The Third Sunday in Lent

I did enjoy the news item this week of the oil tanker hovering above the surface of the sea
near Falmouth in Cornwall. There was a photo to go with it – the coast walker snapped a
picture – and there the huge ship was suspended in the air. I didn’t think it was fake news but
something of which I was unaware. And now I am aware of a ‘superior mirage’ where the
mirage image is seen above the actual image. It is not
that you see two objects. There were not two tankers
sailing past Falmouth. Rather the light was being bent
because it was passing through a band of cold air
which was underneath warmer air – a temperature
inversion – something more common in the Arctic
than the UK – so that when the light rays reach your
eyes the image appears higher than it is – hence the

ship seems to be floating on air. What I found fasci-
nating was that because our planet is round, down-
ward refracted light rays can mean you might see

objects over the horizon!
The idea of a floating ship above the water might lead
into all sorts of ideas particularly if I have confidence in the person explaining it to me. Magic?
Water deities? And it reminds me that while I generally take in the world through my eyes and

react to it, seeing shouldn’t be my only way of responding to the world. I need words – expla-
nations – whether hypothesis, fact, opinion, truth – to help me see. In this case the persons

telling me about superior mirages have nothing to gain and I can check various sources and
learn a little more physics and now that I know about them, I’d like to see one for myself.
In centuries past might God have been brought into the explanation of the floating ship? I
suppose so. It is true that an overview of history reveals that God has often been used as a
‘god of the gaps’ in our knowledge so that the rise of science was viewed as a threat in many
religious quarters which saw science as almost ‘explaining God away’. That can only really

happen, I think, when one makes God indispensable in the wrong places and an answer in-
stead of what the natural world (science) tells us. The danger might be that people stop or

minimise talking about God where he is most definitely indispensable – and that is in relation
to living and life’s meaning and purpose and in terms of dealing with all the troubles in the
world, rescuing and help (which we might also call salvation).
Christianity presents the seemingly lunatic message – akin to a flying ship perhaps – of Jesus
Christ in him crucified (my emphasis). The Apostle Paul wrote, “For Jews demand signs and
Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to
Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and
the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God
is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-25 ESV) And these words – and more – about
Jesus help us see ourselves and our life – and how this God is indispensable for the best
explanation that makes sense of our experiences. The ‘biology and physics’ of our salvation
involve Jesus, his death by crucifixion – that’s important, and his resurrection. Such events
are independent of us but they are for us. Those who speak, share, write, sing this message
should do so not to gain anything for themselves – but because good news by definition is
good when it helps others – and the Gospel of Jesus helps everyone! It is the best good
news. Ever.