28th october, 2018
It has been claimed that I am a fussy eater. This false rumour began in the family I grew up and is now being kept alive by the family I am now a part of. I would suggest that I am not fussy, I simply know what I like and what I don’t. My opinions on Christmas cake are well documented and frankly are well founded.
When I think back to my childhood I recall that food options were nowhere near as diverse as they are today. In terms of eating out, the options were extremely limited. When I was young, outside of Fish and Chips and Chinese food, there was only one Italian restaurant in town and a handful of places that served what could be described these days as pub food. The sort of food I really enjoy and typically gravitate towards at this point in my life, simply wasn’t available.
Among the vast array of things I do enjoy, I have a particularly fondness for Spanish cuisine. And I’m pleased to say that this particular appreciation I have has now been supported by firm scientific evidence.
Some of you may be aware of the website ancestry.com. This is a modern way of being able to research one’s family tree and discover all sort of interesting things about how we came to be here today. More recently ancestry.com have developed a DNA test which can further illuminate just where one’s ancestors came from.
This DNA test is incredibly simple to do. You simply swab the inside of your mouth. Pop it into a special package provided and then send it off for analysis. In a matter of days you receive a report on where your DNA comes from.
In my case, much of what was revealed was no surprise. My English, Irish and Scottish heritage is there are plain as day. There was a surprise however. I have a not insignificant amount of Spanish DNA which my known family history cannot account for. We have some thoughts about where that might have occurred, but that DNA will likely remain mysterious even if it does help account for my love of Spanish food.
The use of DNA technology is something so easily taken for granted these days that we often forget how recent a development it is. It was only in 1990 that DNA was first used as evidence in a legal prosecution in New Zealand. At that time there were still many questions about its validity and just the level of certainly it could provide. Advances in DNA technology in the 2000’s has seen it become an essential part of criminal investigations, so much so, that it can be hard to imagine a time before it existed. One New Zealand detective claims that by using DNA testing he has solved more serious crimes since he retired in 2005 than he did in the 30 years he was on the force.
The idea of forensic science was largely popularised at the end of the 19th century by one of the best known fictional detectives of all time. When Arthur Conan Doyle invented the character of Sherlock Holmes, he wanted his character to be at the cutting edge of forensic science. While the genre of murder mysteries predated Sherlock Holmes’ first appearance in 1887 by some 40 years, other fictional detectives had always relied upon a combination of intuition and good luck to solve crimes. Holmes was different in that he followed evidence.
One of the great revolutions in forensic science in that time was the discovery of fingerprints, something that features in many Sherlock Holmes stories. Again, the idea of fingerprints is something we take for granted. We know that every single human being possesses a completely unique pattern in the spirals on the end of each digit. Even twins who possess the same DNA have completely distinctive fingerprints.
Another assumed piece of knowledge is that when we touch different surfaces we may leave a near invisible impression of our fingerprints behind. Thus, the ability to locate and identify such prints, became useful in resolving crimes as it can provide evidence of a person being in a particular location. Can you begin to imagine what a mind blowing discovery fingerprinting really was? It is quite incredible when you stop to think about it.
Whether we realise it or not, we are constantly leaving fingerprints all over the place. Coffee cups, computer keyboards, the steering wheel of your car. Windows, doorhandles, church pews…you name it. Behind each of us lies an invisible trail that we are typically unaware of. That is until something happens to make us aware of them. Please note at this point I am not simply speaking of our literal fingerprints, I am now talking of our metaphorical fingerprints.
In the last few weeks we have been following the story of Job in the Old Testament readings. Job who experienced great misery despite being a good, righteous human being. When Job finally appeals to God the response given is not what Job was expecting. God draws Job’s attention to the vastness of creation and shows Job how the divine fingerprints are all over everything. To give a short explanation of Job’s response which was in today’s reading, Job essentially says, “God of course you are there in everything, finally I can see your presence again.” God took what was in that moment unknown to Job and made it known again.
At our recent heritage event, we as a community had an opportunity to retell some of the stories of this community, to remember some of the fingerprints that have been left on this place. Some of those fingerprints are well known to us, Bishop Selwyn’s for example. Other’s a less well known such as the names in the roll of honour in our memorial chapel. But overall, by having a number of different people talk about parts of this church, from the windows to the font to the Kinder screen, what was unknown became known.
Two weeks ago, I had a very unusual experience in that when Anne Mitchell gave her sermon I discovered she included a small story that involved me. She recalled a moment on our pilgrimage when I offered her a small word of encouragement that helped her to continue on her journey. I have no memory of that particular moment. I can certainly imagine myself suggesting to a fellow tramper to take smaller steps, that is something I have done on many occasions. By sharing that story Anne reminded me of something about myself that I had forgotten. She made the unknown known.
We don’t often see the places where we have left fingerprints on another person’s life. Often the good we have done slips into the unknown. That’s where an important challenge lies for us as a Christian community. The good news of God’s abundant love for all of us is news to be shared. That sharing begins with letting others know of the good we see in them. The good that has been instilled in them by God. Part of our calling is to make the unknown goodness in our midst, known to other people. Sharing God’s love, requires us not to sit back and wait, but to be proactive.
There was a story I used to tell about the one teacher I had who showed faith in me. He made a remarkable impact on my life. After years of telling that story someone asked if I had ever told the teacher about the difference he made in my life. I hadn’t, so wrote to him. Some days later I received a wonderful letter back which contained even more words of encouragement, which only increased my great admiration for that person.
So perhaps that is the challenge today. Not just to think of someone who has left a fingerprint on your life, but to let them know how much you value them. Amen.
– Reverend Richard Bonifant