Worship for Sunday, October 17, 2021

Isaiah 53:4-12

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 91:9-16

Because you have made the LORD your refuge,
and the Most High your habitation,
no evil will befall you,
nor shall affliction come near your dwelling.
For God will give the angels charge over you,
to guard you in all your ways.
Upon their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion cub and viper;
you will trample down the lion and the serpent.
I will deliver those who cling to me;
I will uphold them, because they know my name.
They will call me, and I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue and honor them.
With long life will I satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.  Amen.

Hebrews 5:1-10

Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our Gospel reading for this week – opens with the brothers James and John coming to Jesus with an incredibly bold request.

And they didn’t want any witnesses. So they waited until the other disciples aren’t around before making their bold request.

They want a tangible sign of just how important they are. James and John want a sign so obvious – no one can miss its meaning. James and John want to sit at Jesus’ right hand and his left hand in glory.

James and John want positions of power and honor and incredible prestige. They want everyone in both heaven and on earth to know just how important they are!

This must have been one of those moments in Jesus’ earthly life that made him want to weep. Or beat his head against the nearest wall. Or stomp his feet in frustration while throwing a hissy fit. Or to send James and John back to being fishers of FISH.   Or simply to quit in despair.

Seriously – after working and learning and studying and SERVING with Jesus for years – James and John come to him with a request like this?!?   Jesus must have wondered where he had gone so wrong . . .

But Jesus doesn’t have a hissy fit or quit or cry or fire James and John.

And Jesus doesn’t grant their bold – completely clueless request either.

Instead – Jesus informs them – they clearly don’t understand what they are asking for. They have completely misunderstood what Jesus has been up to in the world.

Jesus’ response must have been crushing for these ambitious brothers.

And things don’t get any better for James and John. Because when the other disciples hear about their gutsy request – they are furious with them.

Jesus sees trouble is brewing. So – Jesus gathers ALL of his disciples together – and informs them – that – “whoever wants to become great must become a servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

That probably wasn’t what ANY of the disciples were hoping to hear.

It isn’t like servants were held in higher esteem back then.   Serving wasn’t more honorable in Jesus’ time than it is in ours. People looked down on servants then too. Servants were nobodies who did the worst – hardest – most backbreaking jobs. And in many cases – they were actually slaves.

Yet here Jesus stands telling the disciples they are called to be servants and slaves.

Once again – Jesus is calling us to do something hard.   Service just doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Serving others takes humility. Most folks prefer glory and honor like James and John. Or at the very least not having to do too much hard work.

There is a story about a company of soldiers from the American Revolutionary War that speaks to our tendency to look down on serving.

These soldiers had been working day after long – hard day constructing a fort. All of the work was done by hand with just a few rudimentary tools. The work was truly difficult and the men were exhausted. As the men worked – their captain stood nearby shouting orders – but offering no help.

Finally – the end was in sight. There were just a few huge logs for the men to heft into place. As the men wrestled with these final logs – it was clear they were nearing their physical breaking point. But still their captain refused to offer any help.   Instead – he just stood there yelling at them and shouting insults.

The more the men struggled – the louder their captain yelled. But he never made a move to help them.

Suddenly a stranger rode up on horseback – and seeing the soldiers struggling – he stopped and asked the captain why he wasn’t helping his men.

“I AM AN OFFICER. OFFICERS DO NOT DIRTY THEIR HANDS IN THAT MANNER” – was the captain’s snooty reply.

Upon hearing that – the stranger quickly got to work helping the men place the final heavy logs.

And the helpful stranger – well – rumor had it – It was George Washington himself the COMMANDER of the Continental Army . . .

A good leader serves others too. Leading means pitching in – helping out and offering support. The best leaders are helpers and companions and co-workers.

James and John did not understand this. They didn’t want to get their hands dirty. They wanted glory and not a bunch of hard work.

Clearly James and John hadn’t been watching Jesus very carefully.   Because Jesus had been showing them day after day that being a follower of God means serving others.

Just look at Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus put other people first. Jesus fed people who were hungry. Jesus healed the sick. Jesus gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. Jesus cast out demons and raised people from the dead.

Jesus taught and healed and preached the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy – because that is who Jesus is.

Jesus helped and served to show the world God’s love and that is why we serve too. We serve to show the world God’s amazing love for everyone.

When you volunteer at a local school or bring in food for the food pantry at FCHUM – or send a card to someone – God’s love shines through you.

