There are always easier ways to get things done. Cutting sod with a machine might have been easier this morning but it was good for this preacher to sweat. Jerry Manney used to tell me, "It’s hard on a preacher to sweat." He may have enjoyed watching me move grass this morning. Dad needed some sod moved to make room for their new hot tub. I was off and thought I could get it done in the cool of the morning. I have since learned I have a free pass to the hot tub. I came out just fine.
I thought about what it takes to transplant grass. We have some bare ground under a tree that needs to be re-sod. I brought the grass home and found a place to "transplant" the grass. I will continue to water the sod until it takes root. I will trim the trees to eliminate some of the shade that likely killed the grass that once occupied the space. Just a month ago, I thought the mowing was over and the grass either dead or nearly dormant. A good rain or two and the mower is still necessary and the grass is green once again. Amazing how our Creator designed the earth.
I rounded the corner of my parents house with a load of sod and music from the ipod filling my ears. Looking up I saw a woman and a couple of young girls. Each of them held a bible. My first suspicions were confirmed. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I recall the tactic of bringing children along to lower the guard of would-be converts. Once while in college an older woman hid behind our shrubs and thrust a young boy onto our porch. He was to deliver the AWAKE. Surely no adult would tell a young boy to "Get lost." Why weren’t these girls in school? That may be for another post. If you did not pick up on my allusion to manipulation then you may not want to read further.
Our conversation was brief. The current project for this group centered around the reading of the bible. I confirmed that I read the bible often and they let me to my work without so much as offering me one of their magazines. Earlier I had spotted their counterparts, a couple of men. They must have taken the other side of the street. Not long after my first conversation ended I rounded the corner of the house again with a load of sod and music from the ipod still filling my head. They spotted me. I thought I had avoided an uneasy confrontation. My past experiences inform me of the near futility at a healthy conversation. I recall a dear lady at our church concerned about the recent conversion to Jehovah’s Witness she asked if I would make a visit. We made two such visits. In some ways they went well and in others it was near disaster.
The older gentleman approached while the younger man stayed a good six feet away. It was apparent he was learning by observation. We stood next to my truck. The "Witness" knew to find some way to enter the conversation so he commented on my truck and accurately identified the model year. I told him I had encountered a few folks from his group earlier. It was his wife. He began by telling me again they were out encouraging folks to read the bible. A special edition of his magazine offered a way to learn about the Creator. He had one left but was not giving it up. His last one hung on another door down the street.
I confess to feeling a bit put upon since I had already shared a brief encounter. I sensed the man needed to give his apprentice some experience observing. I looked like a good target. You could smell me ten feet away and that may have meant I needed connecting to my Creator more than others. He asked if I read the bible and I confirmed I did. There is little use telling them I am a pastor. What happened next is still amusing to me. We talked about "Creation" and the order of things. I found it odd that he wanted me to read the bible and then he immediately wanted to tell me we could not trust the word "day" in Genesis. Understand, I have not problem if "day" means 24 hours nor do I have trouble if it means an "era, period of time, thousand years, etc." (I realize I just lost some of my readers.)
I asked the gentleman if it mattered if "day" were 24 hours or if it were a longer period of time. He said it absolutely mattered because we needed to undermine evolution. Do you yet see my quizzical look? You see, dear reader, the fellow was not offering support of a 24 hour day and a young earth. No, instead he was telling me of the speed of light because science tells us it takes "light" years for "light" to travel and if God said, "Let there be light", then it may well have taken "light years" for said light to illuminate the planet. Creative I thought. When I asked about why it mattered he said because he puts his trust in Hebrews 3:4, and of course he looked it up in his handy bible and read it to me. "(For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)"
My reply seemed to catch him a bit off guard. While he proof-texted a verse to say God built all things, to which I did not disagree, he did not know what to do when I told him I put my trust in Jesus. He promptly went down the anti-Trinitarian road and referred to Jesus as the "first of God’s creation." I quickly told him we would disagree from here on as he denied the Trinity, the Creeds of the Church, the confession of Jesus himself and the witness of the very Scriptures he held in his hands. He seemed to agree Jesus connects us with the Father but is certainly not God. He referred to John 1:17, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
We agreed and I asked why he avoided John 1:1. He seemed surprised I would use one of their favorite texts. Of course, he wanted to talk about Jesus being a God as though the lack of the definite article is always required. In fact, had he not decided it time to go we would have talked about the lack of a definite article in John 1 referencing the beginning. It should read, "In beginning" as opposed to "In the beginning." I digress. Once he would not continue, I became a bit emboldened.
I just finished the chapter on Lyotard in James K.A. Smith’s, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? The bumper sticker, as Smith refers to it, for Lyotard is, "Postmodernism is incredulity toward metanarratives." Without laboring too hard, let me oversimplify. According to Smith, Lyotard sought to undermine the rationalist/scientific metanarrative because it had not means of self-legitimization. Putting one’s trust in the rational self/science required one to put faith in the legitimizing story/narrative/myth created by science in order to find legitimacy. I confess, I may not have all of that right. But, this came to mind when in today’s conversation.
Why you ask? It seemed odd to me a person would ask me to exert faith in something to which he must first base it upon his own reasoned approach. The story I had to believe was that evolution needed defeat. Yet, he bought modern dating methods and referred to the speed of light with such conviction he thought it necessary to accommodate Scripture to his story/narrative. My problem, he got the cart before the horse. If connection with the Creator is a matter of trust, then I needn’t trust myself, nor my unaided reason for faith’s discovery. Synthesizing scientific discovery with a reading of the Scripture may prove something to someone, but for me, believing precedes understanding. If I read it right, Smith argues this the Augustinian approach.
In my own tribe, it appears necessary to convince someone, anyone, of the inerrancy of Scripture; for some it is a first tier doctrine. I then must spend an inordinate amount of time "reasoning" to a position that admittedly is troublesome (no one really agrees on just how to define inerrancy). I left the conversation convinced of at least one thing. If I depend on my reason to grasp the mind, heart and movement of God, I will eventually place my understanding above the need to trust/exercise faith in Jesus. My faith will become a matter of lining up the text just right rather than lining up with Jesus just right. Some may think this an unnecessary polarization. I simply think it a natural result of an unnatural emphasis upon my ability to put it all together so as to avoid all tensions and uncertainty. I would rather live with a great deal of trust, tension and even doubt than with a certainly based mostly upon a misplaced trust in my own ability to reasonably grasp God.
In the end, I will have to trust the work of the Spirit. Jesus said i will need the Spirit to know truth – Jesus being Truth. The Apostle Paul asserted I would only understand some things, spiritual things, via the mediation of the Spirit. Confidence is preferred to certainty when my certainty is based on a story/narrative/myth without legitimization. Read Smith’s piece on Lyotard and see if you do not find some value in Postmodernism – you may need to take its critique to church.