Like all good teachers, Jesus asked his students good questions. Jesus didn’t ask simple questions. He asked questions that searched and probed and made people go deeper into the wisdom God had already given them. The questions he asked are meant to challenge us and offer us the possibility of real change and personal transformation. Real change always begins with a change in thinking, and often with the questions we ask ourselves.
This Lenten season I will try my best to post a daily question here. I hope you will respond with your thoughts and reflections so we can learn from one another. The Wednesday and Sunday questions will correspond to the sermon series we are doing at Faith Lutheran in Janesville, WI., along with our ecumenical partner congregations: First Presbyterian, First Congregational United Church of Christ, and First Christian Disciples of Christ.
One day when I was a young preacher, I was mumbling and muttering aloud as I wrestled with a difficult gospel text trying to find a word of hope and encouragement that would preach. My husband had already been listening for God’s leading as he had been writing sermons for over two decades at that point in time. He asked softly, “Have you ever noticed how you can’t get the right answer if you don’t ask the right question?”
It is true. Great results begin with great questions. Some would argue that the very quality of our lives are dependent on the quality of the questions we ask of ourselves and the people around us.
The questions here will mostly follow Pastor Eric Burtness’s book, Beyond Question, an Augsburg Fortress 2012 publication. If you’re in Janesville, we’ll be placing a group order tomorrow that will arrive early next week. (At the quantity discounted rate of $8) Or you can order it as an eBook online ($10) also from AugsburgFortress.com.
“Have you ever noticed how you can’t get the right answer when you’re asking the wrong question?”
The questions we ask make all the difference in the world. A couple years ago I attended a conference in which a number of new worship ideas were presented. Since few things irritate people more than changing worship practices, the presenter encouraged us to ask people to reframe their reaction by NOT asking, “Do I like this?” But by asking, “What did I learn through this?”
Two very different questions that bring us to different places.
As this Lenten journey begins considering the questions that Jesus asked, our first question is from John 1: 35-38a. These are the first recorded words to his disciples in the gospel of John. “What are you looking for?”
I encourage you to find a notebook or a journal and write without allowing your inner critic to edit your thoughts or words. Imagine that Jesus is asking YOU that question, and consider your response.
Then also consider what you are looking for as you begin this season of Lent. And if you were ‘smudged’ with ashes on your forehead today in worship, consider what areas of your life are in need of cleansing and renewal.
God bless you as you enter into these forty days of questions. May you grow deeper in faith and wisdom as a follower of the good teacher.
Eric Burtness offered this prayer for today:
Gracious and loving God, be with me as I start this journey through Lent. Guide me into ways of deeper understanding and faith, that I might grow ever closer to you. Help me listen and help me grow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.