The Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable, but an iceberg proved the engineers wrong. A deceptively small piece of ice, but with a further nine-tenths hidden beneath the surface…
The apostle Paul sat in prison. His eyes gazing at the wall ahead of him, barely visible in the few rays of light that dared enter the cell where he was shackled. His nose telling him that the Romans were not overly conscientious about cleanliness, as he wondered what exactly the rats had found to gnaw at. Still, their half-innocent scurrying took his mind off the sores around his wrist and ankles that were slowly turning septic. Yet, as he considered the squalor around him he could afford a smile. He knew the truth, and this was not it.
But what is truth? It was the question on Pilate’s lips, a question that is notoriously difficult question to answer. Or at least it used to be. A few hundred years ago, the Enlightenment came along and gave an answer: truth is what we observe and what we reason, everything else is superstitious nonsense! It is that simple. Or so it was claimed. Unfortunately, the more we observed and the more we reasoned the more we realised that things were not as simple as we imagined. We trusted our senses. Then science showed us a world where space and time bend, where the most solid of objects is actually a thin spiders web of forces, so empty that particles pass right through the earth all of the time, a sub-atomic wonderland where Alice would feel at home, where nothing is impossible, seemingly. We no longer live in a predictable world that we can know easily, but one with untold numbers of dimensions curled within themselves. Or at least, so the theory goes. What, indeed, is truth?
I suppose we should have paid more attention when we read that, “In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth”. We read this as the ‘earth and the sky’, because we know them with our senses. But that is not what it says.
Elisha knew. Staying with his servant in the city of Dothan, a large army of Arameans surrounding them, the servant could see that their situation was hopeless. But Elisha knew different. He could see the even greater host of angels that were on their side.
The early church also knew. They knew there was always vastly more going on than they could see. Jesus had showed them the kingdom – and it was breaking in. The world did not change the way they expected when the Messiah came. On the surface, it did not change at all, yet there was no longer a gulf between heaven and earth. They had come near, and heaven was now breaking through. Jesus showed the way, and then many others followed him. Their reality was no longer being defined by the limits of the physical world, but by the greater reality of heaven. This was where the true reality lay, and why Paul could be so unconcerned about being imprisoned or beaten. There was more going on. There is always more going on.
Our culture has taught us to see the tip of the iceberg as all that there is. The rest is superstition. But our culture is wrong. Alongside the seen is the unseen. Real as the tip of the iceberg is, it is the unseen bulk that sunk the Titanic, and it this unseen realm that we, too, should be paying attention to.