Texts: Isaiah 2:1-4; Matthew 5:13-16
In nature there is an order to life. Animals know what they are born to do. Birds know how to build a nest; bears know when to find a cave for hibernation; cats know when to bathe themselves and, thankfully, how to use a litter box. It may make us squeamish, but there are natural predator-prey relationships in the animal food chain. Salmon eat insects, plankton, and small fish, and brown bears eat salmon. Creatures know how to behave instinctively. They preserve their species without harming the world they live in. It’s not all sweetness and light, for sure, but there is an order in nature that is truly miraculous. You can imagine that before that final day of creation when humans came along, the creatures of the earth went about doing their thing—crowing, mooing, running, burying, feeding themselves and their offspring in a natural, orderly sort of way.
Then God created humanity and it all fell apart. Certainly our ability to reason and act out of more than instinct is also a miraculous gift. But humans bring chaos to our world, chaos that manifests itself in everything from arguments between individuals to world wars. And unless you work really hard at being a hermit, you can’t avoid encounters with humanity. In our day-to-day lives, people are everywhere. We can’t escape them. Will Willimon, former dean of Duke Chapel, once said that that he worries when he hears seminarians say they want to work in a church because they “really love people.” His standard response is: “Have you actually met any of these people?”