When you donate blood – support Sunday school – pitch in with cleaning the church – or help out with our church Halloween Party – you are sharing God’s love.

When you pull a few weeds in the church flower beds – go to the Ronald McDonald House – drive a neighbor to the doctor or to the store or rake some leaves for a shut-in – you are sharing God’s love.

When you make a pot of chili – pray for someone on the church prayer list – help on a church work day – or serve as a reader during worship you are being just who God called you to be.

Jesus called you to serve. And when you do – you are sharing God’s love.   Truly this is Good News – AMEN.

Worship for Sunday, October 10, 2021

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

Seek the Lord and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it.   Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground!

They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.

Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.

For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time.

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 90:12-17

So teach us to number our days
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
Return, O Lord; how long will you tarry?
Be gracious to your servants. 
Satisfy us by your steadfast love in the morning;
so shall we rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as you afflicted us
and as many years as we suffered adversity.
Show your servants your works,
and your splendor to their children.
May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us;
prosper the work of our hands; prosper our handiwork. Amen.

Hebrews 4:12-16

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.   Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 10:17-31

As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ ” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

When my brother was in high school he and his friends all loved the song “I Wanna Be Rich” by the R and B duo Calloway. It was so totally early 1990’s – and they absolutely loved it.   I remember Matt and Perez and Todd and Derek all rocking out to “I Wanna Be Rich” while wearing their super cool M C Hammer pants!

Matt and his best buds all “wanted to be rich! They wanted lots and lots of money. They wanted the pie in the sky. Yes – they wanted to be rich!” And on and on and on. Over and over and over again.

As far as I know none of them have become multi-millionaires just yet – but there is still time.

What about you – are you rich?

I would guess that all of you gathered here today would answer that particular question with a great big old – “NO WAY!”

Or “an are you kidding me?!? Rich – I wish!”

According to one study I read this week – only 28% of people with assets of between 1 and 5 million dollars consider themselves to be rich.   In fact only 60% of folks who have assets of more than 5 million dollars think that they are wealthy. Seriously . . . 5 million dollars and they still don’t feel wealthy?!?

So what does it take for someone living in the United States of America in 2021 to think of themselves as wealthy?

My family makes me feel wealthy!

Well – another group of researchers learned it takes about 2.4 million dollars on average for someone in our country to feel really and truly wealthy. But that varies from city to city and region to region.

Another pretty consistent pattern about wealth is – we always think our money concerns will go away if our income would simply double what it is now.   So if I make $30,000 then I believe all will be perfectly perfect in my world once I am making $60,000. The problem with this is – once we start making that $60,000 we find ourselves yearning for $120,000 and on and on and on.

Making memories with my people = life’s greatest riches!

We are never content for very long. We always want more and more and more!

In our Gospel reading for today Jesus tells us – “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Hearing Jesus say that – sort of makes you feel sorry for all of those poor rich people who are going to have such a hard time getting into heaven – doesn’t it?!?

After all – I doubt many of us would call ourselves rich. Honestly – most of us never feel like we have enough money. Like our resources are always being stretched thin . . .

Sure we might be comfortable – but rich just doesn’t describe us. . . Jesus couldn’t be talking about us – could he?

Well – Jesus would say – that he is absolutely – positively talking to us. Jesus would say – we are all rich! That we are all wildly and wonderfully and gloriously rich!

More memories with people I love!

Me – rich? Yeah right – you are probably thinking to yourself – but I ask you to stop for a moment to think about all of the material blessings in your lives.   Think about the clothes in your closets – the car you drive – the shoes on your feet – your home – the food in your refrigerator – the abundant clean water that flows from your faucets – the heat that blasts from your furnace – the electric lights that illuminate your lives – your access to health care and education – and all of those other things we have in our lives that we are all so quick to take for granted.

Now think about this – more than 600 million people currently live on less than $2 per day.

Imagine earning less than 700 dollars a year.   Hearing that sort of makes you rethink the whole rich thing doesn’t it?

When was the last time you were really hungry for longer than the time it took to zap something in the microwave or to go through the nearest fast food drive through?

800 million people in the world are hungry right this very moment. 800 million people – might eat sometime today – but it won’t be enough to satisfy their hunger.

600 million people don’t have access to clean water.   While each of us will use about – 150 gallons of water just today.

900 million people around the world have no access to electricity. And I complain about replacing a lightbulb!?!

