Exploring the questions Jesus asked

by admin on August 5, 2020

Somewhere along the way, many Jesus followers adopted the crazy notion that questions, like doubts, are a really bad idea. 

Instead, they chose a posture of:

The Bible said it, that settles it. The church declared it; that sets it in stone.

Instead of allowing the questions in our heads & hearts & the ones in Scripture itself to stop us in our tracks, too often, we’ve brushed right past them in our desperate search for answers.

But, if questions are such a threat & such a futile exercise, then why did Jesus ask so many of them?

If you’ve been around The Well for very long, you know by now that we do not see our faith community as the dispenser of answers (thanks, David Hayward, for this wonderful cartoon!), but rather as a place where we can ask real questions.

Questions stimulate thought. They open us to new ways of seeing & thinking, and remind us of our humanity. Questions draw us closer to one another (whereas claiming to have the only possible answer tends to drive us further & further apart).

Questions guide us toward the Real, the Depths, the Essence. They inspire awareness – they inspire change.

Maybe that’s why Jesus asked over 300 of them in the gospels. I like the way pastor & writer Martin Copenhaver tells it,

“Jesus is not the ultimate Answer Man – he’s more like the Great Questioner.”

Over the next couple of months, we’ll let these questions be our guide each Sunday as we gather in community. We’d love for you to join us at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday via Zoom (log in info below).  Make sure to subscribe to our weekly updates so you can keep up with the latest happenings, alternative Sunday gatherings & other ways to connect with us.

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Artwork by David Hayward aka Nakedpastor. Visit his website for more.

I can’t breathe. These were the words spoken by George Floyd last week as the knee of a police officer pressed down on his airway, forcibly preventing the flow of air.

I can’t breathe. These were the words spoken by Eric Garner in 2014, when a police officer placed him in a chokehold that restricted his flow of air.

I can’t breathe. These are both the real & the metaphorical words we have been hearing throughout history by a people who were uprooted from their homeland, brought to America as slaves & told to learn to live as strangers & servants in a “world made for whiteness.”1

While the horror of slavery may be physically located in the past, it is still very much in the air. From the anxiety produced by having to sit your black son down to have “the talk” to the fumes emitted from highways built through the heart of historically black neighborhoods, the American way of life built on racial inequality has left people of color in a perpetual struggle to breathe.

I can’t breathe are the desperate cries of souls struggling to be free & bodies longing to be fully alive & treated as fully human.

They are also the words we are hearing from the more than 364K people who have died worldwide as a result of COVID-19.

This Sunday is the day in the life of the church when we celebrate Pentecost, when we remember how the fiery Spirit of the living God came unexpectedly upon a diverse crowd of people clustered together in Jerusalem. It’s a scene hard for some of us to imagine in our current socially-distant pandemic situation.

But it was then & there that the Jesus-like spirit or “breath” of God was transfused into human bodies & souls. It points forward to a movement inspired by Jesus & it points back to the start of the story of Scripture where God breathed life into the first human.

Breath has always been central. It’s clear again & again that while humans have a dark side that likes to trample the breath out, God shows us another way.

God, the Giver of Life & Breath wants to breathe new life, particularly into those who are struggling to breathe & we are the means through which God does this.

This Pentecost Sunday happens to be The Well’s next 5th Sunday Sabbath & not only will we not physically be together (again); we will also not be hosting a virtual gathering. We will, however, still be united by the breath of God that stirs in each one of us.

Over this sabbath weekend where Pentecost meets cries for breath, would you dare to take some time to meditate in this way:

1. Pause and become conscious of your ability to breathe. Feel the air flowing in & out of your body for several minutes (it may seem like an eternity, but try it). Give thanks for each breath. If you are someone who struggles to breathe, express your anger, your fear, whatever you feel.

2. Call to mind those who are struggling to catch their breath or to breathe deep & free or who have lost loved ones whose lives were cut short by an inability to breathe. It may be helpful to bring up some images of recent events – maybe some you have scrolled past this week, but have not really seen. Light a candle. Hold the pain, the loss, the grief in the light of God’s love & care.

3. Honestly ask yourself what invitation there is for you in this moment? How are you being stirred to greater commitment to helping your neighbors breathe freer?  What do you need to address in yourself? What biases, racism, or fear do you need to name in yourself? What do you need to learn? What new practice(s) will begin? Write them down. Share them with a friend or family member.

Our community is scattered this Pentecost Sunday, but we are together in spirit – united by the Giver of Life and Breath who longs for every living creature to breathe deep & to live as fully human, fully alive & fully loved. I hope we will each allow that Spirit to speak & to stir us into giving birth to a stronger, more vibrant & life-giving movement of God’s love & justice in the world.

Amen.

1 “A world made for whiteness” comes from Austin Channing Brown’s book, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness.

Summer in the Spirit of the [Wild] Goose

May 26, 2020

For the last several years, people from our Well community have traveled to the beautiful hills of Hot Springs, North Carolina to experience the sense of community & spiritual rejuvenation inspired by the Wild Goose Festival. Often referred to as “the Goose”, the festival offers opportunities for connection, practice & learning around spirituality, social justice, […]

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Upcoming Sunday Gatherings

April 16, 2020

In the midst of baptizing someone, I offer a few words to describe what is happening. As the person is being lowered into the water, I say, “You are buried with Christ in his death.”. And as they are being lifted out of the water, I say “and raised to walk into new life.” It […]

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The way of love in the wilderness of death

April 6, 2020

This message was shared during our Palm Sunday, April 5th gathering by Rev. Susan Rogers & is based on Mark 11:1-11. *** In “For the Interim Time”, John O’Donohue describes the wilderness this way: No place looks like itself, loss of outlineMakes everything look strangely in-between,Unsure of what has been, or what might come…You are […]

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What can sabbath teach us in this scary, yet sacred time?

April 1, 2020

This past Sunday was The Well’s “Sabbath Sunday”. Since we began, encouraging people to stay home to engage in their own renewal each 5th Sunday was one way we chose to make rest a valued part of our life together. Many of us had come from churches where work seemed to be way more valued […]

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On daring to turn our heads // Words for the Journey 3.22.20

March 24, 2020

These words were shared in our online gathering on 3.22.20 & our based on Mark 12:41-44, 13:1-2: *** In this strange & unsettling season, I’m noticing some things that are being brought to the surface in & around me.  One thing I’ve seen coming to the surface in me is my incessant need to “do” […]

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Anxiety, wilderness & what we can learn from Jesus

March 16, 2020

The past week has been one filled with anxiety, disappointment, wondering & preparing. Along with a life-threatening virus, uncertainty & unpredictability are in the air. So, what do we do in times like these? How do we live in seasons of wilderness? That’s the question we’d already been wrestling with this Lent as we’ve had […]

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Sunday online gathering info

March 14, 2020

Per my last blog post, we are gathering online tomorrow for an abbreviated, interactive Sunday gathering.  Here’s how to participate:  You can log on via computer (just click on the link below, or enter the URL into their browser) OR you can listen in by phone. Either way, it is suggested that you log on […]

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Love in the face of COVID-19 (**important info about Well gatherings**)

March 13, 2020

Friends & fellow Wellians, when I pondered our wilderness theme for Lent this year, I had no idea how fitting it would be. Many of us have faced & have chosen to enter all types of “wildernesses”, but as far as I know, none of us have walked through a pandemic (I’ve read that the […]

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