Sunday, April 13, 2008

Your Inner Fish

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Sunday, April 13, 2008
John 10:1-10

The belief that we human beings are descended from apes is widespread. Now, I find this belief to be ridiculous, but there are many people who think that our Christian belief that humans were created by God from the ground to be ridiculous.

If you look at an ape you see similarities between them and us. And of course, scientists like to remind us that our DNA is something like ninety-eight percent the same. So even if you find the belief ridiculous you can at least have some sense of how some people could believe that.

But it gets even more interesting than that. A scientist recently wrote a book telling how we descended from something lower than apes. That it goes way way back, 3.5 billion years ago. That not only do we have a lot in common with apes, but most organisms, including fish, insects, worms, yeast, and bacteria. The details are different, but we all share the same basic plan. For example, teeth, feathers, and breasts all develop from basic interactions between layers of skin; like worms, our bodies are segmented—not only obvious things like our vertebrae, but also the way nerves are organized; invertebrates like a worm don’t have backbones, but they do possess a stiffening line of nerves down the back.

The book was written because of a discovery that has been made. It was a fish-like creature that is a step toward the elusive missing link. It was more a “fishapod,” a transitional species between fish and four-limbed, land-living tetrapods, which means having four limbs. The name of the book is Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body.

So there you have it. You are descended from a fish. And when you look around you and see any animal or look through a microscope and glimpse tiny organisms, you can make a family tree. Not only are the people you were descended from your ancestors but also fish.

Or, what you could do is listen to another person’s take on your identity. It’s just as crazy and probably more offensive. While the belief that God is the creator of human beings—and that we were created intact, not through evolution—sounds ridiculous to those who don’t believe that God is the sole creator, what Jesus says about who we are is outright offensive to them. But even more importantly, it is offensive to us. That is, it is offensive to our sinful nature.

While there are scientists out there who are telling you that you’ve come from a fish, Jesus tells you that you’re a sheep. Where’s the dignity in that? Sheep are often thought to be dumb animals. They actually have a certain level of intelligence, but we do have to admit that it’s pretty stupid to go along with the herd without knowing why, especially when it can lead to danger. And the Bible points out that we all like sheep have gone astray. A sheep will take the opportunity to get out of the fence even though it means it will not be in the safety of the fold.

Many who hear this would just as soon believe that they’ve come from apes, or a fishapod, having evolved. The author of the book on evolution refers to our inner fish. But when we look at God’s Book, He refers to our inner flesh. The Bible calls it our sinful flesh. The belief that we are the result of evolution is the belief that God is not our creator. It is the belief that we don’t need God because we got here without Him. That’s what our sinful flesh is all about. It is about living as if God doesn’t exist. Sadly, there are a good number of people who don’t believe that God exists.

But what our Lord says to us is really not about what all those people out there believe. He wants them to believe in Him, of course. He sent His Son to die for them. But when He talks about us being sheep, He’s talking to those of us who do believe in Him. Who do believe that He created us. That we’re not just a cosmic accident. So what does He mean, then, by insulting us by calling us sheep?

Well first of all, He’s not insulting us. He tells us things the way they are, and that’s really what we need to hear. We need to hear not only that He has created us but that we have decided to stray from Him. We’ve seen that tear in the fence and have decided that our fur is thick enough to protect us from getting cut by wriggling through the fence.

We’ve seen our neighbor in need but look out beyond our pasture to activities that are more comfortable and enjoyable to us; wriggling through that fence with rationalizations of too many things going on, and leaving our neighbor to fend for himself. We’ve taken God’s good gift of marriage and have managed to redefine it as a quaint custom, or even just a religious custom, thereby giving us license to fantasize about those who we aren’t married to. We’ve come to the knowledge that others have gotten in trouble and have immediately assumed the worst of them rather than putting the best construction on what they’ve done. We have let our frustrations get the best of us at times and have not treated our parents with the respect due them. And in all of this we have placed our sinful flesh at the forefront of our lives, placing our selfish desires before God our Creator.

We haven’t evolved, we’ve devolved. We took the good gifts from our Creator and threw them away, choosing instead to make ourselves as our own gods. We like sheep looked beyond the Garden of Eden to what looked like greener pastures, only to find ourselves in a sin-infested swamp.

Sheep aren’t going to rescue themselves. They need a shepherd. Jesus is our Shepherd. Our bleating and crying reaches His ears. He knows us by name. And we know who He is. We know who He is because He leaves His eternal mansion of glory and comes through the door of the sheepfold. He comes to where we are and feeds us with His Body and Blood.

And when we stray? He leaves the fold and comes out to find us. He is the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd has laid His life down for His sheep. Jesus suffered on the cross as if He Himself were the one who has gone astray, as if He Himself were the one whose life was infested with sin. He has saved us from ourselves, our sinful flesh. You have no inner fish, you have only new life in Christ. You are Baptized. You are a new creation. Your Good Shepherd created you and has redeemed you. You will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.



Karla said...

Paul Willweber! How are you?!

rev.will said...

Is this Karla Lehman??? I'm doing well, thanks! And how are you?! Say, one thing I think about now and then is reading The Stand. Remember that? One day I will read that book and let you know.

Karla said...

Yes Will, it's me! I found you from Lauren and Lloyd Sommerer's blog, who have a link to Todd Peperkorn's blog, and you commented on the birth of the latest kiddo back in January... Whew! Did you follow all that?
I don't know if you clicked on my profile - that will take you to our blog for our daughter Anna (unless you did that already).
Of course I remember The Stand! I still believe it is one of Stephen King's best books and you need to do yourself the favor of reading it. From time to time I remember late night sledding. We don't have any good hills around here. It's sad.
I read your sermon from last week - when did you get to be such a good writer? Good work! ;)

rev.will said...

Hi Karla:

Yes, I had clicked on your profile but had to be sure. ;-) Great to hear from you! Yeah, I think about the late night sledding now and then also. Some of the best times! Don't do much of that anymore. Okay, I don't do any of that anymore. Fortunately, I get to go skiing usually once a year and that's fun too.
Yes, I was wondering how you stumbled upon my blog, and yes, you explained very nicely. I'll have to check out the Sommerer's blog as well. Your daughter is a little cutie. As to The Stand, I *will* get to it one day but have a few on my plate right now that I 'need' to get to. And as to my writing, thank you, I enjoy it a lot. And, well, I'll also answer your question--by doing a lot of writing. And to bring this together with Stephen King, I actually *have* read one of his books: On Writing. Excellent. It was part autobiography and part what the title said. That was the part I really enjoyed and I can say that I have become a better writer through some of his advice.
Great to "talk" to you and hope you and your family are doing well!