Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
At this time, you may miss singing with others in church, but the Bible is clear that humans are not the only part of creation able to praise God. The very air around us, and the sky with its sunsets and magnificent clouds declare the goodness of God.
What we already know from Scripture, scientists are discovering today. A recent study reported that ‘a regular dose of childlike wonder, achieved by taking a weekly “awe walk”, can help maintain a healthy mind’ (The Times, 22 September 2020).
What is ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’ if not worship? God’s created world evokes that awe in us, moves us to wonder. As Paul tells us, ‘since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made’ (Romans 1:20).
In these strange times of Christians being scattered, with limited gatherings, could we rediscover the natural cathedral of God’s creation? As the worship band or choir can’t gather to sing, perhaps we could ‘listen’ to the skies instead?
Gary Thomas, confessing to encountering God better outdoors, writes: ‘I’d give up the artificial glare of a backlit video screen for the sun’s light peeking over a hill any day. I’d much rather hear the hold of a strong wind racing over the earth than the clank of the heater kicking on in the middle of a sermon. When we lock ourselves inside, we leave part of God’s creation, and therefore part of our understanding, outside’ (Sacred Pathways, page 45).
The traditional ‘indoor spirituality’ of church has distanced us from the natural ‘outdoor spirituality’ we see in the Bible. Do we only expect to encounter God during short moments in specific buildings, rather than the everyday experiences of garden, park, and footpath? If we expand our view of God to see his involvement in the changing seasons, the grandeur of star constellations, and the minute detail of the bacteria living in our soil, we may start to bridge the gap between what we consider sacred and what we tend to think of as secular.
Worshipping in God’s creation might also change our attitude towards the planet. Just as no healthy Christian would trash their church building, so the outdoor worshipper will experience a newfound respect for treading lightly on the earth.
How could you encounter God through his creation today?
Sam & Sara Hargreaves
Sara and Sam run engageworship.org, providing training and resources for local church worship