Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Asking the BIG (and little) Questions

I'm filling in for Stephen this week. As you can see from all the good blogging he does, he needed a chance to recharge his batteries. I should start by saying I don't take direction well. In this case, it means I looked at how the blog normal works and said, "I'm going to do something different." So let's start...

I was thinking over the last few weeks about the role of questions and questioning as we study scriptures. This was brought about by a couple of occurrences. The first was in relation to Mark 8:22-26. We've been using this passage during Lent to think about the need for a "Second Touch" as Stephen calls it. The crux of the passage is that the blind man needed to be touched twice by Jesus to have his sight fully restored. When we first talked about this passage in Bible study, my first question did not center around the healing, but around the end of the story: "Jesus sent him him home, saying, 'Don't go into the village.'" Why? What was so wrong with sharing with the people in the village the miracle that had occurred? What's the point of a miracle if you can't tell your friends?

Later I used the same passage with the kids who attend our weekday activities- music, crafts, bible story. I read the story after couching it in a discussion of healing and dealing with injuries. And wouldn't you know..but one of the little girls got hung up on Mark 8:26 too! She had a different question though: How is he supposed to get home if the can't go into the village? I had no idea and probably glossed over that great question a little too fast. But thinking about it now, it was a very practical question, even more practical than mine. The girl was trying to work out, in a similar way as I was, how the story worked. What's the point of being cured if you can't go home again?

In the scheme of things, I think the girl and I had little questions. Not unimportant questions, but these little questions that take us away from the meaning of the passage as a whole. However, until these questions are answered we can't focus our attention on the miracle at the heart of the passage. When we get these little questions answered then we can turn to the big questions: Why did the man need to be touched twice? What are the roles of trust and faith in the passage?

I would like to encourage us all to ask the little and big questions when reading scripture. When we ask these questions to ourselves, to our family, or to our fellow members, we are thinking critically. I believe thinking critically about what you are reading or hearing is a stop on the way to internalizing the information. From there we can apply the message to ourselves, our lives, our times.

Have a great week and see you Sunday!


Jeremy said...

Everyday, I'm thankful for so many things every day, and one of them is the freedom to ask questions. Not every community (faith, family, work, etc.) values or even allows this critical thinking/reading that you're talking about. I might even say that such groups are few and far between (but that may be overly pessimistic). I'd like to say that I don't get obsessed with the answer(s), but I know that's not true. Who doesn't like to know what's going on or what happened? Isn't that one of the comforts of being smart/aware/nosy, right? But I can say I've become more accustomed to multiple answers and possibilities, which is perhaps it's own kind of comfort.

I do wish, however, that I learned more by the questions themselves - why we ask certain things - because that is probably more telling and useful. If we ask about home and living situations, or about how to prepare for a journey (ala Barabara), or about the feelings of the people we read about, it throws light onto how we view the world and our relationships.

I might suggest that, as we ask the questions, that we look at why we ask certain questions and what that can teach us - especially with regards to the potential big picture/point of the passage. (sorry for the alliteration, it was unintentional!)

Thanks, Susan! You're great!

Stephen said...

First of all, Susan-Thank You for a wonderful blog. This is what the "Priesthood Of All Believers" is all about.
My thoughts since reading your blog the first time have run toward the idea that what is a 'little' question for me, might be a 'BIG' question for someone else. Since we each bring our personal story to the text, it's hard to know what will be most important to each person. So you've really got me thinking about how to respect the different ways that various parts of a given text might speak to different listeners in a congregation...I'll be pondering the question throughout my vacation.
Thank you again for a wonderful and thought provoking blog.