I really meant to post here more often than I’ve been able to… so there’s a goal heading into the fall.  Meanwhile: reflections from this past weekend.

 

I know a lot of people who say “I feel God most in nature”; really, I’d imagine that we all know people like that.  People who would rather go for a long walk, or go canoeing, or sit out under the vastness of the stars, than ever set foot inside a place of worship.  As a pastor, this position often makes me grit my teeth, but I will admit to having some sympathy with that position.  I’ve gone on long hikes, stood in awe of breathtaking vistas, stared at the stars on nights so clear that the Milky Way was a thick white river of light in the sky.  I can totally understand the experience of something huge-beyond-imagining being so much more present outside, in the huge spaces that nature can afford us. I can understand being more aware of God in spaces that are not of human construction.

It is also true that, for most of us, a creedal faith isn’t enough anymore – to say, merely, “I believe” does not come anywhere close to the experience of God that I think we all long for – not just my generation, as scholars of religion too often seem to think.  It seems to me that we are all seeking an experience of awe, of hugeness,of  intricacy, that tends to be far more present in the breadth of wilderness, or the expanse of stars, than in the wordy formulations of worship with which we are so often familiar from religious services.

So I would never suggest that one cannot experience  the divine outside of the structures that humans have created for worship – far from it.  Indeed, if those long walks in the woods lead one to a time of quiet discernment of the divine, then I’m all for them.  

Just don’t tell me that those experiences are enough for you.  

As important as experience is, in our faith, experience is not the end-result that we’re looking for, is it?  When people tell me about their hikes or their stargazing or the breathtaking sunset over a perfectly calm lake, my question is always the same: how has that experience of presence changed you?

Because worship, and discipleship, are not just about recognition of a huge, overarching presence.   A worshiping experience of God is inevitably about relationship; not only how we experience God, but how that experience forms and molds us.  It is relationship when we can look at nature and determine to be stewards of Creation.  It is relationship when we look at hugeness of stars and recognize that if the God who created the vastness of the universe loves us, parasitic specks on the face of a small planet of a small star – specks upon specks upon specks -then who should we be loving?  noticing?  helping?  It is relationship when we can look at Earth from space, and realize the fragility, the inequality, that affects each and every one of us who must share the limited resources of this vulnerable planet.  

What we get out there, in our experience of God in nature, is a feeling.  When we can commit ourselves to the God of experience, when we can come away from a moment in God’s presence with a determination to do the work that we are called to by faith, then we will know an abiding presence.  We will be in relationship with God.  

Let us commit ourselves, not just to the invocation of presence, but to the God who is more than feeling.  Let us open ourselves to the vast and powerful God who is willing to abide within our human hearts and human dwellings.  Let us invoke God here, in this moment, and in every moment of all our days. 

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