Maybe it is an illusion, perhaps a response to fatigue, but the number of questions that seem to demand answers is increasing geometrically. As the approach of fall brings a new school year, a new season of learning in the church, and a thousand other “new” things marinated in the odyssey known as the pandemic, every moment demands answers and spawns more questions. Speaking as one who is supposed to know stuff and provide answers, I am going to make a confession – and I don’t think I’m alone. I don’t know. I don’t know how to keep everyone safe, nor how to keep folks satisfied and connected to a congregation that is still mostly scattered. I don’t know when this will end, nor how the weeks and months ahead will unfold. I don’t know.
Not knowing bothers me. People expect us all to have answers. When we don’t, there are plenty of folks who will provide answers to everything. Honestly, I don’t even want to hear them. I don’t know – and I’m becoming OK with that.
The truth is that the future – tomorrow, next week, a year, or a decade from now – is out of our hands in so many ways today. We can allow that fact to drive us mad. We can also let go of what we can’t control and tend the mysteries before us. Paul reminded the Corinthian congregation that apostles, preachers, teachers, leaders, were not always just a source of answers. They were perhaps more importantly without answers. He said, “Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. (1 Corinthians 4:1). Faith and hope allow us to stand before the unknown unflinchingly, content with the fact that the answers are beyond our grasp in this moment. Accepting the mysteries gives us peace when our only true answer is, “I just don’t know.”
So, let me leave you with poetry, which is much more suited to expressing mystery than prose.
MYSTERIES, YES - by Mary Oliver
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
In allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two small hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
Mary Oliver, Devotions, (New York: Penguin Press, 2017) p. 83
Be still, my friends. Know only that God is God and we are not.
Pax Christi ,
Tim Olson, Lead Pastor