Study Guide: Don’t be a Mantis Shrimp

Sunday May 12, 2024 | Emily Morrison

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

John was invited to enter a door to see into the throne room of God. This was not a physical seeing. It was a spiritual experience, where he saw into another dimension of reality. What does it mean to see into this other world, to experience God in this distinctly different way? This sermon, by Emily Morrison, encourages us to embrace the gift of seeing God in this radically different way.

Extended Summary:

In this sermon, Emily Morrison speaks about what it means to go through the door John entered in the vision found in Revelation 4. She explores how we see what’s going on in the dimension of the Spirit so that we might encounter God in a different way, a way that calls for spiritual seeing. She uses C.S. Lewis’ image of shadowlands, which describes how the physical world is less real than the spiritual world. We read about this throughout the Scriptures, Hebrews 8:5 and 10:1 are examples. We live in shadowlands, a pale imitation of reality.

If we are accustomed to seeing shadows, we need someone to show us what is really real. Hence, Jesus. We need Jesus to show us beyond the shadows to reality. It’s as if we live in a two-dimensional world and someone from a three-dimensional world comes to show us reality from a different perspective. What we might see as a flat plane might actually be a pyramid. Jesus comes to say, “See it with different eyes and you will discover that there’s more than you thought.” Emily shares about a book entitled Flatland by Edwin Abbot to illustrate this point.

Emily also illustrates how we can see this other reality, this spiritual dimension, by explaining how animals actually have eyes to see ultraviolet light, whereas humans cannot see it. We have what scientists call “umwelt,” which refers to the kind of world that a being experiences that is shaped by its differing ways of perceiving the world. The world is the same, but different organisms see it in different ways. For instance, birds’ eyes have four cones, as opposed to the three that humans have. This opens up a completely new dimension of color that humans cannot perceive.

When John goes through that door into God’s throne room in Revelation 4, he is seeing the whole spectrum of reality that most do not see. Here in this throne room, all creatures can see God clearly. And because they can see so clearly, worship pours out of them. That’s the natural response to seeing God as he is.

A mantis shrimp has twelve cones, and one would assume that members of this species could see the world in wildly different ways. However, their vision actually collapses the differing colors of the spectrum to only twelve basic colors. These mantis shrimp have the capacity to see something unbelievable, but they don’t. They go the opposite direction and shrink their color world down to the blandest box of crayons. Too many times, we limit what we see, collapsing our vision to the most basic, common elements. We don’t allow ourselves to see what God is doing within the spiritual dimension.

We are challenged not to be a mantis shrimp. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:18: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” When we open ourselves up to this possibility, the Spirit can invite us out of the shadowlands and through the door where we can see someone who looks like jasper and ruby.

Reflection Questions: