There is No Cure for Curiosity

According to an old saying, ‘The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity Have you ever felt like asking a question during a sermon? What are you talking about? Could you explain that more clearly? A sermon is not the best setting for questioning. The disciples of Jesus asked him questions, not in the middle of him talking to the crowds, but when they had time and space for an explanation. Jesus also asked questions of the disciples.

questionsWhen I was in Waddesdon I placed an ‘Any Questions?’ box in Church. People put in questions they would probably not ask out loud. Although these were anonymous, I could usually guess who the most searching ones came from! From time to time I would attempt to answer the queries during a service

In another setting, a not-so-young person would come up to me regularly after a service. I soon realised that he was intent on asking me a question, probably one I would not be able answer off the cuff! Often my response had to be, ‘I’ll find out and let you know’.

‘Is it alright to ask questions?’ This query came from a senior police officer who joined a Home Group I was running in Autumn 1999. He was re-exploring faith after the birth of his child, having been brought up in a strict denomination where questioning was certainly not allowed. As his responsibilities included monitoring the movements of Apocalyptic Sects (easier to write than to say) in the run up to the Millennium, and we happened to be studying the Book of Revelation, it made for fascinating and fruitful discussions.

Home Groups are good places to ask questions, but such groups do not suit everyone, even when we are able to meet together in person. However, there are lots of opportunities on Zoom or for private study this Lent. We know from the ‘Food, Glorious Food’ course that Zoom is a format which can work well, giving people opportunities to learn, ask questions and share knowledge.

branch‘Curiosity must be outgrown or endured. A child is born with its mouth in position to utter the word “Why?” and when, at some later date, it is punished for asking too many questions, it thinks up enough additional questions during its punishment to make the Encyclopaedia Britannica look sick.’ Boston Sunday Post, August 1, 1915
Are you feeling bored? Have you outgrown the curiosity about faith you once had? Are you enduring questions about Christian belief, without having a chance to voice them? Lent is the time to let loose your curiosity and explore. If you haven’t already done so, do Zoom in to one of the courses on offer, or study at home.
There’s:
Inspired to Follow, produced by St Martin in the Fields and The National Gallery. How can art enlighten our Christian journey?
Come and See, from the Oxford Diocese. How can we question and explore the Christian faith afresh?
Pilgrim Journeys: The Creeds, 40 days of Reflections by Bishop Steven Croft. How can we reflect on and respond to the statements in the Creeds? Booklet or daily emails available.
There’s also: Inspired by Hope, from Embrace the Middle East. How do Christians in the Middle East still have hope, despite all they are facing? How can we learn from them? For a booklet, please contact me or see https://shop.embraceme.org/collections/church-resources/products/lent-study-guide-2021

I think questions are vital to our growth as Christians. They help us develop in our understanding of who God is, who we are, and what it means to live out what we believe. Of course, not all questions have easy, pat answers. Sometimes we have to live our questions for while, in the company of God and others, before we find our peace.

Liz Welters (Associate Minister)

February

‘I will give thanks to you, Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell or all your marvellous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will make music to your name, O most high’

Thus started this morning’s psalm (Psalm 9: 1 – 2). If only.

And the latest missive sent out from the Diocesan Bishops urges us to turn:

from the bitterness of thinking about what
we can't have at this time

from the misery that comes from our hopes
being repeatedly deferred by the pandemic

that surround us

to thankfulness for these things and a deeper
commitment to treasure them

to a deeper hope that rests in God and God's promises

to a focus on joy, 'a witness to eternal realities in the
midst of earthbound despair'

But that is very hard. Perhaps like me you feel your resources are low. Perhaps you too are finding the days to be dark, dreary and drab. And perhaps you also long for a hug from those you love but can’t see at the moment. I wish I was one of those people who are naturally optimistic, joyful, able to find light in the midst of any darkness. I have a friend like that. She had an abusive first marriage. She lost her first husband and her eldest son to suicide, and has faced numerous challenges since. But still she counts her blessings, effervesces with joy, and looks for things to be thankful for. She’s even written a book about her experiences (Choosing Eros – Julie Hagerty). But I’m not like Julie and I guess that is just how it is.

branch But although they may be personality traits, I guess that thankfulness and joy are also partly disciplines. There are loads of websites devoted to the practice of both. They tend to stress that although we cannot make ourselves feel joyful, we can become more open to the experience of joy. We can do things like being still, like practising being really present during the day, looking and listening inquisitively. trying to savour each moment – savour all the simple joys of life - the ability to see, to hear, to feel, to taste, and to touch, the beauty that is all around us, the miracle of our existence.

It is often when we stop, when we are still, that we notice things. In November, I noticed that amidst the black stubs of bygone blackberries and the few ragged leaves still clinging onto otherwise bare branches was one shrub that seemed to have large buds on it. A search on Google and I learnt that most trees have buds on them all through the winter. They protect the branches through winter and are there, ready to burst into growth in the spring. Everything we know witnesses to the fact that there will be better times in store. Winter leads to spring, the night to the morning, and as the psalmist puts it, ‘heaviness may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning’ (Psalm 30.5).

I came across a poem on the internet – it had been written collaboratively on 5th April last year on Facebook by the Federation of Writers (Scotland) – people could only post one line, and 59 comments later, the poem emerged. I was going to just include an excerpt, but couldn’t decide which bit was best, so here is it all. I wonder that your recipe for joy would contain? And can you prepare some parts of it now?

Alice Goodall