Is That What You Meant to Ask?

A Series of Disputable Questions_HSA Series of Disputable Questions

eleven:eleven celebration
Sunday, August 30
11:11 am | Wesley Hall

Staff_McDermott, Tom“Is that what I meant to ask?”

“No wait, I don’t think that’s what I meant to ask? Let me try a different angle!”

I can imagine some of the powerful, ecclesial leaders following Jesus responding that way after one more question posed to Jesus was being answered, once again, with another question. Of the 183 questions Jesus is asked in the Gospels, I have read he only answers 2 directly.

“Why won’t he just answer the question?” they’re bound to be thinking.

So, for example, the rich young ruler asks, “Good Teacher, how can I get eternal life?”

The thing is, maybe he IS asking for a front row seat in the afterlife. OR maybe he’s really asking for something deeper, more real and even more present – like he doesn’t really know what he’s asking for in the first place.

And Jesus answers his question . . . with a question! “Why do you call me good?”

On August 23, in eleven:eleven, I posed the question to the 175 or so folks present, “What is one theological, ecclesiastical or ontological question that pesters you, won’t let you go, piques your curiosity or keeps cropping up in your life?” The response was great and we received about 100 clearly heartfelt and engaging questions! Some people watching online emailed in questions, too!

The vast majority of them can be grouped into one of three major themes, which I’d like for us to explore over the next few weeks:

1. Questions about eleven:eleven celebration theology, doctrine, and identity — as a unique worshipping community and as part of First UMC and the UMC at large.

2. Questions of personal meaning, happiness, vocation, and mission.

3. Questions about good and evil in the world, theodicy, and human suffering.

Of course, I also received those curious, quirky questions (the kind I’d typically ask in such a setting myself), like “What is the Hokey Pokey really all about?”, “Are you sure Elvis has left the building?” and three questions about the lack of good Chinese or German restaurants or where to get a good Philly Cheesesteak in Ft. Worth (all of which, in my mind, address deeper existential questions about the utilitarian nature of reality, “axiomatic materialism” and consequential opinions of futility — in other words, “is the glass half full/half empty” kinds of perspectives . . . see No. 2 above).

But, as the bumper sticker says, “It’s All Good.” So I think we can address them all, in one fashion or another, over the coming weeks of this series.

The song selections were far more unanimous. The most popular selections were (in order of popularity): Hallelujah (Cohen), Imagine (Lennon), I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2), Drive (Incubus), Galileo (Indigo Girls) and Man in the Mirror (Jackson). A number of “write-ins” included: Do You Really Want to Know (Peter Mayer), We Must Be the Change (Ghandi/King/Gaby), and Life is Beautiful (Vega 4).

So, this Sunday, we will begin. I will explore the substance and subtlety, inspiration and intrigue, the holy (and “wholesome”) nature of the eleven:eleven celebration with you. And I’m going to engage in that age old, time-tested, in-depth approach to dealing with the really perennial, persistent questions people inside (and outside) the church continue to ask. I’m going to do what Jesus (and Socrates and Aunt NiNi and my UT freshman religion professor Dr. Cox) often did. I’m going to answer the question, first, with a question: what do we really mean when we ask the question, “What do we really believe in?”

Brad Thompson will be on hand, along with Christa Russell, and the revolution band, offering gifts of some of your favorite songs along with poetry and stories, and, as always, a few surprises of your own!

I hope you to see you Sunday!






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