Can you imagine life without enough food?   Without clean water?   Without electricity? What would your life be like without those things we think of as necessities but others must live without?

Frankly – we are all rich beyond most peoples’ wildest dreams. We are some of the richest people who have ever lived in human history! Ever!!!

And so – I think we can be pretty sure Jesus was talking to us in our Gospel reading for today when he said – “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

We are aren’t just rich. We are crazy rich! All of us.

But know this too – Jesus isn’t telling us all is lost. Nor is he condemning.   Rather Jesus is warning us.   Jesus wants us to know having so many material blessings can be dangerous. It can make us arrogant. We can get so comfortable and so self-confident that we forget we need God.

All of the wealth that surrounds us – all of our possessions – all of our successes – can make us feel powerful – invincible – even immortal.

Our wealth can cause us to think that we are god-like. We can start to depend on and rely on our material wealth more than we depend on our God. We can start to put the stuff of this world before God.

And this is what Jesus wants us to be aware of.   Jesus wants us to know our wealth cannot save us.

Only God can save us.

The Gospel reading for this week is not a condemnation – rather it is a loving reminder.   God can and will save us – but we do need to remember we need him! And we do need him and his grace – love – and mercy. AMEN.

Waiting in Silence

I am usually so full of words. Words tend to pour out of me. Most days words flow and flow and flow in what must seem like an endless stream to those who love me most.

I often find I have almost as much to write. (Again with all of the wordy words!)

Words are my solace and my joy. Words delight and amuse me. Words – words – words. Words!   I delight in words!

But not so these past days.

I find that the words are not flowing.

Instead I find myself listening. And praying. Oh how I am praying. And I am thinking. And I am seeking time for silence and contemplation. And observing and listening some more.

These have been hard days. It has been a long week. A heavy week. A painful week.

My heart is so weighed down and filled with grief. Our Christian community is grieving. My sisters and brothers in Christ are hurting.   Our hearts are broken. We are sad. We are grieving.

This is hard. This is sad. This is so wretchedly awful it is hard to put it into words . . .

And so I listen. And I pray.   And I wait in silence. And I sigh those sighs Saint Paul talked about in his letter to the Romans and depend on the Spirit to intercede for me with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26).

I hear scripture rolling around in my mind. God’s Word comes back to me. All of that time writing sermons and reading and preparing Bible studies and doing church-y things is blessing me.

I have verses that my mind returns to again and again when I need comfort and solace and strength for the journey.

“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. . . even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Yes – through – not into forever but through.   Yes – I needed to be reminded that the dark valley isn’t where we stay. It isn’t our permanent residence.

And again I return to Romans 8 – to be reminded of God’s love and care when I am heartbroken.

 “What then are we to say about these things? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Life is hard. Saint Paul really hits the nail on the head when he lists life as one of the things we all fear might separate us from God – doesn’t he?   We all need this reminder that God won’t let anything come between us – not even life in this broken – sinful – incredibly human world. God’s love for us is bigger than even this life!

And Isaiah 49:16.   “See, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands.” This image of being in God’s hands . . . this strengths me.

And Psalm 46. I turn to Psalm 46 again and again. The silence part is great – but my favorite reminder is that the God of our ancestors is faithful and with us.

“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” – Psalm 46:7

Our God doesn’t promise us that bad things won’t happen to us or those we love. Our God promises us that we are not alone. God is with us in the storms of life. Our God is with us.

I have been seeking and listening and praying and waiting in silence.

What are the verses from God’s Word that strengthen you? That offer you comfort and solace?

What offers you comfort?

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

 

Worship for Sunday, October 3. 2021

Genesis 2:18-24

18The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.”
24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 8

1O Lord our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!—
2you whose glory is chanted above the heavens out of the mouths of infants and children;
you have set up a fortress against your enemies, to silence the foe and avenger.
3When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
4what are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them,
human beings that you should care for them? 
5Yet you have made them little less than divine;
with glory and honor you crown them.
6You have made them rule over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet:
7all flocks and cattle,
even the wild beasts of the field,
8the birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
9O Lord our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! 

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

1Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

2:5Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. 6But someone has testified somewhere,
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
7You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor,
8subjecting all things under their feet.”
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them,9but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark the 10th chapter.

2Some Pharisees came, and to test [Jesus] they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

13People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In our Gospel reading for today – Jesus boldly declares to us that we all need to have faith like children if we want to be able to enter the Kingdom of God.

