An Unlikely Pair

Scripture has a keen interest in unlikely pairs.  The pairs have a need for one another and reveal something of the other that could not be seen without the contrast.  The quiet reflection of Mary and the burdensome activity of Martha, the rebellion and return of the prodigal son and the stoic resistance of the older brother, the repentance of the greed-oriented Zacchaeus and the welcoming, forgiving spirit of Jesus are unlikely pairs that reveal much about a life of faith.  We embrace this contrast within the life of the church by placing the repentance of Lent next to the grace of Easter, the singing of worship next to the silence of prayer, and the love of God next to the love of neighbor.  Another unlikely pair that we should never separate is a life of reverence with the questions of curiosity.

Reverence and curiosity belong to one another as they reveal much about the other.  We live with reverence by practicing a life of prayer, worship, and service, but we may often ask what they reflect about God.  Why do we begin worship with quiet meditation, anchored by the background of reflective music?  Why do we say, "Thanks be to God," for the gift of scripture?  Why do we serve the poor or dedicate our children to God?  Living with reverence requires curiosity, for it widens our awe of God by deepening our understanding of God.  Practicing a holy curiosity, though, requires reverence because there are also questions that we cannot answer, and ultimately, we cannot fully understand.

In my office, I have a small stained glass depiction of the nativity scene, sitting on my bookshelf.  It shows Mary holding the infant Jesus, while Joseph stands besides her, looking over her shoulder.  When light fills stained glass, we sit in awe of such beauty, surrounded by a sense of reverence for God, as the light enters our lives and makes evident what we could not already see.  It causes a rush of silence and beckons us to sit down and pray.  In such beauty, our prayers are not filled with words because words cannot capture the fullness of reverence; instead, we just listen for the presence of the holy.

In looking upon the nativity scene that sits on my bookshelf, I can also see distinctly the lines left from soldering the lead that hold the pieces of glass together, and I can imagine the smell of the shop where the stained glass was fashioned.  It is a creative work of art, produced by human hands.  Artisans know the value of curiosity for the task of creativity, for curiosity leads to epiphanies, insights, and beauty.  When the Tabernacle was built, the Lord called Bezalel, an artisan, to use his skills of creativity to build clamps, clasps, and frames.  He positioned the poles, pillars, and altar.  It was the work of creativity and of curiosity, building the place that would house the presence of God.  While working with his hands, this artisan was filled with the Spirit of God, the first person in scripture to be described as filled with the Spirit.

Reverence and curiosity is an unlikely pair, but they belong to one another.  As our lives embody the love of God, a place where the presence of God resides, both reverence and curiosity are essential.  We need to sit in silence and to listen for the presence of God, but we also need to ask difficult questions about scripture and life.  The stained glass of our lives bears witness to our reverence, as we accept the mystery of God while also honoring the image of God embedded in the lives of others, but the stained glass of our lives also bears witness to our curiosity, asking questions that lead to epiphanies, insights, and beauty.  These questions do not demonstrate irreverence; rather, they deepen our understanding of compassion, justice, and faith, which require nothing short of reverence for God.