As I was pondering what to write about this week, I thought about once again raising the idea that the world around us reveals God at work. Then this morning one of the articles in a weekly Christian news service brought up a similar theme, but with a slight change of focus. Lawson Bryan brought up the new discoveries by the James Webb Space Telescope. He noted that one of the scientists on the project, after extolling what has already been seen for the first time, was asked, “What’s Next?” His reply was that the observations will raise new questions about the nature and structure of the universe. The author noted that this is the method of science: observe what is going on, and ask questions about what it all means, come up with hypotheses, then test them by more observation. Bryan then suggested that this is what we should be doing as Christians. Observe what is going on in the world (or in our own neighborhoods), exercise our curiosity, then come up with some possibilities for new actions we should take to serve God.
He pointed out that early societies often looked at the world and experienced fear, while beginning with Judaism believers looked at the world with curiosity. The psalmist (Psalm 8) looks at the world and feels how small humans are in the vast expanse of creation, but then reflects on God’s love which elevates humans to unexpected prominence. He points out that Jesus was constantly using images from everyday life and the world around Him in parables and other teachings. One example is Luke 12:54-56 which tells us “Jesus said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud forming in the west, you immediately say, “It’s going to rain.” And indeed it does. And when a south wind blows, you say, “A heat wave is coming.” And it does. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret conditions on earth and in the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret the present time?” Bryan then noted scientists like Gregor Mendel (a catholic abbot who founded the science of genetics but was also interested in the weather and in mathematics) and Isaac Newton (who studied light and gravity, astronomy, and economics) who observed and interpreted nature to learn more about God.
As I was thinking about this, I realized how often I let my curiosity turn off. When I do that I don’t see what is actually going on around me. How often do we as a church do the same thing? God calls us to observe not just the weather, but the people and actions going on around us. God calls us to be curious about how we can make a difference in the world. And God calls us to use our imaginations to come up with solutions to those problems. When we actually look at the people around us they may surprise us. I was talking with someone recently, they made a remark that I thought was totally out of character. I realized that I was treating this person as a stereotype about how I thought they would react instead of seeing the real person underneath.
How many others have I reacted to out of assumptions about who they are and what they are like, instead of really listening to them, and seeing them for who they are? In the Musical 110 in the Shade (adapted from the play The Rainmaker), Lizzie talks about “seeing people real”. She talks about seeing her father drying dishes, something she has seen often. Then suddenly she saw him in a new light: he is no longer just her father or dad, he is a human being with faults and failures, delightful characteristics, and most of all a man who loves his family. She wonders how she has never seen him this way before. God calls us to see the people around us as they are, not lock them into a preconceived notion. When we do that we can see that they are a person God loves, and so much more than they seem on the surface.
Bryan notes, “To observe means to pay attention to the world—both the world around us and the world inside us… The disciplines of worship, Bible study, fellowship, witness, and community outreach are ways of paying attention in order to make new discoveries.” God is seeking to lead us, will we let Him open our eyes to see the possibilities?