Happy second month of the New Year!!
No, I don’t have my calendar wrong. Of course it’s January, and of course this is when we most commonly celebrate the New Year. But did you know that – according to the Christian calendar – we started our new year back on November 30, 2014?
The Christian year starts with Advent, the season of prepa- ration that culminates in Christmas. We then move through the twelve days of Christmas (and a partridge in a pear tree!) before Epiphany and the appropriately named “Season After the Epiphany.”
Pastor’s note: to learn more about the seasons of the Church and the colors we sometimes use to represent those seasons, check out this video from Chuck Knows Church.
￼It seems natural that most times when we start a new thing, we have questions. When I got my first job, I asked a lot of questions. When I first started learning to drive, I had a ton of questions! When my kids were born, there were oh so many questions! And when I first came here to PB UMC, I was filled with questions. And mostly there are still questions for me in all of these categories and many more.
I think that asking questions is a natural thing. I don’t think that we can ask too many questions, because questions can help us to know more about the world around us and also about ourselves. I’ve heard some people suggest that questioning is ok except in certain areas – like our faith. And I’ve heard others criticize persons of faith as a crowd of lemmings who are (presumably) too dumb or too blind to ask deep and meaningful questions.
I disagree with both of these, and I always encourage healthy and productive questions. I think we can grow profoundly in our faith by asking deep and challenging questions, and in fact I think we must ask these questions so that we don’t get stagnant or stale in our understanding of God. For the six weeks between January 4th and February 8th, we will explore six questions that real people have asked about real faith. They are tangible and practical questions that affect nearly all of humanity. They are questions that I sought out using the tools of social media, and questions that were all deeply personal.
In the spirit of transparency, I will not be addressing some questions quite as specifically as they were asked. Instead, questions like, “How are Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon who died several years ago doing?” will be addressed in a more general sense, because I think we all wonder what happens at the end of life in this world. Over the course of the six weeks of our sermon series, we will be exploring these questions:
- January 4 – “Why can’t we see God?”
- January 11 – “Why does God forgive us?”
- January 18 – “How do I know I’m doing ‘good’ or ‘the right thing’ or ‘what God wants’?”
- January 25 – “What happens when we die?”
- February 1 – “How many miracles (blessings) can we receive?” (asked in a spirit of humble gratitude)
- February 8 – “Why does God let bad things happen?”
These are not questions where I think we will find simple answers. I think that over-simplifying these complex questions dishonors the complexity of the God from whom we ultimately seek answers. In some cases, we may not find an answer that suits us all.
Even so, I believe that giving ourselves permission to ask and explore some of these questions is critical to our understanding of faith. And so I hope that you will join in this exploration of the nature of God as we ask deeply im- portant questions of faith together. May we all be strengthened as we journey together.