Barbara Kingsolver’s new book Flight Behavior takes on, in heavy-handed fashion, the 21st century problems of global warming and environmental degradation everywhere on our planet. She also more subtly writes about the age-old problems of rich versus poor, educated versus uneducated, social intelligence versus academic smarts, rural versus urban.
It was near the novel’s end that Kingsolver wrote something I have never thought about before, and then the same idea was echoed in this past Sunday’s sermon by a guest preacher from Alabama, the Rev. David Hall. Kingsolver’s main character in Flight Behavior, the fancifully named Dellarobia, has wondered all her life why the answer to her life’s greatest difficulties has always been that “God moves in mysterious ways”. She realizes with some astonishment near the end of the book that God doesn’t move. It’s God’s people who are moving. In Kingsolver’s book, and in reality, many would argue, some people are heedlessly moving to destroy God’s creation, and others moving to save it.
…everything else is in motion while God does not move at all. God sits still, perfectly at rest, the silver dollar at the bottom of the well, the question. (p. 350)
The Rev. Hall talked about a Homiletics professor who advised his students to re-examine difficult texts. God’s wisdom is unmoving, the professor said, but sometimes people need to move around that wisdom a second (or third or fourth…) time to unlock its meaning. I had that very experience with Sunday’s final hymn, Come, labor on. A favorite hymn of mine, long ago making my funeral music plan (and quite unintentionally sending a little message to Congress to get their act together and re-open the government so that people could indeed labor on). I don’t know how many times I’ve sung and/or played that hymn, but new wisdom from the text jumped out at me as I played and sang it on Sunday… No arm so weak, but may do service here (Hymn 541, verse 3). I had just never focused on those particular words before, but I appreciate the sentiment that all can serve God, no matter how unimportant they might consider their service. The words had always been there, but I had moved around them enough times to finally hear that kernel of wisdom.
If we are able to see God’s wisdom as a complete and central foundation for our lives we might try to move around that wisdom more thoughtfully, uncovering bits of it, finding those truths that have been patiently awaiting our discovery and collective remembering.