2036) What Do You Know? (part one of two)

Related image

Mary Heard His Word, Walter Rane ( http://www.walterraneprints.com )


Luke 10:38-42  —  As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”


            A church is also a school.  There are many settings within the life of a congregation where education takes place.  It is one of the main things congregations do.  And Christians do that because we follow Jesus and that is what Jesus did.  In one brief summary of an average day in the life of Jesus, Mark tells us, “Jesus went around teaching from village to village”  (Mark 6:6).  And he did that because “he had compassion on the people as they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34).

     But frankly, study about religion is not everybody’s cup of tea.  Religion can be a confusing matter, with so many odd sounding words and complicated ideas.  Sanctification, justification, atonement, reconciliation, hermenuetics– who uses words like that in the Monday morning world?  What good is it for daily life to have to learn all that sort of thing?  Is knowing what is in the Old Testament book of Obadiah going to make you any more money?   Probably not.  And besides, when it comes to religion, there are so many opinions and different points of view; who’s to say which is right and which is wrong?  After all, one’s faith, should be simple, and not so complicated.  “Religion is something of the heart” some say. “It should not have to be an academic pursuit,’” they say; “it is an ‘inner experience,’ not to be made complicated by all kinds of big words and sophisticated theological concepts.  Besides, I know what I believe.” Behind that statement is the firm belief that religion is so simple, you don’t even have to go anywhere to learn anything. It is all, already in you.

     But the trouble is, this talk about the simple faith that is already inside you; this religion of the heart and not of the head; this kind of ‘inner faith’ is oftentimes abandoned when life gets tough.  It is too simple and too shallow to survive challenges.  Actually, it is not the church with its big words and sophisticated theology that makes Christianity difficult.  It is life that causes the problem.  Tough times come to us all, and then it can become difficult to believe even the most basic beliefs.  What we know or do not know about God and the Bible becomes very important then.

     A middle-aged man says: “I used to believe in God and go to church.  But then two weeks before my son graduated from college, he was struck and killed by a drunk driver.  How can I believe in a God that allows that to happen?’

     Then, there are others who react to tragedy in a very different way.  A young mother says, “I never paid much attention to God or church or the Bible until my little girl got cancer.  We said so many prayers, and still she died, but it was God who gave me the strength to get through that.  And now my biggest comfort is in knowing that my little girl is with God.  I know I can’t live without God in my life, and I know I will see my little girl again in heaven.  I now see everything that happened as a part of God’s plan.”

     For another example:  a philosophy professor says, “Who can believe in a good God in a world like this?” and holds up a newspaper article about tens of thousands of people starving in Ethiopia.

      But then, at the same time on the other side of the world, a starving Ethiopian says “God is so good,” while standing in the food line at the refugee camp provided by Lutheran World Relief.  “My family was on the verge of death,” he says, “but God sent these Christians to help us just in time.”

    And still another says, “God is wherever God is, if there even is a God.  Famines, earthquakes, hurricanes just happen—sometimes here, sometimes there.  It is all a matter of luck.  Just be glad when it doesn’t happen to you.  God has nothing to do with it.”

     Do you see what is going on there?  Bad things happen, as they always do, and all of a sudden, everybody becomes a theologian.  Faith and life become not so simple, everybody has an opinion, or a belief, about what God is up to and why.  “It’s a punishment… It is awful, God must not be good… It was bad, but God was so good to me…  God doesn’t get involved…  God causes everything, good and bad…  God is there, yes, but our free will is also involved and so is good or bad luck…  God doesn’t have it all preprogrammed and we are on our own…”  There are many different ways to understand God’s presence in and involvement with the world and our personal lives.  When bad things happen, some people turn away from God, some people grow closer to God.  We all have our own thoughts and theories about what God is doing or not doing when trouble comes our way.   (continued…)