I remember canoeing some years ago now on Big Mushamush Lake when we lived in Nova Scotia.
And while it was warm out, and the sun was shining, and it seemed like the perfect afternoon for nice canoe, it was also pretty windy.
And I remember wrestling mightily with the wind and choppy waves as I paddled out from shore into the middle of the large lake, to the point where I thought the canoe would certainly tip over.
I did make it safely back to shore.
But I also remember that day, seeing on the lake, a windsurfer, not far from me, managing but also struggling to keep balance and stay on his board with all the wind and waves.
He fell a couple of times, but he kept at it.
I’ve never tried windsurfing, but I’ve learned that with windsurfing, as opposed to canoeing, you need to think counter-intuitively.
With a canoe, you basically paddle in the direction you want to go.
A straight line toward your destination.
But with windsurfing, you need to be counter-intuitive.
You don’t first point the surfboard in the direction you want to go.
First, you need to figure out where the wind is blowing from, and then start off going in that direction, regardless of where you ultimately want to end up, even though it may first lead you farther away from you intended destination.
And then, once the wind is successfully blowing you along the water and you’re speedily racing along in the direction its blowing, only then do you start slowly and gradually to turn the board in the direction you want to go.
Windsurfers will talk about this as a counterintuitive understanding of sailing, realizing you may need to take a long circuitous route back toward your destination.
Today’s Gospel reading about some of the teachings of Jesus is very counterintuitive.
Small is really big.
Small beginnings can create great outcomes.
A tiny seed can grow into a mammoth tree.
Just a small bit of yeast, can cause amazing growth.
And what’s more, Jesus used familiar, every-day, down-to-earth, ordinary things, in order to talk about sacred, divine, spiritual things, the Reign of God, and wisdom for living.
Seeds. Trees. Birds. Branches. Yeast. Bread. Fish. Nets.
People who visit the Holy Land today, and walk around the shores of Lake Galilee where Jesus did much of his teaching and storytelling over two thousand years ago, can still see today fisher people in boats using the fishing methods in Jesus’ day – with the wide throw-and-drag net.
Or as they hike through the fields around the lake, keeping in mind the Parable of the Sower which we heard last week – you know the Sower sowing seeds in patches of thorns, and stones – they can see so obviously see today large patches thorns, and stones, and hard packed pathways, and also rich, foamy soil in which seeds can germinate.
It’s so easy to imagine Jesus standing there with the crowds, and as he’s speaking, he’s looking around, noticing, and using what’s so visible and familiar to his listeners right there and then, to share spiritual truth and wisdom.
I think it’s also really interesting and significant that the language in which much of the New Testament was written, was in the informal Greek…
…idioms of everyday speech
…the “street-language” of the day
…the language in which people did their shopping, talked with their friends, worried about world affairs, and taught their children their table manners.
This may catch us by surprise.
Wouldn’t we have assumed intuitively that the “sacred scriptures” of Christianity would be written in the formal Greek, in the elevated, stately and ceremonial Greek used to write philosophy, history, government decrees and epic poetry… with its learned vocabulary and precise diction?
But no. Not the New Testament. Curious.
All of this helps us realize, counter-intuitively, that God is not far away, in some far-flung, sacred, elevated universe, but rather can be glimpsed on earth, on the ground, in the midst of our daily business, as we go about mending fishing nets, farming our land, baking bread in our kitchens.
God is close to us, in our small, local, and mundane lives, as we go about forgiving others, righting wrongs, offering help and care, respecting and dignifying others.
All of this goes against the grain of our typical thinking.
It’s counter-intuitive. Counter-cultural.
I loved learning about how a certain church in the Vancouver area – Southside Church – was wrestling with the question of how to connect better with its surrounding neighbourhood, so it wouldn’t be seen as such “fortress” totally isolated from what was going on around the church building.
Southside Church, and many churches these days, are coming to realize, counter-intuitively, that faith and spirituality needs to be lived out – not merely in the confines of church buildings and sanctuaries, not reserved merely for the special Sunday-morning feeling of spending an hour in a particular “sacred”-looking space – but instead, is to be lived out in all its fullness in the ordinary ebb and flow of our daily schedules, relationships, homes and communities.
And so, instead of taking the typical approach of trying to “attract” or “bring people into the doors” of the church…
Southside counter-intuitively reversed this thinking, and asked instead: “How can we as core members of this church get out there with our faith, move beyond the walls of our building, and live out our spirituality in the community, in our homes, at work, on the street?
And so, Southside Church eventually helped create what came to be “The Great Big Pig Gig”, an annual street festival.
Once every year, the street beside the church building was closed for the day.
A huge spit was set up in the middle, and a whole pig was barbecued.
Children’s play areas with games and activities were set up.
And all the while, the savoury aroma of the roasting pig wafted along the street and into the neighbouring homes and streets.
People came out of their homes and apartments to see what was happening.
Conversations began and relationships were kindled.
And over time, the relationship between the church, and its neighbourhood, was strengthened.
Some real good started to happen, for both church and neighbourhood.
Something small, can turn into something big. Counter-intuitive thinking.
May God continue to open our eyes and hearts to discover where the Spirit of God may be blowing, often in ways we’d hardly have expected.