The Questioners and the Clergyperson

I love to read. I enjoy studying. (Point of clarity – I enjoy studying certain subjects – but NOT math. Definitely not math! Math is SO absolutely – positively NOT my thing).   I delight in learning new things and uncovering and discovering and exploring. I have an inquiring mind. I have always found “thinking BIG thinks” – as Will used to call it when he was little – exhilarating.

Learning is fun!

Teaching Sunday school is a delight and a joy. I enjoy all of the time I spend preparing to teach. The research is fun. (I do quite a bit. I need to be prepared for the questions that folks like Pat Markley and Marilyn Mills are going to ask!?!?!?! Seriously – those 2 take no prisoners . . .) The studying and the reading are a treat to be savored.

I am thankful I enjoy this part of being a pastor – because I am constantly being asked questions I don’t know the answers to. Or sometimes I can’t remember the answer to . . . I have been out of seminary 20 years now.   Things start to fade. Many – many – many things are starting to drift from my memory.   (ALL of my Ancient Greek major from undergrad is long gone! So – so – so gone . . . Humiliatingly gone . . . Far – far – far away . . .)

Anyway – I love learning and researching. But no matter how much reading and thinking and researching and pondering I do – folks always – Always – ALWAYS – seem to ask at least one question I can’t answer.

So – long ago I made it my pastor-y policy to declare (with sincerity) – “I don’t know – but I will try to find out!” Although sometimes/okay really – really – really often I may suggest that folks “just ask Jason.” Because my beloved is a walking – breathing Google search/encyclopedia!

And I do try to find out. I write down on my to do list for the week – “Research the meaning of life for Pat Markley (again).” Sometimes/often I ask Jason. Other times I dig into my Bible commentaries.

Last Sunday – during the announcements – as I wrapped up – as I always do – I asked if anyone else had an announcement. And much to my sorrow and dismay and knee-knocking terror – a little – 8-year-old hand in the front pew shot into the air.

“No – not Will!” – I thought to myself. “I can’t call on Will during the announcements.   What will my youngest son announce to the ENTIRE Saint Stephen congregation?!?!?”

But I couldn’t ignore William either. To ignore Will would be to treat him as less than someone else in our Christian community. Will is a member of Saint Stephen. He deserves to be seen and heard too. This “treating children as equals” has been my policy with others’ children my entire ministry and now I needed to apply it much closer to home! (What an idiotic policy. Maybe – I should look into amending that particular policy – ASAP . . .)

Also – Will knew I had seen him. Jack knew I had seen his brother. I knew I had seen my son and the Triune God we worship knew I had seen him!   There was no getting out of it – I had to ask William Andrew McFarland what he wanted to share with Saint Stephen Lutheran Church . . . Holy bananas this could be very – very – very interesting!?!?!?!?!

But first – I prayed. Just a quick – popcorn prayer that I would still have a job when the littlest McFarland was done with his announcement . . . Christmas would be such a terribly stressful time to need to start working in retail . . . And I stink at math . . . (Just ask Pat Markley or Jason or Buddy Zimmerman or William or our kitten for that matter!)

After my prayer – I felt strong enough to face the challenge of entering the lions’ den/fiery furnace that was calling on Will McFarland to share his announcement.

And . . . William simply and sweetly inquired of his pastor/mom – “What’s a poinsettia?”

Honestly – I think I may have heard an angel chorus! No lengthy treatises about trains (his current obsession). No declarations that the sermon was too long or that his birthday was coming just a few days before Christmas, and everyone should come to our house for a party! (Please don’t – because Covid-19 and well – I don’t have time to get ready for house guests this time of year. I am too busy writing long rambling blog posts and boring sermons!) No family secrets revealed (not that we have any of those – of course)! No tales told. Nothing embarrassing or humbling or odd. Just an innocent question from an inquiring little 8-year-old mind.

“What’s a poinsettia?”

“A poinsettia is a red flower we decorate with at Christmas” – I told my sweet boy.

Thankfully – Rod Firquin had already delivered our annual allotment of poinsettias to the church – so I was able to show Will an honest to goodness poinsettia following worship.

But I know my child – Will wanted to know more.   He is the offspring of Jason and Kerri McFarland after all!   Will wanted to know the why?   Why do we make such a big deal about poinsettias this time of year? Why was his mom making announcements in church about these things called poinsettias and why did Mr. Rod order 20 of them?

And then – because I couldn’t quite remember the legend of the poinsettia – I did a little refresher research.

The Legend of the Poinsettia

About two hundred years ago poinsettias became a part our Christmas celebrations here in the United States.

The poinsettia comes to us from Mexico. In Mexico – the story goes like this: The Bethlehem star shone over the manger where Jesus was born. Its light was so bright and beautiful that the earth responded and mirrored that starlight with a beautiful flower. The flower was star shaped with pure white petals and golden star centers.   The people of Mexico called this flower “the Flower of the Holy Night.”

The poinsettia grew to remind people of the night Jesus was born.

Then came the tragic day when Jesus died on the cross and the blossoms changed forever. The pure white petals turned red to remind us of Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

So – poinsettias can be more than a cheery – red flower. Poinsettias can remind us of God’s love – grace – and mercy.

Merry Almost Christmas!

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