Church on the MOVE – Curious
Sycamore Creek Church
September 9, 2012
In March, 2009 NASA held a contest to name the rover that was going to Mars. On May 27, 2009 the winning name was announced: Curiosity. This name was originally submitted by Clara Ma, a sixth-grader fromKansas. In her essay suggesting the name she said, “Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder.”
On November 26, 2011 the Mars Science Laboratory launched fromCape Canaveralon an Atlas V rocket. Eight months later on August 5, 2012 Curiosity Rover landed on Mars. Here is what curiosity looks like:
Today we begin a new series called Church on the MOVE. Sycamore Creek Church isn’t a static church. We’re on the move. We’re going to Mars and back! And this series will explore the culture of that move in three words: curious, creative, and compassionate. These three words are the jet propulsion that moves us forward, reaching out to new people and growing. Today we begin with the first word: curious.
- Curious: Eager to know or learn something
When you look up the word “curious” in a dictionary you will find variations on two meanings. The first meaning for “curious” is “eager to know or learn something.” The NASA scientists were eager to know or learn something about Mars. The initial proposals for Curiosity came in April 2004, eight years before Curiosity landed on Mars. That’s a pretty intense eagerness to learn that sustained them over that time period. And while there were certainly some answers over time, the journey of Curiosity was marked more by questions than answers.
When we think about faith, many of us tend to fall into a kind of rut: we think we must have it all figured out before we make a decision to launch on the journey of following Jesus. But that’s rarely if ever how it works. Rather the journey is launched because of curiosity about God.
When I was in college I went through a faith crisis, I wanted certainty about my faith, but what I found was uncertainty. I let my faith go, and what I found was that when I no longer believed, I was no more certain. What I had when I believed was uncertainty with hope and meaning. What I had when I didn’t believe was uncertainty with hopelessness and meaninglessness. So I made a conscious decision to believe even though I wasn’t certain.
Lately I’ve been talking to someone about coming to church. This person thinks they have to get their life together and have everything figured out before they start the journey. But if we wait for our curiosity to be satisfied, we’ll never go anywhere. It’s the curiosity that propels us forward. We’ll never get every question answered. As one friend of mine recently posted on her Facebook status: “I had lots of questions I just couldn’t answer today so I found the answers in a cup of Death by Chocolate smothered in chocolate sauce!”
Here’s the good news: we don’t have to have it all figured out to follow Jesus. One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament tells about a man who found himself in a similar situation.
Mark 9:17-27 NRSV
Someone from the crowd answered [Jesus], “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you are able!– All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand.
Here’s the main point of this sermon: Following Jesus is a mixture of belief and unbelief.
Or as the father said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). And here’s the greatest part of this story to me: Jesus doesn’t cast him out. He receives this man’s honesty and curiosity and he heals his son! Thank you, God!
We get stuck thinking that to belong we must first become the right kind of person and to become that kind of person we must first believe the right things. But today I want to tell you that you belong first because you are curious about Jesus, and in that belonging you become the kind of person that Jesus calls us to become, and perhaps at the end of the day after belonging and becoming you begin to believe that Jesus is really who he says he is.
SycamoreCreekChurchis a mix of all kinds of curious people. Do you know that on any given Sunday morning we’ve got people here who are atheists, agnostics, spiritual (but not religious), religious, and on and on and on. I lead a small group that meets every first and third Thursday at a local pub called an Agnostic Pub Group. We read books and ask questions and explore God together. Usually I’m the only Christian in the group.
We are often afraid of this kind of uncertainty, asking questions, and even doubting. But recent research done by the Fuller Youth Institute suggests that:
Suppression of doubt can sabotage a young person’s faith. Contrary to what many of us might believe, students who feel the most free to express doubt and discuss their personal problems actually exhibit more internal and external faith indicators in high school and college. Doubt in and of itself isn’t toxic. It’s unexpressed doubt that becomes toxic.
Following Jesus means trusting, but not necessarily being in total agreement of belief. When Jesus called his disciples to follow him, they didn’t have it all figured out. The Bible tells all kinds of stories about the disciples really getting it all wrong. They were curious enough to follow Jesus, whether they got all their questions answered or not.
