Lectionary: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8


It took more than six decades before I gave it much thought but when I finally clued in it became the highlight of nearly every day.

It all began when I married Cheryl and started living in a new location. My commute between home and work became a north/south route through farm country rather than the previous east/west city route. Because we were married in October I found myself on the road during the short days of winter, typically leaving home and arriving again in the dark.

Early one morning as the sky was brightening, I was drawn to the clouds above the eastern skyline. They were white horizontal wispy clouds, traced in red and streaming in a thin, horizontal flock across the sky over my left shoulder. Rising in contrast among them was a sudden perpendicular cloud that was built in a similar style, except it alone was reaching vertically from horizon to sky. I had never seen a sky like it.

That’s when it occurred to me – every cloud is different! Like snowflakes, fingerprints or DNA, each cloud has its own unique structures and patterns; the possible variations are infinite. Maybe they taught me that in fifth grade but it had totally eluded me.

Then as the commutes unfolded, another level of beauty became apparent to me. As I watched the cloud formations with new interest, uniqueness became apparent in every sunrise and every sunset I saw. Those changing clouds combined with variations of colour I didn’t know the sky could make: multiple shades of white, cream, slate and grey; blues, reds, golds and violets sometimes glowed sharply, sometimes softened gently; castings of pinks and peaches in new and subtle graduations that Van Gogh could never reproduce.

Every drive held new possibilities in the skies around me and I came to look forward to each clear day as a new reminder of the beauty and endless creativity of this part of God’s canvas.


This is what the Lord says—
    he who made a way through the sea,
    a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
    the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
    extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
    the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
    the people I formed for myself
    that they may proclaim my praise.


There are constants in God’s world, dependable things we can know for sure: the sun will rise, the sun will set, summer and winter, gravity, times of well-being, times of trouble.

In parallel with that, there is also infinite variety which invades every thing we call dependable. The tides rise and fall and the ground feels stable but if we had the right instruments we would see that they are always changing. We are even discovering that atoms act randomly and mysteriously.

As humans it seems that, just when we think we have a reliable pattern or comfort in our lives, something inevitably happens to remind us that there is no such thing as sameness or reliability.

Entropy is a scientific measure of a system’s thermal energy that is unavailable to do work. It is used to describe and measure the tendency of all things to move from order to disorder. If you own a car, make meals or have a family you know that everything is continually aging, altering and will someday devolve into components that will in turn descend into their own disorder. Think about it: everything is continually changing, including nature, our bodies and the human systems we ‘know’ to be reliable.

Entropy is often used by fundamentalists to explain their opposition to evolution, suggesting that order couldn’t have come from disorder. Fundamentalists are not just people holding contrary opinions, they truly believe a learned narrative that the past is more orderly and dependable which is why we should remain there. It also explains why fundamentalists are frustrated and threatened when the world changes around them.

You will recall that, while fighting to maintain the status quo, these conservative forces have often become the enemies of healthy new discoveries. In fact, bible believing Christians were responsible for all sorts of oddities that later evolved: convicting Galileo of heresy for his progressive ideas, the belief that the bible should not be in the hands of common people, the ‘truth’ that slavery was how God had arranged society. Unfortunately there have been times when fundamentalism has become the face of Christianity and society has always suffered when that was the case.

I admit that at some level most of us prefer order and familiar lines and don’t know how to imagine life or God outside of those lines. While the past feels solid and good for most of us the irony is that entropy always did and always will make the past irrelevant. Whether we like it or not we can’t stand still.

When it comes to things of God our lives are to extend beyond fear of change since, ‘… love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.’       – 1 John 4:18 (NLT)

I could go on for quite a while but the good news is there were always forward-facing Christians who knew entropy when they saw it and were able to imagine a new way. When I read history, especially Christian history, I am struck by how newness is built into the life of God’s world and the work of his people. Without innovation and freshness of thought, nothing worthwhile has ever happened and Christians have traditionally been innovators in science, academics, art, medicine, social activism, etc.

Staying the same is never an option: everything in nature and human organization needs to renew and rebirth and rethink. Remaining in place is to participate in slow death. Those of us who have experienced devastating personal loss understand the principle – moving ahead into unpredictable newness is never desirable or easy but it is the only option if we want to live.

Observation tells us that newness is part of God’s plan. Every yesterday gives way to Today and every Today births a new tomorrow. So in the end I am firmly in the entropy camp.

We seldom think of it this way but the story of the Cross is centred around the pre-condition of entropy followed by an innovative, unpredictable, disorderly act of God to bring newness and life to humans who were stuck in death.

Remember Isaiah’s words, speaking God’s mind:

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

God always has something new and dis-orderly springing up. Do you see it? Are you looking?

Embrace it and walk into the next new thing God has for you.

I love fluffy clouds and pink or violet coloured horizons in particular. But the new skies are unending.