Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we move into the month of June, we are still doing a lot of adjusting. It is great that we have been able to get back to in-person worship, but we are still not back to "normal." There are many things that have changed in our lives in the church and outside of the church. There are some workers and business owners who continue to hurt because of lost wages and broken relationships due to this pandemic and shutdown. This change gives rise to opportunity for us to be the church in new ways. What will that look like? How will God use the church in new ways?
We are in a moment in time when searching for meaning and purpose is on the rise. After going through such a traumatic experience together in a way that has never happened in anyone's lifetime, many are trying to make sense of it all and move forward with their lives. With that comes many questions about life, mortality, and purpose. The church can help with some of those questions. I spoke in my sermon on May 17th about how on our own and with our own devices, human beings have a really hard time answering the "why" question. We can answer the "who, what, when, where, and how," but the why is what eludes many of us. What is the purpose of all of this? The "why" question is the deeper question. The others get us to a surface level of answers. But asking "why" and searching for that answer is what draws us to new depths in our spirit. It is the place where we can commune with God fully. It is in our seeking that we find something more. Jesus told us in Matthew 6:33, "Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you." This is not about a laundry list that we offer to God in our prayers. This is what going deeper and asking the "why" question looks like for us.
All of us are probably looking for that answer right now. We can pass blame on politicians, countries, health experts, and even God. But even when things are "normal" again, the question is still begging to be answered. This is not something that we will forget by Christmas. This collective experience has changed us all for the good or the bad. (I hope for the good.) So the question of why will linger for a lifetime. This gives an opportunity to us as followers of Jesus. How do we answer the "why" question? How do we approach this new world in which we live?
It is not easy or simple. We definitely cannot give pat answers. But I also think we have to ask the right questions. I never think asking "Why did God let this happen?," is the way to ask the question. If you know a journalist or someone who interviews for a living, they will tell you that you can find the answers that you seek if you ask the right questions. (Unless you are talking to a politician.) We start by asking the more surface questions of ourselves. "What has changed in me through all this?" "Who am I now?" "Where is all of this going to lead me in my life?" "How am I going to live differently?" These are all good places to start the questioning of ourselves. The church and faith can help us in these answers. Faith and trust in God can bring us to answers we are seeking in these areas of life. Our faith can bring purpose to these questions. It is when we ask the "why" questions that we can go even deeper. "Why am I feeling the way I do about all this?" "Why can't I find hope in this time?" "Why can I find hope?" "Why is God leading me to this moment in my life?" These are just some starter questions. But I do hope you see where they are leading – introspection and reliance on God.
I think one of the things that we have learned as the church in this time is that what we thought we had to offer the world is not what the world really needs. We thought that if we offered enough programs and the right music that it would make our communities and us better. But what we have learned is that while all those things are good, we have lost sight of what the world truly needs – the life-giving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, he is the answer to our questions. These may not always be easy answers, but he is the answer.