Psalm 25:4 says “Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.” Curiosity leads us to being eager to learn and know Jesus’ ways, and the faith and trust to follow is sometimes scary. When I was learning to ski, I had to trust the instructor that the best way to get safely down the hill with these supper slippery boards strapped to the ends of my feet was to actually lean down the mountain rather than lean back up the mountain. Lean down the mountain? Isn’t that just going to make me go faster? Well, no. Leaning down the mountain when you ski lets the edges of your skis bite into the snow and slow down. Leaning backwards keeps them up above the snow and speeds you up. To learn the best path down the mountain, I had to trust the instructor over my fear of leaning down the mountain. It makes total sense to me now, but in the beginning it was a mystery.
Maybe that’s why we call communion and baptism a sacrament. “Sacrament” is Latin for “mystery.” The sacraments of communion and baptism aren’t dependent upon us fully understanding what’s going on. If participation was dependent upon us fully understanding it all, then none of us could partake. We’d all have to simply sit in our seats, me included. The conditions we put on participating in communion are a curiosity and desire to live at peace with God and with others. Children are welcome to the communion table because they are often the most curious! A couple of months ago I took Micah with me to a Saturday night worship service at another church. They were serving communion so the two of us went up and received communion. I told Micah that this was the body and blood of Jesus as we ate the bread dipped in the cup. After we got back to our seats, Micah looked up at me and signed “more.” Did he get what he was asking for? Probably not, but perhaps deep in his spirit, in his curiosity was a desire to have more of Jesus. A sacrament is a mystery, and Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
What questions do you have about God and following Jesus? When you are curious about God and follow Jesus you become a little (and then a lot!) curious… What do I mean by that?
- Curious: Strange; unusual
“Curious” has a second meaning: strange or unusual. When you’re curious about God and you begin following Jesus you become a little (and sometimes a lot!) strange and unusual. Unfortunately the church inAmericahas become too normal, dull, ordinary, and conventional. According to George Barna, a researcher on trends in the American religious landscape, “Casual Christians represent 66% of the adult population of theU.S.” Casual Christians are marked by “moderation in all things” vs. “extreme devotion to…God regardless of the worldly consequences.” Let me give you an example: when it comes to divorce, those who identify as “born again” have “divorce [figures] statistically identical to that of non-born again adults: 32% versus 33%, respectively.” Christians should be different, but in many ways we’re not. Our curiosity or eagerness to learn and know should lead us to being curious or strange and unusual.
Here’s a surprise second main point of this message: Following Jesus is a countercultural movement that makes us odd. St.Peter says, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9 KJV). I like that old King James language: “a peculiar people.” When we follow Jesus we should be peculiar, countercultural, curious. We should look and live differently than the rest of our neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends.
Who are the people you most admire? They are most likely unique, peculiar, curious…They live their lives against the grain of culture. They are countercultural. Let me tell you about some of the people I want to be like when I grow up.
Jo Snedden is a woman of prayer. Her life of prayer led her to finishing her basement so that her aging mother could live with her family. After her mother died, her grandchildren were having a rough time so she and her husband took them in and raised them. She would tell me that while being a grandparent she didn’t have the energy of her parenting years, she had a kind of wisdom that she didn’t have as a younger mom, especially when it came to nurturing faith in her grandchildren. When I grow up I want to be peculiar, countercultural, and curious like Jo Snedden.
Hank Kuehl was a seventy-year-old retired shop teacher who volunteered with the youth of a church I worked at. He would run full tilt playing capture the flag with the teenagers. My wife was always afraid that he was going to stroke out or have a heart attack on a retreat! Hank also was a Habitat for Humanity volunteer extraordinaire. Some people have construction skills and some people have teaching skills, but Hank had both. When one student, Walker, was going through confirmation, and was told he would be assigned a mentor, he asked if he could pick his mentor. Guess who he wanted to have mentor him. Hank! When I am seventy I want to be the kind of peculiar, countercultural and curious kind of old geezer that fourteen-year-old boys ask for me to be their mentor even when they weren’t told they could ask!
