The Right Question
“I will declare your wondrous deeds.” – Psalm 9:1
At our annual all church retreat, we always ask an opening question as an ice breaker. A good question allows people to briefly answer and offers a conversation starter for the remaining days. Favorite questions include “What is the music you want at your funeral?” rivaled by “What is the meaning of your middle name?” Someone snarked a question for next year: “What one thing would you change in your partner if you could (if partnered)?” Another snarker suggested internet passwords. A third suggested weight, although the culture around weight might preclude the question from being simple or brief.
A good question helps people look good in their answer. A not-so-good question creates internal distress. Both are oddly wondrous. The wonder is that God loves us when we look good and when we don’t, when we answer well and when we don’t. God loves both the plump and the skinny.
Clergy join lay people in liking to answer “looking-good questions.” Many of us wear bulletproof vests under our white collars. We often have a large collection of brooms to use for sweeping things under rugs. Clergy and lay alike might rather learn to declare God’s wondrous deeds by allowing critical thinking into our praise declaration.
God knows how to praise us while criticizing us. God loves us so much that God tells the truth to humanity, about humanity. God’s love is wonderous because it loves us as we are, when we look good and when we don’t. Our congregations and our clergy are good when we become the perfect places for imperfect people. A tough question every now and then doesn’t have to hurt. It can even heal.
Thank you for wondrously loving us when we look good and when we don’t. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.