This past week, I got to do something very special. A friend had a baby on Thursday, and on Friday I got to hold one day old William. Now I have held several babies in my tiime, but never one who was just one day old. I His fingers were so tiny. His blue eyes were so clever as he looked around And like all newborns, William was something precious to behold. As I held him, I wondered how different his world would be from the one that I have known. Since I have been born, humanity has walked on the moon. Computers in the home have become the norm. Just like in the 1960's show Star Trek, I carry around a communications device in my pocket. Things certainly have changed in my life. And I am sure things will change during William's life as well. There will be new inventions, new possibilities, new challenges, and new problems that William will face. I am sure that what William will face in 52 years time will be a world that is vastly different from my world.
A few months ago, I received word that I a parishoner, who had been a member at a church where I had served previously, had died. He had led a very good life. He was 97 years old. Knowing the family they would have been saddened by his loss. However I am sure that at the service, they would want to have celebrated the man's life, rather than grieve for his passing. This man had always been interested in how things worked and was always tinkering with machines. He always kept up with the latest gadgets and things which make life easier. He liked change.
Another friend though is completely different. He moved away from his home town about 25 years ago and he expects his home town to remain exactly the same. However, his hometown is a vibrant city. Constantly the old is making way for the new. Old buildings are either torn down or refurbished in order that the city can find use for them in the present day. My friend gets quite upset and says, "They've changed it." But he forgets that sometimes things have to change or maybe we don't remember it quite as it was. Or maybe it has been changed for the better.
In science class, we were once asked to describe a burning candle. One person described the burning candle as smoke. This is partially true. A burning candle does indeed give off smoke. But we know the candle is more. A burning candle is heat, it is flame, it is light, it has many different colours (red ember at wick, orange flame), it gives off smoke. All these things and more happen when someone lights a candle. But to say a candle is fire- is only a part answer. To say a candle is light, again only gives a part answer. The act of lighting a candle to produce a flame is quite complex.
It is the same way with God. When asked, some people will give different descriptions of who God is. Some will say that God is love. Well this is true but not quite true. God is love but we know that is only a partial description of who God is. Some will say that God is a great judge. Again this is true but it isn't true. Yes I am sure God acts as a judge, but isn't God also compassionate, loving, merciful. God is this but so much more. In the Revelation to John, we are told that God is the Alpha and the Omega. Human minds don't operate that way though. We like to put things in little boxes. You- I like you- therefore I put you in the good pile. I think you are rude. Therefore I put you in the obnoxious pile. Sometimes this sorting works out just fine. There are many ignorant people in my obnoxious pile. But then I have friends who I generally like but still can make some awful comments. Where do I put them? People are hard to classify sometimes. God is even more difficult to classify.
I think that problems occur in the world when we forget that God is all this and more. For instance, it is easy to justify violence in the middle east when one hears of God saying and eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. It is a much more difficult to justify that violence when you look to the face of your enemy and hear these words of scripture, "this is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased." How do you go to battle against God's beloved child. If we read about a wrathful God that says we must battle non-believers, then religious warfare seems easy. But again that it is only part of the story. God also tells us to turn our cheeks, love thine enemies, and that others have also heart the words of God. Suddenly today's extremist fanatics are standing on less certain ground. God is beyond our understanding. And to describe God in just one way or just another is wrong.
William and my parishoner hopefully will find that life is a journey as we seek to discover who God is. As long as we are willing to keep discovering new insights about ourselves and our God, we are doing what we have been called to do here on earth.
But when we get stuck, believe that we know everything and when we take one part of who God is and hold that to be the only true part of the holy, then we are in for trouble. Then it is too easy to misuderstand God's intentions, then we are on a road of mistakes. So let us all continue to look for God in all things.