Bible and cross

A conundrum is defined as a puzzling or difficult question. There are some common things we see or hear every day which could be considered conundrums. Why does a round pizza come in a square box? Why are you asked to put your two cents worth in...but it’s only a penny for your thoughts... what happens to that extra penny? Why do people who slept well say they slept like a baby when babies wake up like every two hours? There are some conundrums on TV — if the professor could make a radio out of coconuts, why couldn’t he fix the hole in The Minnow? Or Wiley Coyote, he had money to buy all those explosives and stuff from the Acme Company...why didn’t he just buy his dinner?

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus gave his listeners real life conundrums concerning life and death and eternity: “Some people came up and told Jesus about the Galileans Pilate had killed while they were at worship. Jesus responded, ‘Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die. And those 18 in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.’”

A conundrum, why did some Galileans and workers die while others survived? Was there an underlying reason for those individuals’ deaths? Human nature wants a death to make sense. The belief at that time was that if you were a sinner, you suffered poverty, disease, and death but the righteous received wealth and health. So the conundrum Jesus presents: were those people who died the worst of the citizens? Did they deserve to die because of their sinfulness? And he answers his own question: “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Jesus calls for repentance in faith for salvation. But we don’t get to figure it all out this side of heaven. We can live in faith that God’s grace is sufficient for our eternity. Scripture teaches that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours. Our conundrums do not puzzle God. And so we can live with a peace that passes understanding.

The theologian Karl Barth was asked after one of his presentations here in the United States if he could summarize his life’s work in theology in one sentence. In other words, what was his answer to the conundrums we face in life? Dr. Barth said this: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Perhaps that is enough for us. Live in the knowledge that Jesus loves you and leave the details to God. Amen.

— Gordy Pennertz in pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Litchfield.