May 28, 2014
Many cultures around the world have traditions regarding mischievous, imaginary creatures that cause havoc. Some call them gremlins or elves, leprechauns, pixies, brownies, and in Hawaii, they call them Menehunes. They tend to be blamed for all of the strange mysterious events that surround us. I have some that live in my house. Ellen occasionally has to clear out our plastic container cupboard because the lids and the bottoms cease to match. I can only make sense of this profound mystery by assuming that a gremlin lives in our house that eats the bottoms or the tops of our containers. Why he (she?) never eats the bottom AND the top of the same container is beyond me! I don’t think the plastic consuming gremlin is the same as the sock eating gremlin that lives in our dryer downstairs… but I can’t be sure. Many years ago when I was in the service in Hawaii I had a REALLY cool pair of two tone shoes with platform soles… I know, I know… not so cool now. Anyway, I really liked them. And then one day they just disappeared! There was no explanation. I wasn’t married yet so I couldn’t blame Ellen. But now I know! Somewhere in Hawaii is a hippie Menehune with an awesome pair of shoes!
Well the notion of mystery is certainly a part of the Christian faith. There are many unanswerable questions, or questions that have unsatisfactory answers. You know… things like, “Where did God come from?” or Genesis 4: 17 Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.
19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. 22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of[g] bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.
Wait, wait wait… where did the wives come from? And there are dozens and dozens of other examples of mysteries in the Bible and in the faith.
I taught at a prep school north of Boston, MA many years ago. The school still had a religion department and required that the students take some religion course during their time there. Very few of the kids were Christian so they spent most of their time trying to “embarrass” me by asking question that had no good answer. Finally I began to ask them about the things they believed. Usually it went something like this, “So, what do you believe then?” “Well, I believe that at some point many billions of years ago the entire universe was the size and weight of a very dense soft ball and a huge explosion occurred. That explosion created all of the stars and planets in the Universe. Then evolution took over and…” Then I would ask: “So, where did the softball come from?” Well of course their answer had to be “I don’t know it just always was.” I would then explain (without being smug I hope) that no matter what we say we believe there are areas of mystery. We cannot avoid it and we cannot explain it all away. So, should we in the Christian faith “fear” mystery? Of course not! Our own theology ought to inform us that God is so vast and so complicated that there simply have to be areas that we cannot and will not understand or be able to explain. So, what to do, what to do?
Well it makes sense to me that we simplify things when they get too complicated. If someone asks what a transmission on a car is, I would not begin by telling them about how all the gears mesh together or what a torque converter is. It might be simpler to begin with “the transmission ‘transmits’ power from the engine to the wheels.” If further explanation is necessary it might take place in baby steps. I think the same is true of the faith. It might be simpler to begin with “Jesus said he was God… what do you think of that?”
John 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
John 10:30 I and the Father are one.”
John 14:11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.
It helps to “demystify” mysteries when we can talk about things that we can grasp to some degree. Discussing eternity and the things of eternity can be very frustrating and unfruitful. Begin with the things you know… your own story. Talk about what Jesus means to you and how your relationship with Him has changed your life. Because when we talk about Jesus, we talk about God.
1 Peter 3:15 says: But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.