In my last post I confessed that it is much easier for me to spend time in nature than in Bible Study. But I also acknowledged that I need more than the inspiration of beauty to guide my life. So putting both of those realities together led me to this first lesson: Let the wonder of creation lead us to Word of revelation.
Today I want to say more about that.
First, this is not a gimmick. It’s a deeply biblical way of cultivating a deeper spiritual life. In his book, Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas reminds us that the Bible is meant to be read outside (p. 37).
The people of the scriptures were inspired by rushing rivers and green meadows as they described life with God. When the psalmists look to the mountains for their help, they were probably looking at actual mountains. When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, he was not standing on a carpeted chancel. When he spoke of lilies of the field and fig trees and the birds of the air, its safe to presume that he actually pointed at those things and didn’t use a picture on a PowerPoint screen.
(And for the record, the Bible tells us that Jesus, who was raised in Nazareth, moved as an adult to Capernaum, which is a beach town. I often tell my congregation, that Jesus himself lived in a town at least somewhat like San Clemente.)
There is no need to set nature and creation against the word and revelation. Quite the opposite. Instead let us who find it so much easier to spend time in nature than in the word of God let the wonder of creation lead us to the Word of revelation.
Okay, you say. But how? How do we do it? It’s not enough to say we should let the world’s beauty lead us to read and study the Word. We need help in doing so. How do we do it? Through worship.
Never forget that Psalm 119, Psalm 19 and all the Psalms were songs of worship. They are hymns that were sung, poems that were read, prayers that were offered. People who had seen the beauty of the earth, the glory of the skies didn’t just climb a mountain peak and stay there. They didn’t just swim in the seas or meander through a meadow. When they were moved by the beauty of creation, they brought those experiences with them back to the community gathered in worship. The inspiration of creation led them to give praise and thanks to the Creator in the community.
Do you know how close to God you feel when walking on the beach or sitting by a mountain stream, when gazing at a canyon view or even strolling down the 17th green? It feels so inspiring that some of think that we don’t need to come to church. We feel so close to God that we say that we don’t need sermons and choirs and offering plates. We feel more inspired in creation than in worship, don’t we? I know, I feel the same way believe me. But let’s be careful not to make a common mistake. Let me reiterate what I have already written: Inspiration is not worship.
Inspiration is God’s gift to us, God’s reaching out to us. Inspiration is God moving in our hearts and touching our souls. Worship is our response to God’s inspiration. When we are touched by the beauty of nature, the appropriate response is to bring ourselves, our offerings, our inclined and open hearts to God in worship.
• Worship joins awe and instruction.
• Worship teaches us to respond to inspiration with dedication.
• Worship connects our personal experience to a faithful community.
In worship we come into God’s presence, as part of Gods' people, we give him praise as the Creator and then we learn how to live as God’s creatures, God’s people, together. In worship we find both the inspiration and the wisdom that we need to live faithfully and well.
If you are a person who finds it so easy to connect to God in nature, then take this one small step: respond to that inspiration by being faithful in Sunday worship. Let the inspiration "out there" lead you to be more regular in church. When creation inspires us, let’s respond with giving worship to the Creator and opening our souls to His instruction.
For the past two summers, I led a group of high school senior on a hike to the top of Half-Dome in Yosemite National Park. Half Dome holds a special place in my heart for the sheer majesty and awesomeness of it. Just seeing it stirs my heart and I find that as I stand on the lookouts or hike the trail, something within me naturally begins to sing of the greatness of God.
Maybe it’s because when I first took a group of Junior Highers we gathered at the view point right through the valley floor tunnel and sang the doxology, or maybe it’s because so much of my faith has been cultivated in beautiful places, but I just find that the very best response to this feast for my eyes is the word of God in my ears.
He owns the depths of the earth,
and even the mightiest mountains are his.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
His hands formed the dry land, too.
Come, let us worship and bow down.
Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
the sheep under his care.
Oh, that you would listen to his voice today! (Psalm 95:4-7 NLT)