I have to duck every time I leave our house. This is because there is a spider web across the top of the front door. If we had a storm door (which we don’t) then our coming and going would have already knocked down the web. Instead, it just seems to keep getting bigger. Christine once tried to take the web down, but the spider has enough bugs captured for an all-an-arachnid-can-eat buffet and probably won’t be vacating the web anytime soon. I have taken down part of the web by forgetting to duck and walking into it. (Pulling spider silk off the eyeglasses is not a great way to start the day.) The spider always makes the needed repairs. We figure Mother Nature will take care of the web at some point—probably during a blizzard. However, I am neither an expert on spiders nor the owner of a crystal ball. This means I don’t know exactly how long that process will take. In the meantime, I duck when I leave the house.
My purpose in including the story of the spider web is to demonstrate something I believe and find important to share with our church family. That is: God has a wisdom built into nature. Indeed, one can make the case that God’s built-in wisdom is what drives the books in the Bible we categorize as Wisdom Literature forward. (The Wisdom books in our Bible are the Old Testament books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and certain psalms. I also classify the New Testament book of James as Wisdom Literature thanks to the professor who taught the course that I took in seminary on the Wisdom Literature.) According to those books, a big part of life is figuring out what God is saying through our experiences and then aligning ourselves with whatever we find God saying through a process of trial and error. Sometimes this goes well, as in the case of King Solomon, whom my professor referred to as “Wisdom Guy” (1 Kings 9:29-34). Sometimes this does not go well, as in the case of Job, who never gets any answers to his questions about why the righteous suffer in general and why he suffers in particular (Job 42:1-6).
In our relationship as pastor and people together, we are exploring the edges of the trial-and-error phase, which means we need to seek God’s wisdom and align ourselves with it. (We would normally be deep into the trial-and-error phase by this point, but the pandemic has disrupted that “normal” process.) Here are some beliefs I share here because I believe they can help us as we move deeper into relationship.
• God has a plan for this congregation, but—as with so many of God’s plans—it isn’t laid out on a clear road map; however, there are certain roads we must take (non-negotiables) along the way.
• God’s word…the Bible…the Holy Scriptures can help us find both the plan and the non-negotiables. We cannot take our focus off God’s word.
• To find God’s plan for this congregation, we need to try different things. Sometimes we will succeed and end up like Solomon. Sometimes we will not succeed and end up like Job. Adaptability is the key to keeping our courage up.
• Whether we succeed or not in a particular experiment we always have God and we always have each other. (This was true of both Solomon and Job.)
That brings me back to the spider web across the top of our front door. The spider web will stay there for however long God (acting as Mother Nature) intends. Our trial-and-error methods for removing the spider web have not yet succeeded. In the meantime, I am adapting by remembering to duck to let God’s plan go forward so that—for as long as God intends—our family and the spider can live together and God will continue to do what God does. That is to make, sustain, and change relationships in the holy wisdom that God possesses and into which God invites us to live.
Live as children of light!
Pastor Scott Paradise