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Many Questions, One Answer

“Jesus was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.”

They did not understand and they were afraid to ask him. They were confused.

You see, Christianity is confusing, it can sound   irrational. It really makes no logical sense: a young boy from a rather unremarkable family grows up and is discovered to be the Messiah—the Son of God, the author of our salvation. A regular guy, from a regular town: The Son of God. And not only is he the Son of God he goes around TELLING people this. He’s also feeding thousands out of nothing, curing the sick, raising the dead and generally blowing everyone’s mind. Freaking them out. Scaring them.

Scaring them because who he was, what he was doing and what he was predicting would happen  didn’t make any sense.

It’s as difficult to understand now as it was then.

Jesus is spending this part of Mark’s gospel preparing his disciples for what is to come. He’s readying them for the final trip to Jerusalem, his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. He’s preparing them for what we often proclaim without really thinking about: he is going to die and then through his rising to life again, destroy death forever, giving each and every one of us the same promise: our bodily death doesn’t end life, it changes it. We are, by virtue of our baptism, assured of everlasting life.

We can forgive the disciples their confusion, their misunderstanding and disbelief.

What Jesus is saying still sounds ridiculous irrational and impossible.

Yet here we are, believers in this very thing.

Do we understand it? No.

Do we have to understand it to believe it? No.

As a matter of fact understanding has nothing to do with it.

I stand before you today, your priest, your rector, your, as Marje Torrell calls me, spiritual leader and guide to say, I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it.

Yet, each and every day I awake in sure and certain trust that what God has given us through Jesus the Christ is The Way The Truth and The Life.
Each and everyday as I live out my life as priest I proudly, loudly and clearly proclaim, “I believe.” I believe in the unbelievable. I believe in the incomprehensible. I believe in the irrational. I believe in God. I believe God came to live among us Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus  was nailed to a cross and died. I believe he lay among the dead for two days and on the third day I believe he rose from that grave, exited that tomb and walked among us again.

I believe he ascended to heaven where, as part of the Holy and Undivided Trinity he walks among us still. I believe all of this without knowing how. But unlike my irrational belief that asking for help at the gas station would be too awful to bear, our faith encourages our questions, our faith allows for our confusion.

Our faith expects our disbelief.

What our faith doesn’t tolerate so well though is failing to admit our questions, our confusion, our doubt.  This is why Jesus asks us to have faith like a child. A child freely and openly asks the tough questions---why do people die? Why do we get sad? Why is the sky blue? Why why why why?

The author of our faith always wants us to ask why….. Why is there pain and suffering in the world, why is my heart broken, why is my child ill----My prayer for us today is that we’ll approach our faith with the same innocence as the children in our midst….

Our faith isn’t a faith of no questions, it is a faith of one answer. And that one answer is God. Through God all things are possible. With God all things are doable. From God all blessings flow.

- Catherine Dempesy, excerpted from "A Faith Of Many Questions, But One Answer," a sermon on Mark 9:30-37, preached on September 23, 2012 at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Buffalo, NY