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PRESERVING GOD’S WONDER

PRESERVING GOD’S WONDER

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! ?”For who has known the mind of the Lord??Or who has been his counsellor?”  “Or who has given a gift to him,?to receive a gift in return?” ?For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.
Romans 11:33-36

I wonder!  I am filled with wonder!  I wonder at the dove outside my window this morning.  How does she know how to build her nest in the tree?  How did she know how to secure the nest’s  foundation against the wind?  How does she know to gather just the right materials for the nest’s strength and flexibility?  How does she know how to care for and feed her babies when they hatch?  How did she know to migrate here from Mexico in May?  How did she find her way?  How did that hummingbird fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico to our back yard?  There are so many, many things I wonder at.  I am still wondering at the luminous full moon that shone through this window last night.

There must be tens of thousands of things that would make anyone wonder today.  There are sunrises and sunsets, paraplegics running marathons, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and the structure of a crystal.

But do we wonder at God?  Do we find His grace amazing?  Does the Almighty One’s glory strike us as glorious?  Do we ever fall down before Him?   Does His holiness ever render us speechless?

In the midst of World War II Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to students in his underground seminary at Finkenwalde and to fellow German pastors who opposed Hitler.  In his letter Bonhoeffer pleaded for them to practice wonder at God:

What a mistake it is to think that it is the task of theology to unravel God’s mystery, to bring it down to the flat, ordinary wisdom of experience and reason!  It is the task of theology solely to preserve God’s wonder as wonder, to understand, to defend, to glorify God’s mystery as mystery (A Testament to Freedom).

Are we preserving God’s ‘wonder as wonder’?  Are we ‘glorifying God’s ‘mystery as mystery’?  Or, do we think we have God figured out?  Has the Mighty One ceased to amaze us?  I wonder if the biggest problem facing the church in America today is our loss of wonder at God?  Have we made His worship our entertainment?

A generation earlier than Bonhoeffer, the great Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield also warned the church about the danger of losing her wonder at God:

The words which tell you of God’s terrible majesty or of his glorious goodness may come to be mere words to you—Hebrew and Greek words, with etymologies, inflections and connections in sentences. The reasonings which establish to you the mysteries of his saving activities may come to be to you mere logical paradigms, with premises and conclusions, fitly framed, no doubt, and triumphantly cogent, but with no further significance to you than their formal logical conclusiveness…It is your great danger… It is all in danger of becoming common to you!   God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God! (Union Seminary Magazine, Volume 24, “The Religious Life of Theological Students”)

Centuries ago Socrates noted, “Wisdom begins in wonder”.  Ralph Waldo Emerson thought wonder, “the seed of science”.  Einstein joined in, saying, “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead”.  Do we pause in our day to wonder at God, to stand rapt in awe at His wisdom, at His love?  Karl Barth suggested that any minister or theologian who had ceased to wonder at God should pack it in and find a profession more suitable to his head and heart.

In today’s Scripture text the “theologians’ theologian”, the Apostle Paul, is swept up in awe-filled wonder at God.  After writing eleven chapters proclaiming God’s saving grace, Paul acknowledges that God is “unsearchable” and “inscrutable” in all His ways.  Then Paul’s humble amazement at that which is beyond His ability to understand becomes the threshold of worship:

For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory for ever.  Amen.

Lord, help us preserve Your wonder as wonder, and your mystery as mystery!

Grace and peace (beyond our understanding),
Tim

FOR REFLECTION

  • What has stirred wonder in you today?  What thoughts stir within you as you wonder?  What feelings?  Savor these moments of wonder.
  • What is it about God that stirs wonder in you today?   Savor these thoughts and feelings about God.  What do you want to say to God about all this?
  • Take some moments each day to let yourself be in wonder about God, or His creation.

photo by Kenneth Cole Schneider

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