At our sophomore day away about a month ago, we spent time talking about our faith questions. We had great questions from our 10th graders! But we couldn’t get to them all. I promised the group that I’d answer their questions here on my blog. This is the final in a four-part series to try and answer their fantastic questions.
Q: Why is it so hard to see God’s plan?
You’re 100% right. It can be really hard to see God’s plan. I really wish that it were easy, obvious and clear. But it isn’t.
Sometimes I’m not so sure that “plan” is the most accurate word to use. Sometimes I think it’s more of a hope. God has hopes and dreams for us. But because God also gives us the freedom to make choices in our lives, that means we have to wrestle with our decisions. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing (though I think it can make life harder.)
So we struggle to see, understand and live these hopes that God has for us. But that is part of who we are as followers of Jesus. We are people who always wonder and struggle to find the right path. And we get to choose that path.
Because God loves us enough to let us choose to love God.
Q: What happens to non-Christians after they die?
That’s a question I hear a lot. Christians wonder about, and sometimes are worried about people they know who don’t share their faith. And while I think it’s wonderful that people are concerned about people close to them, I also think that this might be the wrong question for us to ask.
One of the things Jesus was really, really clear about was that his followers are not to judge others. In fact, he was insistent about it. In Matthew 7:1, he says “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”
Basically, he is saying “that’s not your job. Leave that to God.” So when we ask the question about people who are not within our faith community, we are automatically drawing a line and separating ourselves. We are creating an “us and them” scenario. And when we do that, we come close…sometimes I think, dangerously close, putting ourselves in a position of judging them. (i.e. “I’m going to heaven and you’re not.)
I think that a better question for us to ask is how can we help people who don’t share our faith to understand the gifts that they receive in their relationship with God. These are gifts have already been given. When people recognize and understand what God is up to in their lives, their faith becomes real to them. God may just be calling us to share our story with our friends, and to let the power of that story, along with the Holy Spirit, do its work.
Q: Why is 10th grade the grade we get confirmed?
Different churches do it at different ages. I was confirmed at 8th grade. But we choose to confirm in 10th grade because we think that’s how much time it takes to do the work we need to do together to prepare for confirmation. Confirmation is really about our young people taking responsibility for their own faith. And to be ready to do that takes some time. We believe it’s time well spent!
Q: How was God created?
The interesting thing about this question is that it assumes that there was something before God. (Logically for something to create God, it has to exist before God, right?) . But that assumption forgets something: We believe that God created everything. Right? (Go ahead and nod…this isn’t a trick question.)
Well, that means that God created time. Yep. Time is a part of God’s creation. Even in Genesis 1:14 it says: “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years…”
The stars are for signs and for seasons and for days and years.
God created time, and the rotation of the sky, the sun and the stars, mark that time.
So if God created time, what does it mean there was before time? Well, we don’t know. Because we live within time, we can’t quite get our minds wrapped around something existing outside of time. But apparently, before time, there was only God.
Just sit back, get comfortable, make yourself some popcorn, and let that roll around in your mind for awhile.
Q: Why did we change from RE (Religious Education)?
When the school district shifted from a “junior high” to a “middle school” they had to change the school schedule something like 20 minutes earlier. They had to do this to get all of the necessary class time in. It was a decision that made sense. So for us to keep doing RE would have meant having to start even earlier in the morning. And it just would have been too early. So we decided to take this as an opportunity to both support the school district and to think differently about how we do confirmation. I actually like this better.
Q: What was your calling and how did it get you where you are now?
Thanks for the question! When I was finishing college, I knew that I wanted to either go on to grad school to teach history (probably at a college level) or to go into ministry. As I went through my senior year, I just had no energy or incentive to apply to grad school in history. But the internship I did at a church in Mankato, and the stuff I was reading about ministry was really lighting up my imagination.
A very smart man named Walter Brueggemann once said that your sense of calling was where your passions, your gifts and the needs of the world all intersect. That means that the things that you love, and the things that you are really good at, where those things connect with a need you discover in the world? That is where you are called.
That’s my deal. I love, love, love what I do. I have a passion for this work. And I think that God gave me some gifts for it. And there is a need.
Being a pastor is my call. And that has led me to serve now to two unbelievably amazing congregations. And it’s why I am your pastor now. And I’m really thankful to God for being able to be here with you!
What are your gifts? What are your passions? Where does that connect with a need in the world.
That just may be your call. Go for it!
Q: Why do bad things happen to good people?
I wish I had a good answer for this. But I don’t. Bad things happen, and I don’t understand why.
Sometimes, to be honest, I think it is our responsibility. Hunger is an example of this. There is plenty of food. There is enough food for us to be able to feed everyone in the world. But we haven’t figured out how to provide, transport and deliver food. Humans lack the will to figure out solutions to these problems. This, and other issues like this, are our responsibility to fix. That’s one of the ways we are God’s hands in the world.
But there are also things that happen that we don’t understand. Natural disasters? Storms? Cancers? I can’t begin to understand why these things happen. I have a long list of questions I want to ask God someday…this is definitely on that list.
In my role, I get to spend time with people at times of joy, but also at times of disaster. I’ve been at bedsides when a loved one dies, I’ve been in places of disaster right after it happens, and I’ve been at the scenes of accidents. At that moment there is only sorrow. And while I cannot completely answer why these things happen, I can say that every time I’ve been in one of these situations, I’ve seen God present and at work. When life is the hardest, God shows up! When you’re in the middle of it, God can be hard to see…but when you look around, God’s presence is undeniable.
Why do bad things happen to good people? I really don’t know.
But I do know this: Even in the very worst of times, God is alongside us in the moment of that broken moment, because God loves us so completely.
Thank you, sophomores, for all of your fantastic questions!