By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
In our Jesus story (Luke 12:22-32), we find our guy talking about lilies and ravens, but what he’s really teaching is how to make room at the table for both certainty and mystery.
Consider the lilies or the birds, he said. They don’t work or strive or try to change anyone or anything around them. They simply become who God has intended them to become.
They live fully in the moment, accepting the certainty and mystery of their lives. We, too, can fully live in that certainty and mystery of life, if we’ll slow down, pay attention and deeply observe the world around us.
Those of us who love certainty will consider lilies much differently than those who enjoy mystery. Our certainty loving friends can tell us a lot about lilies – they come from a family of more than 250 genera of plants. Most of them grow from bulbs, corms, rhizomes or tubers. Lilies, they will tell us have three petals, three sepals and three or six stamen and the fruit is a three-celled capsule or a berry.
But, that tells us very little about the mystery of a lily. Mystery, theologian Matthew Fox tells us, “is that which stops us short: which touches a need deeply felt in us: which changes us by attracting us outside of our own petty worlds that we carry in our heads … to call to mind something bigger than ourselves.”
All the facts in the world about lilies will not transport us to a place of deep need within ourselves or draw us from our petty concerns, only contemplation of the lily itself can do that. To fully consider the lilies, or the birds or the grass of the field, we have to slow down. You can’t consider the lilies in passing. You have to stop and look … and look deeply — really observe the lily, be present with the lily, smell the lily, touch it, be in the moment with the lily … and be silent.
This is how we must both handle our certainty and our mystery … by being present for both … observing them deeply and knowing that they, too, are like everything in this world … impermanent, passing away before our very eyes.
It is only in this sense of holding everything in this world lightly that we can even survive. If are too certain, or too uncertain, life will overtake us. We will either become concrete in our beliefs or swept away by every new and interesting thought or doctrine. When Jesus invites us to consider the lilies and the birds, he invites us to deeply examine everything that comes before us, contemplate it and understand that it may either enrich us in the moment or not. If it doesn’t, then move on.
Earlier in this chapter of Luke, Jesus warns his followers that those who are certain about God and how God works in the world will persecute them for questioning their certainty. So, we’re told not to worry, to keep being in the moment, contemplating the beauty of the mystery around us, because it is those pursuing certainty who will wear themselves out persecuting others and trying to make the world in their own image.
Jubilants, we are called to live with an expansive sense of God, knowing that God cannot be captured by any one explanation, any one religion or any one doctrine or dogma. Instead, God defies definition. The God we must come to know is both the God of mystery and the God of the certainty. We must embrace this expansive, wild God who rises above all of our ideas about the Holy. But, we must embrace both sides of the equation and hold both our certainty and mystery lightly.