There is a myth out there that I encounter a lot as a Pastor, and that myth is that we shouldn’t ask too many questions as people of faith. Like all myths, it is based in some reality and some perception. There are definitely churches and religious leaders in the world that discourage asking questions— many of you have told me your stories about times you asked questions and were given pat answers that discouraged you from probing further. But there’s also just the more basic experience of being a child asking adults questions that they don’t know how to answer, and either being put off or dismissed, and internalizing at that point that maybe we shouldn’t ask those questions.
BJ Miller, a palliative care physician, talks about how questions change as we grow. When we are young we tend to ask the big questions without any embarrassment— who am I, why am I here, what is the purpose of life? But at some point in our growing up, we shy away from those questions. Maybe they seem too big or we realize others don’t know how to answer them or daily life just gets in the way— but when we are faced with our own mortality, through crisis or old age, we begin to ask those big questions again. (1)
Questions lead us into interesting places, without which, life would be pretty bland. But that also means that sometimes we can’t answer the questions we have, and not everyone is comfortable with that. Read More
This summer as we have celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, there have been many documentaries, podcasts, and other ways of reflecting back on this significant event. As a family we watched Apollo 11, a documentary that showed in depth the actual footage of the moments immediately before and after the spacecraft, the Eagle, landed on the moon. How Armstrong took the the Eagle off of auto pilot because otherwise they would’ve landed in a crater, and successfully flew them over a ridge to land on a flat open area. How an error code kept coming on that baffled the astronauts so that they didn’t know whether they should be concerned or not. How close they came to using up too much fuel, which wouldn’t have left them enough to get home. And how everything was planned so that as soon as they landed, the astronauts on board had to immediately prepare the Eagle for take off again because they didn’t know what was going to happen and if they would be able to stay. In those first few minutes after they had landed, no one knew if they would immediately begin sinking into the surface of the moon or if there would be too much radiation to stay or what exactly they would encounter. So the first thing the astronauts did after landing, was get ready to take off, just in case. Now, fifty years later, we have discovered all kinds of things — we’ve learned about dark matter, we’ve learned more about black holes, and we’ve discovered that there are definitely other planets out there capable of sustaining life.
We have so much to learn! There is so much we don’t understand! Read More
In Staten Island there is a landfill called Fresh Kills Landfill that was closed in 2001, containing 150 million tons of garbage, and reaching over 225 feet into the air. An arborist, William Bryant Logan, recently wrote about his visit to Fresh Kills Landfill. Walking through it today, with tall boots, pants, and long sleeves to protect him from whatever chemicals are lurking under the green muck, Logan found many unexpected things. A small grove of pin oak trees, there far before the landfill, still seemingly able to thrive at 70 feet tall and more than a yard wide; frogs were jumping through puddles that Logan wouldn’t have touched with his bare hands; various vines had managed to take down many trees, returning needed nutrients to the ground to create soil all over again, and yet even these trees that were taken down were sprouting five and six feet into the air, what arborists aptly call the phoenix generation of trees. Nature is taking over the garbage heaps. A yellow garter snake darted in front of him, the first he’d ever seen in the city, and there was evidence of coyotes; at one point he ran into some deer that skittered away, although slowly, as they carefully jumped through the dangerous trash. What he saw, in this living, somewhat thriving landfill, was regeneration; transformation; slow and sure resurrection— even, as he also knew, that it would take 200 years before the aluminum will decay; 700 years for a plastic bottle; a millennia before all of the styrofoam returns to the earth. And yet it was clear— an apt reminder, that nature will make its way unbidden. Although grotesque in many ways, it was also beautiful in other ways. It was beyond what Logan had imagined— he could see a new creation being formed. (1)
As we heard the beautiful words Genesis 1 this morning, it is easy and right to get lost in the poetry of it— to hear the cadence of time and space and life; to hear the phrase over and over again, it is good; it is good; it is good. Read More
Picture this scene with me, if you will: It’s about 300 years ago in a small village in England. The days are long, the windows are thrown open, the sounds of children echo throughout the house, some playing, some studying, some singing. A woman sits in a chair, still as still could be, seemingly oblivious to the chaos around her, her apron pulled up over her head.
Now fast forward three hundred years, a mother and a teenage boy sitting at the dinner table, chatting about the day. The boy a bubbly, troubled boy on the autism spectrum, spilling his stories of upsets and joys of the day, or speaking of superheroes and comic books. The mother listening and asking questions to keep the conversation going in between bites of food. He suddenly sees the time and the boy falls silent, looking at the mother and simply saying, “You should go, it helps us…. You need to go.” Read More