A sermon preached in the aftermath of the shootings in Charleston. You can also listen to the sermon here. Fodder for the sermon included: Job 38:1-11; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41.
Can you feel it? Do hear it beginning to shift? Language and experience beginning to nuance? Presumptions about safety challenged? Identity being questioned? Things have shifted, not just in our conversation, not just in our experience, but in our world. And the truth of the matter is, there is no going back if we are to be whole.
Our readings this morning are really a long way from those Easter meanderings of new life and celebration of resurrection. Yes, although the divining figures in both of them seem to confidently of who they are and the power they possess, each of the readings in their own way risk making us subservient passive agents in with God and Jesus.
After all, who among us would ever dare to ask God another question if what we received was the answer he gave Job? And how would you have reacted to Jesus when he woke up and told the sea to calm and it obeyed?
Yes, my friends, today, our readings move us towards that ordinary place where we and those in our readings are left feeling one of the most normal things ever: frustrated and confused about why certain things have happened. (and then, in a truly holy way, they invite us to do something different.)
To put it simply, Job and the disciples’ refrains are basically the same: “what the heck, God?”
Driven by their experiences and questions, their lack of accepting things as they are, Job and disciples are led even more deeply into a questioning and curious relationship with God and Jesus the rabbi. It is as if while surprised, curiosity keeps pushing them to deeper layers of understanding and experience. It is as if in some raw and human way, both Job and the disciples do exactly what we would like to do (in certain moments in our living history), (but have maybe been brainwashed to believe is wrong or uncuth) they raise their hands in the air and ask simply and profoundly of the ones who they believe to be able to make a difference, “well, are you going to do something?”
In a sense, Job and the disciples do not presume to know- to know their part, to know their fault, to know the full historical relevance of the moment….in a sense, their curiosity and obedience in faith calls them to push back against the experience of the now and to demand an truer answer – a better way – something altogether different- from God and each other.
In his recent book A Curious Mind Brian Grazer suggested that it is not knowledge, it is not certainty, it is not power, it is not money that will lead us to new places in our world but rather it is curiosity. Grazer suggests that curiosity can be a trait or a learned habit that has the capacity to cure boredom, create mischief, open doors of opportunity, threaten the powerful and distill courage. As Grazer rightly notes, curiosity itself is not enough; rather, their are at least two other traits that are important for the fullness of it to be experienced.
First, Grazer suggests that for curiosity to be effective, one must have “the ability to pay attention to the answers to your questions -” as he continues “you have to absorb whatever it is you are being curious about” (9).
To Grazers point, the most powerful part of our narratives this morning is not that having been curious and answered that Job and the disciples got on with life, but rather that having been curios the trajectory of their lives and ministry was effected by the response that they received.
Neither Job nor the disciples simply became passive agents of the answer that they got from God or Jesus. Rather both, absorbed the answer grappled with it, incorporated it into some kind of new way of being them and then – got on with a transformational new way of being in the world.
My friends, it does not matter how we arrive at the need to be curious how we arrive at that place where honest examination of our presumptions occurs, what matters is that we let the question and the answer reshape our experience of each other and God in the world. Experiences of birth, tragedy, death, violence, racism, marriage, sexism, all of these are part and parcel with what it means to be human in the world. But if we are to take our scriptural tradition and our faith legacy seriously, then we must, we must, we must not forget that we are pilgrims on a faith journey.
What happened in Charleston this past week is but one of many examples of how life can bring us to questions. And Charleston must be held in the came tension with the fact that yesterday Will entered newly into his vocation as priest. And it must be held in tension.
Tension is not antithetical to our life with each other and God, tension/conflict is ingredient to our real life – to our grappling with what it means to be in living active relationship with God and one another.
The good news this morning is that if we are willing to be curious to be curious with God and to be curious in life with each other as people of faith, then the kingdom can come in our world in all kind of new ways. Because my friends the truth of the matter is, we do not have all the answers and none of us, not not one of us, knows in full.
But all of us can say to God, what the heck. All of us can be curious. All of us can dare to invite God to speak peace to our world. All of us can change something.