Tuesday, August 16, 2011

From the Nearby Flowers to the Distant Future

It should be familiar by now. I've studied it all my life in one way or another and when I saw that the upcoming teaching series was Matthew 5-7, there was a part of me that thought I wouldn't get much out of it. That part of me was wrong. Every week there's something new and, well, the only word for it is convicting. It's not necessarily the eloquence of the teaching: I've seen the different pastors in the series struggle with the words like Jacob wrestling by the river. It's the words. These words are alive and unlike any other words.

As a scientist it amazes me how much of the Sermon on the Mount starts with observation of the natural world (anything that starts with "Consider ... "). Jesus saw God active, close, and immanent in nature, in the lilies of the field and the birds in the air, in the engineering principles of strong house foundations and the growth of trees. He also saw Scripture, and not just the words themselves but God's intentions behind the words, the transcendence of God's purposes. If you enter into the world of the Sermon on the Mount you find a world that is painted with bright colors far and near, one that rewards careful investigation and careful reading, but is more than the focus on the detail, it is the forest and the trees in one.

The fact that the lilies are thrown into the fire is not a problem like the problem of evil is for us comfortable people. Jesus says see how beautiful they are now, and how much more you are than they.

In the Everlasting Man, GK Chesterton sums this up:

“There is perhaps nothing so perfect in all language or literature as the use of these three degrees in the parable of the lilies of the field; in which he first seems to take one small flower in his hand and note its simplicity and even its impotence; then suddenly expands it in flamboyant colours into all the palaces and pavilions full of a great name in national legend and national glory; and then, by yet a third overturn, shrivels it to nothing once more with a gesture as if flinging it away. … Merely in a literary sense it would be more of a masterpiece than most of the masterpieces in libraries; yet it seems to have been uttered almost at random while a man might pull a flower. … There is nothing that really indicates a subtle and in the true sense a superior mind so much as this power of comparing a lower thing with a higher and yet that higher with a higher still; of thinking on three planes at once. … something that can only be called subtle and superior, something that is capable of long views and even of double meanings, …”

Just as Jesus looked at a lily from these angles, I want to pluck out DNA sequences and look at them the same way, looking not just for the relationships but at the Creator's intent behind those relationships, accepting the surprises as they come. And always, to remember, how much more are we? When Jesus looks at a lily and sees so much in it, it's important to remember, this is how God looks at us. We don't do this ourselves; the Spirit is the enabler and the catalyst of this view of the world. But when we step into it and let God work through it, I believe this will fix us.

This is why I believe: because these words are the words of life.

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