Dennis Myers is my mortgage broker in Petoskey who helped us buy our house (and refinance it several times) and his wife is Cindy. Dennis has made a good living selling mortgages inNorthern Michigan. He lives on Walloon Lake in one of the biggest and nicest houses I’ve ever been in. There are a lot of rooms in the Myers house. Dennis and Cindy both felt that God had given them a lot and they wanted to give back to others. So over the course of several years they filled that house with adopted children. They had one of their own and adopted 3 kids, one with special needs. When I grow up I want to be peculiar, countercultural, and curious like Dennis and Cindy Myers.
Then there’s Charlie Robinson. Charlie had a couple of kids of his own but felt compelled to be a foster parent for teenage boys. Charlie had a rough background himself, getting into trouble as a teenager. As he began to open his home to foster kids, he felt led to invite more. Soon he was running out of room, so he built a “wing” on to his house. He got a license to turn his home into an “institution” and every Sunday morning you could find him sitting in a pew with his wife, two kids, and about five teenage boys. When I grow up I want to be the kind of person who brings hurting teenage boys to church with me so that we take up a whole row. I want to be peculiar, countercultural, and curious like Charlie Robinson.
Let me tell you about Rachel and Juliet Serra. Rachel and Juliet were teenagers in my youth group. When Rachel graduated from college, she wanted to spend a year with Mission Year, a missions organization that hosts college graduates to live in urban areas to minister to the needs of those in the neighborhood. The only problem was that Rachel couldn’t afford to make it all happen. So her younger sister, Juliet, decided to move in with her and work to help pay the bills. When I “grow up” I want to be the kind of person who uses my time and money to support the missions work of my “family” members. I want to be peculiar, curious, and countercultural like Rachel and Juliet Serra.
Lastly, when I grow up I want to be like David and Rebecca Arthur. Even though we share a last name, we aren’t part of the same biological family. Sarah and I met David and Rebecca because we were attending a historically black church while in seminary and David and Rebecca were the only other white people in the church. They invited the church to their house one day, and we learned that they owned a very large house in the ghetto where they were building a Christian community that offered hospitality to women and children in transition. David stayed home, raised the kids, and ran the house. Rebecca worked ¾ time as a physical therapist. They did this all on a ¾ time income! They were able to be so generous because they lived simply. When I grow up I want to live simply enough that I’m able to share what I have with others. I want to be peculiar, countercultural, and curious like David and Rebecca.
Friend, this kind of strange, odd, countercultural, peculiar and curious living is already happening here atSycamoreCreekChurch. We’re hospitable and we welcome anyone. Come as you are. We seek to live lives of spiritual discipline by seeking God daily in prayer & Bible reading. We live a curious lifestyle by seeking to live pure and holy lives. We’re peculiar with our money. We live simply and give generously. We’re curiously authentic. We give a true account of ourselves. We seek to be countercultural with our time. We take time to rest and enjoy by practicing Sabbath and not just being concerned with producing, producing, producing. And most of all we are a peculiar, countercultural, and curious community of love. We love God with everything we’ve got, and we love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
SycamoreCreekChurchis a curious people:
- We’re curious to learn more about God;
- We’re countercultural when we follow Jesus.
So do you want to move with us? Do you want to get into the current of the creek and go deep in God’s curious grace? Here’s how you begin: Connect with God and others in worship. Grow in the character of Christ in a small group. Serve the church, community and world with your time, talent, treasure, and testimony. Sycamore Creek Church is curious. Will you be curious with us?
Questions for Small Groups
Each week we provide discussion questions for small groups that meet regularly to discuss the message for the week. Want to find a small group to join? Email Mark Aupperlee – firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What is one (or two) question(s) you have about God?
- Read Mark 9:17-29. When was a time you were filled with both belief and unbelief?
- How can we pray for your trust to follow Jesus?
- Who do you need to invite to join our small group that needs a place to be curious?
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