God.

If God is all-powerful, why does evil exist?  What do we mean when we say that we eat the body and drink the blood of Christ?  Why does God answer some prayers and not others?  These are the sorts of questions that cause us to seek answers that are meaningful.  In seeking those answers we better understand ourselves and our faith.

I like doing “Stump the Pastor” sermons for two reasons, one is I like to being in conversation, and these sermons allow a real dialogue between myself and people in the congregation.  The other reason I like them is I honestly want to be stumped.   Not by questions like “how many times does the letter “e” get used in the King James Bible” but by the sorts of questions that cause us to really ponder and to really wonder about the nature of God.  The text from First Kings today reminds us that God is not always in the loud voice and the spoken answer.  Sometimes we find God in the silence, the pause when we do not know what to see.  It is when we all stop and listen that we can leave room for God to speak.

My hope is that taking time every so often to ask questions and give voice to our doubts will help us grow in our faith.  For those of us who have been in the church a long time, we can forget how weird faith is at times.  We believe in a God we cannot always see, or hear, or touch, or smell, or taste.  We believe in a life after death that no one here has experienced.  We believe in prayer even though we cannot really explain how it works.  Our faith is often built on things that are hard to explain.  When we stop and ask the tough questions we help each other to remember just how hard our faith is, but hopefully we also remember why it is we believe what we do.

The point is our questions and doubts are not a threat to our faith, they are the building blocks of our faith.  They are the stones that lead us further along the trail of our journey of discipleship.  They become the landmarks that helps us navigate the wilderness as we follow God.  It is our questions that lead us back to the feet of Christ that we might once more learn from the master that we also call our friend.

Questions to Ponder:

How would you describe God to someone who was not a Christian?

What is a question you have always wanted to ask but been afraid to?

When is a time your doubts have been a barrier to faith and when is a time they have helped you grow in faith?

Prayer:

God, we often take the time to talk, asking, demanding, shouting, whispering, calling out to you.  Give us the patience to stop and listen as well so that after we speak our questions we might take the time to hear your still, small voice in response.  Amen