Of Blood Moons, Strandbeests, and Childlike Wonder

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

Did you see the lunar eclipse of the blood moon? According to ABC News, #bloodmoon was trending on Twitter, and “Blood Moon Parties” were popping up all over the country. In an ABC News clip, science teacher Gene Ireland called the blood moon eclipse “a wonder of nature.”

Wow. “A wonder of nature.”

Do you remember wonder? It often seems as if children are the ones who have a corner on the wonder market. When Dutch visionary Theo Jansen took his Strandbeests to New England, the children in the crowds were enthralled by the lifelike movements of these creatures—creatures which Jansen crafts using PVC pipes, connected together with plastic ties and powered by the wind.

“What is it that brings out the child in us when we see these objects?” CBS news anchor Jamie Wax asked when he interviewed Jansen. Jansen replied,

For a child, life is new, right? Every experience is new and, if you see something new, you forget you’ve grown up, and the child comes back.

Children don’t have a corner on the wonder market. Adults can be filled with wonder too! But so many of us lose our sense of expectancy and fall into the same stuff, different day sort of thinking. As Christians, we can do better. We say we believe in a God who parted the Red Sea, a savior who walked on water, and a Holy Spirit who lives in us. How is it even possible then to lose our sense of wonder? Instead, we can stand and remind the world of God’s wonderful proclamation that he is making all things new.

In the very first chapter of Ecclesiastes, the Teacher betrays his own lack of wonder. His words are full of short-sighted whining and blustery negativity:

There’s nothing new on this earth.
Year after year it’s the same old thing.
Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”?
Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story. (Ecc. 1:9, 10, MSG)

Talk about a killjoy. “Same old, same old” doesn’t square up with the expectancy of wonder.

Dr. Mary Catherine Bateson says it like this:

[W]hen you go from wonder to a religious context, shared worship, something like that, it takes the form of praise. And in spite of the huge differences in other aspects of the traditions … praise is central in all of them.

Walter Brueggemann explores similarities between Psalm 85 and Isak Dinesen’s classic story, Babette’s Feast. Brueggemann quotes an exchange between General Loewenhielm, a guest at a decadent feast, and Martine, one of the hosts of the feast. In this exchange, both the General and Martine assert that “in this world anything is possible.” And then, Walter Brueggemann offers this thoughtful observation:

The entire exchange [between the General and Martine] … is all an act of forward-looking expectation for newness that God will give.

… I wondered, how do we maintainers of the status quo resist such poetic possibility? And the answer is, we resist by memo. We resist by flat, one-dimensional thinking and settled certitude … And playful possibility as a gift from God is thereby nullified, because we are satisfied or we are in despair or we are propelled by anxiety. In the poetry of the Psalm, there is no self-satisfaction, no despair, no anxiety, only generous self-yielding to this transformative convergence of heaven and earth.

People around the world sat transfixed by the spectacle of the blood-red moon eclipsed by the shadow of the earth because we glimpsed this “transformative convergence of heaven and earth.” This is wonder. This is forward-looking expectation for newness.

Wonder grounds itself in things that are bigger than us. Wonder moves us to the edges of our collective seats in anticipation of something we have never seen or imagined. Wonder is the spark of creative anticipation that awakens our spirits to the truth—“in this world, anything is possible.”