This particular statement from Jesus is almost certainly guaranteed to capture our attention – because who here doesn’t want to enter the Kingdom of God? Who doesn’t want to go to heaven? Who doesn’t want to spend eternity in Paradise with our Lord?

This declaration from Jesus has certainly captured the imagination of more than a few preachers and been the topic of many sermons over the years.

Lots of these sermons begin by carefully and thoughtfully describing children. The children these preachers know are truly amazing – even downright dazzling creatures.   These children are simply delightful.   They actually verge on being angelic.

These children never – ever roll their eyes or make faces at their parents. Or use more than their fair share of the family data plan or hog the Wi-Fi. These children would never express annoyance about the sage advice their moms lovingly offer!

These children eat all of their vegetables with smiles on their faces and gratitude in their hearts.

A mom could dress these children in white clothing with confidence because they would never dream of wrestling with each other or rolling around on the floor like a pack of wild animals!

And the apparent awesomeness of these sweet – angelic – grateful – vegetable eating children doesn’t stop here . . . Oh – no there is more.   These children also have a completely and utterly trusting faith in God.

These children have no doubt – no questions – and absolutely no uncertainty. Just unwavering faith. The faith these children possess is just as unblemished as their spotless white clothes are.

After hearing these sermons – I am always left scratching my head in puzzlement. Because the children these preachers describe are nothing like ANY of the children I know. Seriously – NONE!

Maybe it is a denominational thing . . . Perhaps it is just Lutheran children – who have these sorts of “issues?” Maybe other children are less “intense.”

Maybe Catholic children are more agreeable and compliant.

Could it be that Methodist children are less probing and Baptist children are less inquisitive?

Perhaps – Episcopalian children are less opinionated.

Because – all of the Lutheran children I have ever met are incredibly spunky creatures. They all seem to be born with strong opinions. And they ask hard questions.

Even really young Lutherans have inquiring minds and they all want to know – absolutely – positively EVERYTHING!

Vacation Bible School – is hands down the most terrifying week of my year. The questions our brilliant young Lutherans ask could make even Martin Luther quiver with fear.

Sometimes the questions are fun like – “Did Adam have a bellybutton since he didn’t have a mom?” Or “why did God think mosquitoes were a good idea?” “Or how do you justify the existence of the paid clergy? – yes I really got that question once . . . ”

But other times – the questions take my breath away and leave me speechless.

Like the day 6 year old Jessie asked me– “If Jesus loves me – why did I get brain cancer?”

Or Erica – who was just 12 when her dad died – She wanted to know why God let her dad die when she still needed him so badly.

Questions like these are enough to make a pastor think about early retirement or a career in just about anything else.

Real – children are inquisitive. They are full of questions. Questions pour out of them all of the time. And many of the questions they ask are hard questions.

Questions just like we ask. Because questions and questioning are part of being human.

But far too often we equate faithfulness and belief in God with a lack of questions. We act like a really and truly faithful person isn’t going to have questions or at least a truly faithful person isn’t going to have tough questions for God.

But I assert with great conviction that questions – even really hard questions about God – and faith – and being a Christian in this broken – sinful world are part of having faith.

God doesn’t ask us to leave our questions behind when we become Christians. Nor does God want us to leave our inquisitiveness at the door when we enter the church.

Some of the most faithful people have asked really hard questions.

Think of all of the questions the disciples asked Jesus.   They asked Jesus hard   questions.

They wanted to know why bad things happened to good people.

They wanted to know why Jesus had to die on a Roman cross.

They wanted to know how to pray and about what heaven was going to be like.

They too wanted to know the meaning of life. And they asked hard questions about divorce too.

Or think of Martin Luther. Think of the hard questions he asked and the ways his hard questions changed the world forever.

I think that when Jesus tells us we should have faith like a child – Jesus is encouraging us to ask questions – to be inquisitive – to dig deeper.   To be seekers and questioners and thinkers.

True faith isn’t the absence of hard questions. Faithful people have all sorts of questions.   Even hard questions.

So ask your hard questions – and seek answers.   Read your Bibles. Pray and talk to God. Come to Sunday school and participate in worship. Listen to God’s Word and listen for God’s answers.

And know this – in our Gospel reading for today – Jesus is telling you – you and your questions are welcome here.   Because God loves you and your questions. And truly this is Good News!   Amen.