When I was teaching at Columbia Seminary, each of our graduating seniors was required to preach in a weekday chapel service in the spring semester of their final year. Many of the faculty made it a point to be there. We wanted to support the students and hear what they had to say as they were preparing to leave seminary.
One of our graduating seniors, Kate, showed a great deal of poise and presence when she stepped up to the pulpit. She preached on the Magnificat, Mary’s beautiful song of praise from Luke’s gospel. She helped us to see Mary in new and insightful ways. Then, instead of concluding the sermon with the usual Presbyterian three points, she surprised us. She made a series of “I wonder …” statements. “I wonder how Mary felt as the baby Jesus was growing inside of her.” “I wonder how she coped with her moments of excitement and moments of fear.” “I wonder if she asked why God had chosen her.” Kate paused after each statement inviting us to wonder with her. To close the sermon, she looked out at us and said “I wonder …” and then sat down. I remember catching my breath at the beauty and power of the word so faithfully proclaimed. I remember wondering with Kate.
At Village Church, I have the great privilege of working alongside the Rev. Hallie Hottle, our pastor for young adult ministry. Hallie reminded me that awe and wonder are incredibly attractive for many young adults. Many young adults are rightly suspicious and wary of leaders who portray the world as cut and dried and only want to give out answers. They are more intrigued by mystery and wonder.
For many of us as leaders, we think our job is to give answers. To be sure, answers are important. But in these days as we continue to discern our way through times of uncertainty, leaders are called to wonder with our people. We are being called to ask deep questions and to sit and ponder and reflect and wait for the Lord to show us the way.
I wonder what the Holy Spirit is doing among us now.
I wonder how we can be even more faithful. I wonder what risks we are being called to take.
I wonder where we will find the courage.
- When have you recently been captured by awe and wonder?
- What is a way you can invite others to wonder with you?
- What will happen if you wonder more and answer less?
The Rev. Dr. Rodger Nishioka serves as the senior associate pastor and director of adult faith formation at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. Prior to joining the staff at Village Church, he served as a professor of Christian education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
This article is the 11th in a 12-part series focusing on PC(USA) leader formation as a part of the “Year of Leader Formation: Investing in Ruling Elders and Deacons.” Additional resources are available at www.pcusa.org/leader-formation/.