Finding the right question

By October 22, 2018Sanctuary, Worship

Two brothers were visiting the preacher at their neighborhood church one afternoon. Jimmy, 8 years old, was in the preacher’s office while his brother, Alex, sat in the front office. Their parents were at wits end with how the boys had been acting in the sanctuary the past few Sundays during worship and thought a visit with the pastor might help. The boys knew something was up.

After a few niceties, Pastor Bob got a little serious and asked, “Jimmy, you know where God is, right?”

Well, the young boy was a little startled by the question. He hadn’t expected a quiz! So he sat dumbfounded a moment when the pastor pressed again, “Jimmy, do you know where God is?”

Jimmy couldn’t think of a thing to say and squirmed anxiously in his chair.

Now Pastor Bob was getting a little frustrated with the boy, so he asked much more directly, intentionally, “Jimmy? Tell. Me. Where. God. Is.”

At which point Jimmy panicked, jumped up from his chair and ran out the room past his brother, out the door and down the street to their house. He ran straight to his bedroom and hid in the closet. A few minutes later, his brother, startled by the whole thing, came running into the room and jumped into the closet with him.

“Jimmy, what the heck happened with Pastor Bob? Why’d you run away?”

Still catching his breath, Jimmy exclaimed, “Alex, we’re in big trouble. God’s missing and they think we did it!”

So, I love this joke because of its innocence and also because it reminds me that we often don’t see the whole picture. Our own point of view is a limited one — by the stories we tell ourselves, the emotional baggage we bring to each encounter with others, the traditional, cultural and even formal educational content we bring. We see things through these filters and often don’t see the bigger picture, the bigger story. As my Uncle Mac used to tell me, “You only know what you know and sometimes you don’t even know that.”

When the lawyer approached Jesus in the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, it was with a question that presupposed the answer: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus affirms his presumption saying, “You’re a lawyer, so how do you read the law?” The lawyer answered correctly, “according to the scriptures”, the way you’d expect. Except . . .

Except it didn’t apparently get to the heart of what Jesus was actually saying. And we often do the same thing. Sometimes we miss the bigger picture because we’re asking the wrong questions.

* This Sunday, I’m excited to be preaching in the main sanctuary services as I explore with you what this all too familiar parable of the Good Samaritan might be offering instead of the familiar, worn paths of what we know. Instead, I’d like to invite us to ask a different question, maybe one closer to home. And asking those questions that are closer to home always bring the greater reward when we’re willing to go down that path. We’ll have some fun stories, as well as inspiring music from the 5th Street Bell Choir, the Cornerstone Youth Choir, and a choral ensemble accompanying me on a piece by James Taylor. I am so excited to be with you this Sunday and hope to see you there.


Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven

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