June 16, 2019 Music Sunday and Trinity Sunday
We are a curios species. The literal meaning of Homosapiens is “wise man” or “knowing man”. And some scientists are speculating that this particular trait gave us the edge over other hominines. We are curious, we have a strong desire to understand our environment. And once we understand our environment we want to manipulate and influence it. This approach has generally served our species very well.
Our curious inclination has resulted in our species accomplishing remarkable things. Last weekend at a table for 8 gathering someone shared information about an unusual, creative and effective way for medical specialists to treat a brain tumor. The tumor was invisible for the natural defenses of the body’s immune system. They injected the tumor with a polio virus. The body’s immune system was then able to identify the virus and the body’s natural defense system could attack the tumor. The patient was healed.
Our curiosity leads us to ask the right questions and our curiosity helps us to find good answers and solutions. When Walther Isaacson, author of biographies of remarkable people like Leonardo Da Vinci and Steve Jobs, was asked what these geniuses have in common, he answered: Curiosity!
We all know that children are very
curios. They want to know how things work, they ask questions, they explore.
For them the world is a fascinating and exiting place. Research shows that
curios children who stay
curious continue to explore and discover, have more confidence that emboldens
them to further explore and learn. Unfortunately, as we get older, we
seem to lose our curiosity. Adults are sometimes guilty of unwittingly discourage curiosity
with disapproval: “Stop asking so many
It was Albert Einstein who said:
“One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”
Saint Anselm, Christian philosopher and theologian of the eleventh century said: “Faith seeks understanding.” This does not mean that he wants to replace faith with understanding. “Faith seeking understanding” means something like “an active love of God seeks a deeper knowledge of God.” Faith requires a holy curiosity, asking question about God, studying the Bible, formulating concepts that help us to know who God is! It is by knowing God that we are moved to trust God. Hebrews 11 states that faith’s foundations are knowledge and trust. Faith is a matter of the head and of the heart!
Ancient Israel were reminded, time and again, of who God is – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob- and what God did for them. For example we read in Deuteronomy 6:5-8: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
And in Exodus 20:1 God speaks these words: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt?”
Christians believe that the Bible is God’s Word. We claim it is God’s divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we apparently aren’t reading it. A recent study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of people attending church read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day. Because we don’t read God’s Word, it follows that we don’t know it.
Which of course leads to questions: “Are we curios about who God is, what God has done for us, what the theological meaning is of Jesus becoming flesh, of living amongst us, of dying and being resurrected.” Are we curios enough to ask questions like: what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus in a complex world where our race is slowly but surely damaging God’s creation? Do we take enough time to think about what God’s Word is telling us about the importance of truth in a world where it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish between what is fact and what is fake? Do we know the Bible well enough to be equipped to know that citing a few verses to proof a point is not always the most responsible way to know what God requires of us?
In short: Are we curios and serious enough about our faith in God to seek understanding? To learn more about God? Research shows that a big portion of Christians are not.
I want to highlight another point that I believe is important. As a curios species we want to understand our environment and we want to manipulate and influence it. That is what we do. The danger is that we take what we learn about God and use it to manipulate, control and influence God. We are curious about the world so we learn how it works, we do everything we can to understand our environment and then we control, manipulate and influence it. When we think about God we try to do the same. It is not uncommon that theologians, professional and laity, think that they can figure out everything there is about God. They explain God, they have answers for every theological question and then we almost always take it one step too far. Once we think that we understand God, that we have figured out God, we think that we can now control God. We can now manipulate and influence God. That is why Christians can proclaim with so much confidence what God wants. How God feels about issues, how God should respond if we sin. And history teaches is that our proclamations about what God wants and how God ought to respond are not always correct. Inevitably we become arrogant and too self-assured believing that we have figured out 100% who God is! It is called hubris and hubris always leads to a fall.
How then do we balance our curiosity to know who God is and yet stay humble enough to know that God is God and we as human beings cannot figure out everything about God? I suspect that today is a good day to think this through. Today is Trinity Sunday, the day we think about God being three persons, Father Son and Holy Ghost, and yet One being. You see the Church has wrestled with this for many centuries. But if we are honest enough we have to admit: It does not make sense, we don’t understand the Concept for we are after all small, broken human beings. Our knowledge about God has its limitations. We cannot in this life figure out everything about God and it is fine (and healthy) to admit it. There is a limit to our intellectual ability to figure out God completely. And when we reach our limit, there is a place for us to be in awe of God. That is when we marvel about God’s love and grace that are abundantly poured out on sinful human beings! We are in awe of the beauty of God’s creation, we are in awe of the depth of relationships, we are in awe of the love of God that is reflected in the love of spouse and child and grandchild. We are in awe of a community like ours where strangers walk in and are transformed into a church family. We are in awe about God’s presence in a smile, in a comforting and encouraging word, a gentle but firm hug when we need it, in the smile of a young member, in the words of a confirmands creed. We are in awe of a loving and holy God!
And when we are in awe, then we lack words to describe. And that is when God’s gift of music enables us to find a way of expressing our awe!
Today is our annual music Sunday. We celebrate the ministry of so many gifted and committed people who through their ministry enable us to express our awe in ways that words cannot express. Their music lifts our spirits, it fills our hearts with joy and it widens our sense of awe in the beauty of God’s creation. Their ministry enhances us as human beings and as people of faith. It helps us to be in touch with God, ourselves, others and the creation with gratitude and joy. Their music helps us to sing a new song! Amen.