Today we get the wonderful story of Philip and Nathanael’s calling. I love Nathanael, partially because he is such a natural skeptic. That may sound strange to say – who would want to idealize someone skeptical of our Lord and Savior? I am not saying we should try to be more like Nathanael – I am saying we already are like Nathanael. Somewhere deep inside of us, in places we don’t like to talk about, all of us have a little dose of skepticism about our faith. Just think about the last time someone really tried to challenge you on your faith – the truth is, our story, the story of our faith is pretty fantastic and hard for our 21st-century minds to believe. Nathanael’s skeptical and ultimately sarcastic tone can be found in all of us.
That is why we celebrate Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Born in 1874, Chesterton was one of the intellectual giants of his day. He was a writer of different genres, but he eventually focused on the defense of “orthodoxy” – the acknowledgement of the mystery and paradox of Christian faith in an age of increasing skepticism. His writings utilized both his wit and religious fervor, and he often satirized those who saw faith as irrational and unnecessary. Chesterton influenced many of the greats, like C.S. Lewis and Ernest Hemingway.
What both Chesterton and Jesus do today is a little light ribbing. They tease those around them, who presume to know something about a God who, at the end of the day, is quite mysterious. They remind others of their finitude and their limited knowledge, reminding them not to get too “puffed up” with their own assumptions.
I don’t think Chesterton or Jesus Christ are sending us a message to tear us down – quite the opposite, actually. God endowed us with great minds that God expects us to use – much like Chesterton did. But God also wants us to held in tension with our gifts a sense of humility and wonder. Only when we hold our power and our humility in tension can we begin to fully engage the mystery of God and then share that mystery with others. Amen.