Mystery

Steven Bouma-Prediger

You can’t tell me there is no mystery
It’s everywhere I turn

So sings Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn in a new song. In a world of car bombs and train wrecks, global warming and frozen relief funds, it is, however, all too easy to miss the mystery. Mystery is anything but obvious. It doesn’t seem to be everywhere we turn. More likely these days everywhere we turn we find weeping and wailing evoked by violence and injustice. Just read any morning newspaper. Or watch the evening news. Or listen to family and friends. The only undeniable mystery is the mystery of evil, all too overpowering and omnipresent.

The mystery of which Cockburn sings is not, however, the mystery of evil. It is the mystery of grace, as evident in his second-tolast stanza:

This feast of beauty can intoxicate
Just like the finest wine

This morning I watched yet another breathtaking sunrise here in southwestern Michigan. Shades of light then darker pink laced the stratus clouds slung low on the eastern horizon. NatureGrowing brighter, the clouds lit up with darker hues of red and orange, the colors seeping across an ever-widening arc from the unseen sun. And on my walk to work I spied a huge hawk (red-tailed or coopers, it was too dark for me to tell) perched triumphantly on a large branch seventy feet up an aged oak in the center of the college campus where I teach. I quickly ran and got a raptor expert who identified it as a female red-tailed hawk he had seen there before. Plump and obviously well-fed, with white breast feathers waving in the wind, this creature caused us to gaze in wonder at so beautiful a sight. This world, not withstanding the violence we observe, is a feast of beauty that can intoxicate.

As all good Christian theology reminds us, mystery is not a puzzle to be solved but a reality before which we bend in awe and wonder, especially in the presence of that Mystery who is our Maker and Redeemer. And as that theology also reminds us, this grace is both special and common: evident in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, and manifest for those with the eyes to see in sunrises and hawks, earthworms and pine trees, rippling rivers and stormy seas. Indeed, as the Apostle Paul proclaims in Colossians, the One who makes peace through his blood is the same One in whom all things hang together. Our Redeemer is our Creator.

Cockburn concludes his song:

So all you stumblers who believe love rules
Stand up and let it shine

Stumblers who believe love rules. That is a succinct summary of who we Christ-followers are. We are stumblers, truth be told. We stagger and stumble through life, often doing things we know we should not and not doing things we know we should. So we need, and in our more lucid moments ask for, forgiveness. Forgiveness–that fraternal twin of love. The embodiment of authentic love–that which marks us as the people of God.

So, yes, we are stumblers, but who believe love rules. We believe Love reigns. Beyond the bloodshed in the daily news, Love rules. Despite piles of trash and square miles of dead lakes, Love rules. Over and above our own and others’ selfishness and foolishness, Love rules. And we are called to bear witness to that Love. In a world distracted by the latest techno-gadget or numb from senseless suffering or cynical that anything could ever be different, we are called to stand up and let it shine. For you can’t tell me there is no Mystery. It’s everywhere we turn.

Steven Bouma-Prediger teaches in the Religion Department at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.