For this particular Children’s Message, I bring a “Megalodon” tooth, which is the tooth of the largest predator that ever lived – a giant shark (possibly the direct ancestor of the modern Great White Shark) that could grow to almost 60 feet in length, and which swam the seas of this world from about 28 million years ago until around 1.5 million years ago.
If you don’t have one, you can easily find photos of them online. You can also buy them on eBay: depending on size and condition, they go from under $10 to several hundred dollars in price. You can also find online photos of reconstructions of the Megalodon’s jaws, which are stunningly huge!
Luke 24:44-53 and Acts 1:1-11 (The Revised Common Lectionary readings for The Ascension, focusing particularly on how these two readings are written by the same author, were both addressed to the same audience, and are about the same event, but differ greatly in their portrayal of the Ascension of Christ.)
We sometimes think of our beliefs as facts; but in reality, facts, and our beliefs about those facts, are not the same thing. Sometimes, looking at the facts in a new way will change our beliefs, and in doing so open up new vistas of revelation and wonder.
For thousands of years, and even up until the time of the Pilgrims here in America, people would find the bones of weird animals eroding out of rocks and cliffs. [Did you know that?]
We know them as “fossils;” but back then, they didn’t know what they were. Since these things were always found embedded in rock, they figured that they were the bones of creatures that grew in rock. Some of these skeletons had wings, and many of them looked lizard-like, and so it was from these that we get our legends about “dragons.”
Also, since these creatures were no longer alive and walking the earth, people believed that they must have all perished in Noah’s flood.
Now, there was a certain kind of fossil – like this one [show the fossil or photo] that was very easy to find, especially eroding out of shale cliffs near seashores. [Hand it around so that children can have a look at it.]
People had no idea what these were – some suggested they were stones that had fallen from the moon. Others thought that they looked like a tongue, and might be from those lizardlike creatures that they knew grew in rock, and so they called these types of fossils “dragon’s tongues.” [It kind of looks like the kind of tongue that a giant lizard might have, doesn’t it?]
In the year 1666 a scientist named Nicolas Steno had a chance to examine a Great White Shark that some fishermen had caught. While he was dissecting its head, he realized that the shark’s teeth were identical to the things that people knew as Dragon’s Tongues – only much smaller. This meant that these “Dragons Tongues” could not be from some creature that grew in rock. They were from a creature that lived in the Ocean and looked like the Great White Shark, but larger. Nicolas proposed that its teeth had become embedded in mud which eventually changed into rock, and that eventually the teeth changed into rock, too.
Steno was one of the first scientists to show that the Biblical story of Creation was not literally telling us that the earth had been created in exactly 6 days, just a few thousand years ago. He and others came to understand that the layers of rock within which these ancient teeth were found meant the earth must be far older than anyone realized.
And so, because of the work of Steno and others, we now know that this is actually a Shark’s Tooth – from a type of shark that lived around 25 million years ago named “Megalodon” – the largest predator that ever lived: 50 or 60 feet long. (Can you imagine seeing a creature with teeth like this that was as long as a tractor trailer truck? Would you go in the water if one was nearby?)
Steno’s work helped change a belief that everyone “knew” to be true, and so he changed how we look at the world. He helped open the door to many new truths and revelations that are at the heart of most of what we know about the evolution of the world and the universe today.
So, it’s good when what we believe about certain facts is challenged, doing so helps us to see the same old thing in a new light, like Steno did for us. When that happens, we learn a lot, and find that God’s Creation is far vaster, more wonderful and more interesting than we’d ever imagined before.
Let us pray…
Lord God, we thank you for the beauty and variety of this world, and for giving us the ability to always learn more, and learn better, how wonderful and amazing your Creation really is. Help us to always understand the difference between facts and beliefs, and help us to always be passionate about finding the truth that is built upon facts and made alive and beautiful through our faith in you. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Copyright (c) 2014, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved. I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as you are not seeking (or gaining) financial benefit for doing so, and as long as proper credit for my authorship is given. (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site – or just email me and ask!)