Jeremy and I are national park disciples. We visit them any chance we get, and often go out of our way to experience one. It is always worth it. Always. As we watch Ken Burn’s new documentary, “National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” its fun to say, “hey, we’ve been there!” over and over again.
Just to give you some insight as to the spiritual value of our parks system—and this film—the first episode is entitled “The Scripture of Nature.”
The film is full of historical reference, fact, and dare I say, educational content. But beyond that, this creative venture explores the deeper value of our most beautiful natural resources. These places renew and restore us, call us to venture outside of our yards, our routines, and even ourselves. What happens when we do that? We are ready to meet the holy. We are ready to encounter God, the Creator, in a whole new way. We acknowledge the potential for the miraculous; having seen it living all around us, we come to believe that it can live within us.
One person in the film reflected how, in these spectacular spaces, we do not need to be reminded that there’s a higher power. We don’t have to be urged to worship. The presence of God is all around us, and we cannot help but be fully aware of it. There is much truth in her statement, not only about the power of nature, but about the essence of worship.
What could possibly lend our indoor worship services that kind of power? What if just walking in the door of the sanctuary of Foothills, or your church, was to be fully and inescapably in the presence of God? I know we can’t quite fit the Grand Canyon in our buildings. But we can certainly think about how effectively our worship enables us to sit in God’s presence, and whether it invites us to the kind of awe-struck breathlessness that we experience in the great outdoors. What inspires and uplifts you in worship? What makes you doze off, or wish you’d stayed home to watch football? When are you most aware of the living, moving Spirit in community?“In America, magnificence is a common treasure. That’s the essence of our democracy.” Its also the nature of our faith, in the sacred trust of the gospel that is ours to share and keep alive, and in the shared experience of worship. If you need to be reminded of how beautiful this life of faith really is, just get outside and look. We have 3 national parks in Arizona, and a whole mess of state parks and national monuments. That leads me to believe that many of our neighbors share our appreciation of natural wonders, and of taking time out to just take them in. The landscape around us is just full of God’s glory, just full of the kind of heart-stopping, transforming beauty that people come seeking from all the world over.
Wouldn’t it be fun to say that about worship? If we could quit sweating the proper way to pass communion, trying not to sneeze in the silence, and, seriously, remember to turn off our cell phones, it just might be so. Oh, and if we could just fit Teton Lake in the baptistery… We could send folks home saying, “I’ve been there! Come and see…”