Curiosity & Questions - Andy's Corner
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
Recently, one of our congregants, asked me a question “When do children normally become curious and interested in God and the Bible?” This simple sounding question has an answer that is far from simple. It has been my observation that children, if they become interested in matters of faith and spirituality, start to seek it out anywhere from ages 4-12 give or take a few years…and that is the kicker, the big IF. Some children never become curious about it, or if they do, it often passes un-noticed. The reason for the ‘if and when” I think depends on two key factors: exposure (i.e., church attendance/home worship) and a culture of curiosity and desire for knowledge in the home. The exposure piece, despite “declining” church attendance nationally, is not so much the issue as children are often exposed to some form of Christianity or faith practice, even if their immediate family are not church-goers, through their friends, media, funerals & weddings, or extended family members who attend services. The issue we find here is often not the exposure itself, but the quality of that exposure. That is a “sermon” for another day but suffice to say if you only knew about Christianity by what you saw of it on TV, you would indeed be led astray. What I would like to talk about today is the second factor, the culture at home created by us adults.
Children are born curious, we all start out wanting, needing, seeking to learn more and more about the world around us. Any of you that have spent much time with a young child know full well the constant barrage of why, what, and how questions that seem to pour endlessly and effortlessly out of them. It is a blessing to be curious, a blessing to seek knowledge and desire to expand your horizons… it is also a blessing that sadly many people lose as they enter adulthood or find harder to maintain. As adults we often like to think we have it all figured out and that we know why things are the way they are, and we are content with that. We become comfortable with a certain level of ignorance and a deficit of curiosity. This is not a good way to live our lives, and it is not the way God intended us to live them either. Our creator instilled in his creations a natural curiosity, especially in Humans…it is what has allowed us to go from riding horses to riding rockets into space in less than 60 years and to push the limits of art and music to exciting new places. But what about our spiritual curiosity? What kind of culture of knowledge do you cultivate in your home and in your family? Are you comfortable with asking the tough questions of God, and constantly seeking answers knowing that some answers you will never find, and acknowledging that you don’t know the answer, but you are looking for it? God wants us to keep that spirit of childhood, the unquestioning faith in God’s loving existence and power and the fully questioning attitude of how to serve and interact with God and each other. God expects each of us, alone and together, to ask those tough questions, to constantly search and study the scriptures and other sources for knowledge and insight. The Bible, shared in part by four major religions, is unique because it is not a “dead” book, it did not just appear one day fully formed, able to be read once and completely understood…no it is a living book, miraculous in its ability to speak to our modern issues and adapt to our changes in language even though the newest part of it is around 1800 years old. You can, and should, read the Bible over and over using Jesus’ Gospel as the lens and ask yourself (and others) these things: “What does this mean?”, “Is there another meaning?”, “Why was this relevant in the time and context it was written, and why is it relevant now?” Beyond the Bible you should also seek out and study other resources, still using Jesus as your lens, because God and the Holy Spirit did not just stop speaking 1800 years ago. Numerous prophets, writers, thinkers, artists, and everyday people (maybe even you!) have continued this story over the last two millennia. Contemplative prayer (less talking to God, more listening to God) is also a very important way to seek out God. Be curious, be a seeker of knowledge, be like a child!
Our tradition, the Disciples of Christ, held constant individual study and interpretation of scripture and divine experience as a founding principle. It’s why we don’t have creeds or “statements” of faith that members are required to follow and believe like other traditions; we are called to be seekers of knowledge. I would encourage each of you to make a concerted effort to be curious, to ask questions, and to study our relationship with our creator and each other both in your homes and together in groups. Show your kids that you want to explore too, it’s ok to show them (and yourself) that there is much more to be learned. Also, take advantage of the studies offered by Pastor Bob, myself, and others…and if those aren’t convenient or available to you…or maybe not your style, then we welcome you to form your own small group study with your friends and family in a time and place of your choosing. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself be deceived and led into the “comfort” of thinking you have it all figured out, none of us do, not even Pastors.
Peace be with you always,