About a week ago, ABC aired an episode of its hit show Lost that left a lot of people scratching their heads. That’s what the show Lost does well, as is to be expected from a show that began with dozens of men, women and children falling out of a plane to a mysterious, hidden island where polar bears roam in a bamboo forest. But, at least for this one episode, it wasn’t the mysteries that left people talking. It was the answers.
In one sweeping episode that took the audience back to “the beginning,” millions of people watching the show were given a modern day spin on the Book of Genesis. In fifty minutes, viewers got an eye-full of it all: a garden of life, an intimate look at an early Adam and Eve, promises, barriers, long-life, sibling rivalries, blessings, curses. And would you believe there was even a black darkness that stalked and roamed the island, expelled from the “light”?
Such are the times that we live in: there is a growing interest in all things spiritual. Sociologists and surveyors claim religion is in decline, that we’re going the way of Europe. Maybe that’s true, but spirituality isn’t in decline. It’s all over the place: in television shows and in hit movies like Avatar, in conversations on campus and even in the break room. People are curious to know what “it” all means. So, new mythologies are being born. They always are. The searching never goes away.
This type of searching occurs in churches, too. But, as Frederick Buechner pointed out in his great little sermon titled The Gospel as Fairy Tale, the sad fact is that often churches are the last places we are willing to talk about “spiritual” matters. Into this spiritual hesitancy, Buechner throws us overboard into the waters of God and grace and Spirit. “Let the preacher stretch our imagination and strain our credulity and make our jaws drop,” Buechner writes, “because the sad joke of it is that if he does not, then of all people he is almost the only one left who does not.” How true that is. People want to search and to explore, and woe to us as a church if we cannot give people a place to search and try and test our Christian faith.
If our faith is really true, than it should be able to stand up to the toughest questions, the deepest yearnings for truth and beauty. If it is such good news, then we should let people ask the hard questions. Like these questions: How did Mary become pregnant with Jesus? What happened to God when Jesus died? And how is it that God gives us new life through Jesus Christ?
Now, here’s the encouraging news. Those questions, in some form or fashion, were asked in the last three months by Tiffany Smith, Sarah Lorimer and/or Jacob Lorimer. And, I’m proud that they asked these questions. Here are three of our adolescents, and they’ve been searching; they’ve been testing our faith – trying to see if it works for them, trying to see if it can hold up to the demands and stresses and obstacles of life.
And what I am going to say to Tiffany, Sarah and Jacob on Sunday, I say to you now. This searching does not end when Confirmation ends. This exploration of our faith is a life-long journey. It isn’t something we do for three months, get a certificate and then never explore our faith again, putting our Bibles and faith up on some shelf to collect dust.
Faith is an ongoing, day-by-day journey in trust – of coming back again and again to the truth of Scripture. Faith is traveling through life and learning if that old business of some guy named Adam has any value for you and me living in a global economy and industrial world. Faith is trying to determine if there is any worth or merit to Adam falling asleep and God pulling a wife named Eve out of his side. Faith is wrestling with a story about some dude named Abram who left his family in search of a God promise, and faith is observing and learning from Sarai as she laughed at the very same God who gave the promise. Faith is reading and exploring and testing the Word of God, to see if it really is – as they say – sufficient for giving us the knowledge of salvation. Faith is letting the Holy Spirit open up the world and our lives right before our eyes … if we have eyes to see.
God knows people all over the world are in search of something. The question is whether we will be people who help or hinder the journey.
This Sunday, we – as a community – will have the opportunity to hear more about Tiffany, Sarah and Jacob’s journey of faith – a journey that is just beginning. And, as a community, we will have the opportunity to ask these members of our family if they, too, affirm our Christian faith.
We will begin this conversation in our sanctuary, but we will also move ourselves over to the Smith/Lorimer home and property to continue our worship (directions to their home will be included in our bulletin this Sunday). There, near water, we’ll have the opportunity to watch how the Holy Spirit moves in these young lives and in our midst.
I hope you all will be able to join us for this day when we mark a step on the journey of faith. If you can join us, you are invited to bring a side-dish and chairs with you to the Smith/Lorimer home. There will be plenty of food and drinks for us all to celebrate God’s gracious interaction with us and our world.
Let the Spirit lead you,