A seldom celebrated, yet vital part of any good preaching is asking questions. Questions are more dangerous than declarative statements for they demand an answer. We brush off a hard statement. It is harder to shake a good question. Jesus asked questions all the time. Here are a few: Is not life more than food? Do not even sinners do that? Can worrying add a minute to your life? Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye? Why are you afraid? Why do you think evil thoughts? Why do you doubt? Who did the crowds go out to see? Did not King David eat the sacred bread reserved for the priests? Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Don’t you see whatever you eat just passes through you? When we fed 5,000-how many baskets did you gather? What could you give in exchange for your soul? Should you not have mercy as well? Are you envious because I am generous? Are you able to drink the cup that I will drink? Which of the two did the will of his father? Whose head is on the coin? Which is more sacred the gold or the temple? Could you not stay awake with me? Have you come out to arrest me with swords and clubs as if I was a bandit? What do you think? Who do you say that I am?
In this loudly declarative sound-bite culture do we take time for questions? Questions can challenge, correct or change us. Inquiry slows life down. Big questions set our soul to searching. Questions call us away from life’s clutter and ask us to pay attention even if for a few seconds. We Google it, we download it, we Instagram life, we move it, we have an app for it, we plan it, we solve it, we schedule it, we watch it, we buy it, we say it, we handle it, we live it, we just do it! Do we ask questions about it?
Do we ever ask our souls, what am I doing exactly?
Do we ask: “How is it with my soul?”
When I started church work, I thought my job was to make declarative statements in the name of Jesus. I felt a compulsion to stand up and speak up for God: to tell. I thought I was supposed to study the Bible and then tell people what to do. Today, I still feel called to illuminate God’s Word, but perhaps the best preaching gets you asking your own questions like: What am I doing? How is my soul? or Where exactly is Christ changing my life?
The spiritual life is an always an examined life. We will not accidently become loving, courageous, forgiving, just, hopeful, joyful, faithful, descent, or good. There is no app for righteous living or to determine the will of God. Meaningful living requires prayer, worship, good works, study and time. Prayer, worship, piety, generosity, service and Searching the Scripture rubs one’s soul against God’s Holy Spirit. These spiritual motions scrape, scrub, polish, and refine our lives. Prayer is a divine encounter wherein God pokes around inside our lives (searching the heart) and actions (conviction of sin) and stirs us to live differently (repentance). Prayer is more examination than asking. Good preaching pokes and prods the soul to prayer and examination. An examination of one’s soul is essential to a spiritually, peace, courage, honesty, humanity, Christ-likeness and joy. How is it with your soul?
Over the next 4 weeks my sermons will ask a new question each week. The 4 questions will probe both our personal lives and our congregational life. These questions have no easy, clear or quick answers. Siri won’t be much help. The answers may take days or even years to fully ferment and grow. Hear are the questions for you and for our church:
- What am I passionate about?
- Where is God working in my neighborhood?
- Do I have an occupation or a vocation?
- Could I write a personal mission statement?
Let us take the time to begin asking spiritual questions. Let us step for a few prayerful moments away from the unexamined life. Let us allow God to search our hearts, weigh our actions, and measure our days. In that examination may we discover passion, community, vocation and a sense of life mission! A church filled with such people cannot fail to reflect Jesus to the world.
Prayers and Peace