Posts Tagged ‘reverence’

A sermon by Christine Jerrett. The worship service in which was first preached is available at Reformed Worship, week 7.

Scriptures: Proverbs 30: 18-19, 24 -28; John 3: 1-17

Did you know that the turkey used to be a sleek and beautiful bird? It had a rather odd head, but its body was so streamlined that it could fly up to sixty-five miles per hour. Today’s turkeys can barely stand, much less fly. Sixty percent of a turkey’s flesh is in its breast and wings. North Americans, apparently, prefer white meat, so turkeys have been genetically engineered to meet consumer wishes. (Douglas John Hall, The Steward, p. 104)

Most of the tomatoes that you can buy in a Canadian grocery store in January have been picked while they are still green. That way, they will not bruise while they are being transported. When they get to were they are going, they are blasted with ethylene to turn their exteriors red. Tomatoes, too, have been genetically engineered so that they have thicker skins. This, too, helps with transporting them over long distances. They also have approximately thirty percent less vitamin C than tomatoes that were cultivated in the 1960’s did. They have fourteen times more sodium. One third of them come from Florida, where there are regulations about their size and shape and quality. An arsenal of over one hundred chemicals is used to combat insects, bacteria and diseases.

Technology has changed our lives in many amazing and wonderful ways. Tomatoes in January are not among them.

Not that long ago, most people in the modern world had great faith in technology’s power to save us. If we had a problem, we believed that someone could and would develop a technology to fix it. If the technology we used to fix the problem caused other problems, surely we could develop more technology to fix those problems as well.

We are not so sure any more. There is chaos in the Middle East and famine in Africa; there are dead zones in our oceans, and deserts where there were once fertile plains; two hundred species disappear every day; superbugs that are resistant to our best antibiotics are emerging in our hospitals; terrorists elude our most sensitive security devices; our young people drown their increasing sense of despair in binge drinking and hard drugs. All of these events have been resistant to our best, most advanced technological solutions.

Over thirty-five years ago, Douglas John Hall observed, “We are a nation of full shopping carts and empty faces.” Asks Wendell Berry, “How does it happen that we can know so much and do so much and live so badly?” We know a great deal. We can do many things. What we lack is wisdom. we lack the wisdom to use our knowledge well so that humanity flourishes and so that creation is preserved not only for ourselves but also for generations to come. The good garden God gave to us to tend and to keep groans, waiting for us to develop such wisdom.

The book of Proverbs is part of the wisdom literature of the Bible. Proverbs 30 says that wisdom is knowing that there are things we do not know:

There are three things too wonderful for me;

four I do not understand:

the way of an eagle in the sky,

the way of a snake on a rock,

the way of a ship on the high seas,

the way of a man with a woman.

Proverbs is not trying to examine, explain or measure such things. it is drawing us in to wonder, awe and reverence before the mysteries of creation. The eagle, the snake, the ship, the couple in love are in motion with an energy from beyond themselves. There is more going on here than we can account for.

In each instance, we come up against the limits of our knowing. Our relationship with them is not so much a matter of comprehending them as realizing that the only way to know them is to delight in the wonder of them. It is a way of knowing that comes from the heart. It is a way of knowing that comes from living in reverence toward that which we cannot use and manipulate and control. Instead, we learn to love and cherish and protect them as part of God’s precious creation. It is a way of knowing that the weary creation desperately needs.

Leonard Sweet says that what we need more of in the church is ‘kangaroo theology’. There is an urban myth that ‘kangaroo’ is an Australian aboriginal word for ‘I don’t know’. When the Europeans first came to Australia, they asked the people who were already there, “What are those things hopping around the countryside?” The people would shrug and say, “Kangaroo.”

That is what we need in the church — kangaroo theology: the capacity to say, “I don’t know”.

We deal with deep mysteries: the mysteries of a marvellously complex creation; the mysteries of being human in relationship with each other; the mysteries of being invited into relationship with the Triune God.

Nicodemus was a religious leader and yet, when he encountered Jesus, he knew he was faced with someone who defied the usual categories. Jesus spoke truth that mystified and surprised. In his presence, people felt the very presence of God. One night, he approached Jesus, saying, “We know you a teacher from God. But there is more. I am trying to get my mind around who you are and what you are doing. Explain it to me.”
Jesus said to him, “You don’t know. God is making a new creation before your very eyes. The only way to get in on it is to let go of what you know and what you think you know and what you think you have grasped. The only way to get in on the new life God is bringing to birth is to take a risk beyond what you know. You have to enter into it . . . not with all your adult know-how but like a new-born baby. God is at work in your life and mine, but it is the invisible moving the visible. The new creation that is taking shape is being formed by something we cannot see and touch — by the Spirit. You know how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it is coming from or where it is going next. That is the way it is with everyone born of the Spirit of God. You don’t know.”

We do not know. We do not know how the Spirit is at work among us, moving this weary, aching creation toward new possibilities. We get in on it only as we learn to live in this complex and beautiful creation with humility and reverence. When we lose wonder and awe, it gets easy to act out of greed or carelessness or self-concern. Then, all creation suffers. More than that, when we act out of greed or carelessness, or self-concern, the very survival of human life is threatened.

To confess that Jesus Christ is Lord is to say that we are not. We are not Lords but servants of the one who is Lord. We are answerable to another. We are creatures of a good, gracious, creative God who loves us and who calls us into a life of loving: loving God; loving others; loving the beloved creation. The wisdom to love as Christ commands begins with the humility that stands in reverence before that which we do not know.


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