Mark's Minute 

Aug 3 2017

Today’s topic: a deep theological lesson I learned from my cat, and what I’m going to do about it. Seriously. And even if you don’t like cats, you’ll want to read this post because there’s an invitation at the end I don’t want you to miss.

Let me start by addressing those of you who are in the “cats are stupid” camp. You’re wrong. And you’re a terrible person for thinking that. Sure, cats are arrogant and self-centred, but that’s what makes them endearing.

And, to be clear, I’m not taking any position on whether cats are better than dogs. That’s a false dichotomy. It’s fake news (ouch—too soon?). Put down your pitchforks and let’s talk about theology.

So, we have a cat named Hobbes (after the comic strip character, not the English philosopher who developed the social contract theory). He’s almost a year old now, and his first year of life has been exactly what you’d expect from a kitten.

Like all cats, Hobbes is incredibly curious, sometimes to his detriment. Last winter, we had a fire going in the fireplace, and you could almost see his kitten brain having this deep internal struggle: “the closer I get to this strange thing the hotter I feel, but I really want to touch that orange stuff.”

Hobbes will explore anything and everything. He’s gotten his head stuck in a Kleenex box more than once (to the amusement of all the humans in the house); he’s learned that his claws can pop a balloon; he’s explored pretty much every plastic bag we’ve ever brought home from the grocery store; he’s learned what happens when he stands in the shower when we turn the water on; and he’s figured out that his claws don’t, in fact, allow him to make sharp turns on hardwood floors. And that’s just a small sampling—who knows what he does when we’re not in the house.

And here’s the thing: even when something doesn’t turn out in his favour, he’s still gone back for more. You can’t squelch his curiosity. It doesn’t matter to him that the last time he stuck his head in the Kleenex box it got stuck: each box is a new box to be explored, and it must be explored regardless of the consequences.

Truth be told, I kind of admire that about him. I’m a fairly curious person, and I always have been. I have this insatiable desire to know how things work, and I’ve amassed a large collection of random facts about the world that I try not to talk about openly because they would show just how much of a nerd I really am.

And that’s the problem. I’m guilty of letting my fear of social stigma depress my natural curiosity. I’m worried that when I take up a new hobby, binge it for a few months, and then drop it like, um, something you drop, that I’ll be called flaky, because that’s what I’ve been called in my life.

But here’s the thing: my cat has reinforced for me the value of curiosity. Our innate curiosity reflects the image of God. Our desire to explore the world around us is driven by our quest for God himself. And inevitably every new fact I learn about the world increases my sense of awe and wonder at the God who created it all in the first place.

I think that active curiosity is an important part of Christian discipleship, and I want us to be a church that fosters a sense of curiosity, specifically about God and his word. I want us to be theologically curious. I want us to know that God is big enough to handle the big questions that we may have, even if those questions are difficult.

So, we’re going to try an experiment during the month of August, and it will only work if you’re willing to participate. When I do sermon prep every week, I ask questions of the text that I think you would ask it, and I try to explore those questions in my preaching. But I can’t address every question. What’s more, I think that a number of you listen to my preaching and it raises questions in your mind that are worth exploring.

I want you to ask those questions. And I want us to have a chance to interact with them. And guess what? We have a great forum to do that in our table discussions after the worship service.

Here’s the assignment:

  • This week, I’m preaching from Luke 8:16-21. Read that passage before Sunday, think about the questions you have about it, write them down, and bring them to church.

  • During the sermon on Sunday, use your notes sheet to write down questions that come up in your mind during the sermon.

  • While you’re eating your lunch, write those questions down on the paper that I’m going to put at your table and put them in the middle of the table. You don’t have to put your name on them if you don’t want to.

As we’re wrapping up lunch, I’ll collect the questions and we’ll work through them together. Some of them I’ll just answer; some of them will be good fodder for table discussion; and some of them will become the topic of Mark’s Minute in the following week.

I’m hoping that you’re bold enough to ask your questions because interacting with them together in community helps us all learn more about who God is and what he’s like. When we foster curious exploration of God and allow his word to be spoken in love, we grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

I can’t wait to see you this week.