The Mystery of God – Part Two
Text: Galatians 6: 7-10
7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
Last week I introduced to you what I intend to be a series of sermons designed to help us unravel the mystery of God. I also mentioned that I believe there are clues for us that can be found in the natural world that help us understand and embrace that mystery. One way for us to think about this would be to consider that in some ways the natural world reflects the personality of God. If you know me and have been paying attention over the past few years you will recognize that to describe God as having a personality reinforces what I call an anthropomorphic image of God. This is normally something I resist. But in this case, I believe some character traits, or a personality, or perhaps even the many facets or faces of God are displayed in our natural world. These character traits help us unravel the mysteries we do not understand.
One of the mysteries I mentioned last week was a popular question about why bad things seem to happen to good people. Or more specifically, why does it seem that bad things sometimes happen to me? Why is my life turned upside down at this particular moment?
As we look to nature and the natural world for clues to help us unravel this mystery, I believe one thing we can notice right away is that the natural world runs on cycles. There are the obvious cycles of the seasons, the cycles of the moon, the cycles of tides and cycles of night and day. Our own bodies run on certain cycles; if you have ever experienced a severe case of jet lag, you know what I’m talking about!
The text I read a few minutes ago reminds us that there is a harvest time. If you read this text in a different translation, you might find the words we will find our reward in due season. All this seems to indicate that we cannot expect our lives to be in harvest time all the time; there are other seasons and we should anticipate as much.
I want to share with you another mystery found in the natural world that I think is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. This mystery has to do with the fresh water lakes and streams and rivers we have on this planet and what happens to them as the seasons change. You might remember from your junior high earth science class that a lake will turn over during the course of the seasonal change. By turn over, what is meant is that the water that has been at the bottom of the lake during the winter will rise to the surface and the surface water will sink to the bottom. So there is a shifting and a circulating of the water in the lake or stream or river. Most places on earth experience this to some degree, but any place that has freezing temperatures in the winter for certain has it happen to the fresh water in those locations.
But here are a couple of important points. One important point for us to realize is that this turn over is absolutely critical for the health of the lake. If a body of water fails to turn over it isn’t long before the water becomes stagnant and contaminated to the point where it becomes hazardous. A lake must turn over in order to stay healthy.
Another interesting point is the mystery around how the lake turns over. I can explain it, sort of, but in the big picture, it still remains a bit of a mystery. We need to begin with a lake on a nice warm summer day. If you happen to be swimming in this lake, you will notice that as you dive into the water, the water gets cooler the deeper you dive. This is because as the water gets cooler, it becomes more dense and is then heavier and so it sinks. This means the coldest water is on the very bottom of the lake.
So far, everything makes perfect sense at least in terms of how the world works. But then something really interesting happens; as the coldest water begins to reach freezing temperatures, suddenly it begins to expand. This means the coldest water, which is at the bottom of the lake, just begins to reach freezing and it then begins to expand, or become less dense. As it becomes less dense, it becomes lighter than the water around it and it floats to the surface. This is why lakes and rivers freeze from the top down and not from the bottom up.
Now science can explain this process; at least sort of. This is what a water molecule looks like in its normal state. There is one molecule of hydrogen, which the H in H2O, and there are two oxygen molecules, which of course represents the other part of H2O. In a liquid state, the oxygen molecules can slide around the hydrogen molecule and stay attached in almost any position. If you can imagine water molecules packed into a mason jar like marbles, which is sort of what it would look like. The marbles can pack in around each other and pack tightly without any wasted space.
What happens when it reaches a freezing temperature is the oxygen molecules can no longer slide around the hydrogen molecule, they begin to stick. So as the water begins to freeze, the molecules cannot pack as tightly together, they look more like Mickey Mouse ears. If you imagine the mason jar now full of Mickey Mouse ears, you can quickly realize that you could not fit as many marbles into the jar. This is the same as it becoming less dense; so it is lighter and it floats to the surface.
What I think is really fascinating is that this unique property of water actually saves the life of the planet. You see, if fresh water on this planet were to all freeze from the bottom up and consequently freeze solid in the winter, it would be the end of life as we know it on this planet. It wouldn’t be long before most of life here on earth would be destroyed.
So not only is it healthy for the lakes to turn over, it is mandatory for our survival on this planet. If lakes were not turned upside down every season, almost all life would be destroyed. That is a natural cycle. I believe that represents the intelligent design of the universe.
But I also think that we can look at that lesson and recognize that we, too are a part of nature and a part of this planet. If lakes need to be turned upside down every so often, is it possible or lives are the same way?
When we encounter hardships or defeats or struggles in our lives that seem to turn it all upside down, can we have the faith to recognize it may be a normal cycle? Can we have the faith to recognize it may be necessary for our own health? Can we have the faith to recognize that even though it feels like we are losing at the moment, the promise of scripture tells us we will reap again in due season?
I want to share an interesting story with you. I began this series last week and I already knew what today’s sermon was going to be about. On Monday of last week I outlined the bulletin and selected the text I read because I thought it fit so well with what I wanted to say about the lakes and what happens when water freezes. Then on Tuesday afternoon I began to outline my sermon. This is about the same routine I normally follow.
On Wednesday morning I listened to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. Now I don’t care who you voted for or what you personally think of Hillary. Whatever your opinion is should not diminish the fact that this was a difficult loss for her. In almost every way, her life had been turned upside down in just a few hours as the election results came in. On Wednesday morning, during her concession speech to her supporters, Hillary Clinton quoted this scripture which I had already selected for my sermon. She reminded her supporters and followers that they will reap a harvest again, in due season.
There is something important that I said last week that I wanted to remind you of again. That is the importance of knowing what is and knowing what can change. Acceptance of what is can be our greatest source of comfort and understanding. Knowing what can change can be our greatest source of hope. Sometimes when our lives get turned upside down, we can look at the lakes and recognize this may be for our benefit in the long run. We can also recognize what is, and not resist it and create more pain and suffering around it. We can also recognize what in our situation can change, and begin work on that immediately and find hope in that effort.
So I believe the cycles of nature, the way freshwater lakes and streams turn over each year and the way our own lives at times get turned upside down at times are all related. The mystery of God is partially made known to us through the cycles of nature.
And that is food for thought.