I received a most unusual birthday gift a year ago. I was told it was a weather stick—a twig, really—which could and would predict the outdoor weather. If mostly sunny, the stick would curve upward. If cloudy with rain or snow, the stick would change and curve in a downward arc.
A bit of research told me that the weather stick is a traditional means of weather prediction first used by some Native Americans—a bit of balsam fir or birch mounted outdoors which twists upwards in low humidity and downwards in high humidity environments. The weather stick is a rare example of a weather prediction tool which predates the mercury barometer.
I fastened this strange and innocuous looking small piece of wood to a utility pole just outside our dining room window. To my utter amazement, the thing works. It’s not terribly fast, but it does perform as advertised.
How does it know to do that? How did Native Americans discover this little piece of earth mystery? Maybe I’m too easily impressed, but I find this truly amazing!
All this is to say that I am becoming more and more comfortable with “mystery” as part of my growing and energizing faith posture. I am not a mystic or much of a contemplative. I am far too left-brained for that! But in my more logical, organized propensity (left-brained) as a Christian believer, I appreciate the vital role that contemplatives and mystics (right-brained) play in the faith journey. These days, I am more apt to read Christian writers like Richard Rohr, Barbara Brown Taylor, Diana Butler-Bass, Brian McClaren, and the late Marcus Borg. And, I read more novels--the imaginative stuff!
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote: “The root of religion is what to do with the feeling for the mystery of living, what to do with awe, wonder, and amazement…It is in the awareness that the mystery we face is comparably deeper than we know that all creative thinking begins.”
In a sermon on the 50th anniversary of my ordination two years ago, I said this:”We are surrounded by a great Mystery. Life is mystery. God is incomprehensible mystery. I am beginning to appreciate more of the mystery and contemplative nature of faith.”
Richard Rohr calls this “Falling Upward” toward the God Who is the Ground of all being. Maybe he is right. (Didn’t Paul Tillich say something very much like this 60 years ago?)
I encourage you to move more in this direction on your journey. Those of us in the Wesleyan tradition believe that contemplation and meditation leads to a passion for mercy and justice which, in turn, is precisely God’s revelation as to what faithful Kingdom living looks like. Do I hear an “Amen?”
WPA Commission on Archives and History