by Marty G. Bell
“All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘ What does this mean?”‘ The mighty acts of God that Acts 2 describes are nothing short of amazing and perplexing. Ultimately, like those who originally experienced Pentecost, we are led to ask: What does this mean?
I enjoy what I do as a professor of religion and as a pastor. I constantly ask my students and parishioners in a variety of ways some version of this question. I want them to move from an inherited theology to an acquired theology. It’s not enough to accept uncritically what others have told us about Christianity; we must find our way through our own experience. John Wesley took the three-legged stool of Anglicanism-scripture, rea son, and tradition-and added a fourth “leg” as a basis for religious authority: experience. The Wesleyan or Methodist quadrilateral serves as a tool for theological exploration. Our heritage is “to think and let think.”
The exploration of faith takes time for reflection. One of the disturbing aspects of our contemporary culture is the expectation that we can have what we want instantly. A 24/7 world demands instant access and immediate gratification. Mature and seasoned theology is not like a prepackaged meal we pop in the microwave; rather, it’s more like gourmet cooking in which the meal starts from scratch and contains all sorts of wonderful herbs and spices. By taking time to explore the meaning of our experience of God, we will be amazed and perplexed. More importantly, we will find a deeper satisfaction in our quest to fill our spiritual hunger. Yielding to the temptation to find easy and convenient answers, we miss the point. Then and now there are those who sneer at questions of meaning, desiring the quick conclusion.
God, may we not be afraid to ask, “What does this mean?” May we see that our amazement and perplexity grow our faith more deeply. Amen.