Dec 22 2022

Seeing Creation and the Meaning of Christmas

I came across a quote by Joan Chittister a few days ago that I really like and want to share with you: “To understand Christmas is to come face-to-face with the incarnation.  The very notion that God imbued creation with divinity makes everything we see sacred, every step we take a pilgrimage to the divine.”  I find these words to be quite profound and helpful. 

Chittister’s first sentence conveys a truth most Christians readily accept.  John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  The word “incarnation” means “in flesh” and points to the miracle of Christmas—that the Almighty God, the Maker of heaven and earth, at one point in history took on human form (flesh) in Jesus and actually dwelt among us.  It is this event we celebrate every December 25.  And well we should!

It is the second sentence in Chittister’s quote that conveys a truth that many believers may not be so aware of and this is that by joining us here on earth God made “everything we see sacred.”  We now abide on holy ground.  The Bible makes clear from the very beginning that God created the world and declares its goodness.  The Bible also tells us that “the earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1); it belongs to God.  I suppose there is a sense in which these two truths also point to the earth’s sacredness but this is made most clear in the incarnation, the birth of Christ.  At Bethlehem “God imbued creation with divinity.”  I’m not sure many, if any, of us can fully comprehended the meaning of this but it should be enough for us to realize that the world we live in is holy and that all we see in God’s creation is sacred.  God’s holiness is literally all around us.  This should lead us to worship God every day and cause us to live in a perpetual state of wonder and awe.  I would also like to think that realizing the earth is sacred would cause us to do a better job of protecting and preserving it.

I like Chittister’s suggestion that every step we take here on earth is “a pilgrimage to the divine.”  This probably shouldn’t be taken literally but there is a sense in which what Chittister says is true.  We are not only created by God, we are made for God.  It is God’s intention that we draw nearer and nearer to Him.  God longs to envelope us in His love and to enjoy fellowship with us.  Hopefully every step we take will, in fact, draw us closer to the fullness of God’s love and His divine presence.  That is my goal for the days to come and throughout the New Year.  I hope it will be your goal too.

Merry Christmas and God bless!

–Chuck


Oct 31 2022

What Frightens Me This Halloween

It’s Halloween.  Are you afraid?  I am.  It’s not the ghosts and goblins that may appear at my front door tonight that I’m afraid of.  No, it’s something much more sinister.  It is the lack of concern for the environment I see in so many people, especially political leaders.  A number of recent studies indicate that our planet is in big trouble.  On a weekly basis we see reports on television of growing wildfires, severe drought, extreme storms, and devastating floods.  We now know that no one on earth is safe from the harmful effects of pollution.  Climate change and pollution are taking a heavy toll on plants and animals everywhere.  They’re taking a toll on all of us.  But who cares?  O, I know many people do but not nearly enough.  I’ve seen several polls listing the primary concern of voters for the midterm elections.  In most of them environmental issues do not even make the list.  The lack of concern for our planet right now truly does frighten me!

The damage we are doing to the earth literally affects everyone.  It affects our physical health.  It affects our economy.  It affects the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.  It affects our general well-being.  It affects the places we choose to live and love to visit.  It affects the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees.  It affects our children and pets.  It affects our future.  How can something that affects all of us so much be of such little concern in today’s society?  This frightens me!

It also scares me that environmental issues have polarized our political leaders.  If there should be unity on any issue it should be the health and welfare of our planet and its inhabitants.  But that is not the case, is it?  Every day I pray that our leaders will learn to put aside their political differences and do what is right, what is best, for our country and the rest of the world.  Far too much is at stake for them not to!  We can do better than this.  It frightens me that we’re not.

Finally, it frightens me that so many who claim to believe in God and the Bible ignore the biblical mandate to be good stewards of Creation.  Too many forget that “the earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1) and that it does not belong to us to do with as we please.  One of God’s first commands was that we tend the Garden and be good caretakers.  God gave us “dominion” so that this wonderful planet can be preserved and maintained for the good of all–not to abuse for selfish gain.  I happen to be a Christian minister who believes that caring for the environment is a vital part of our spiritual journey.  It frightens me that so many other believers do not.

Yes, on this Halloween I am finding many things that frighten me.  I hope they frighten you too.

–Chuck


Aug 18 2022

Fellowship Workers*

I recently came upon a prayer found in the Book of Common Prayer that should be of interest to those who are concerned about being good stewards of Creation.  It is a short prayer that might be said on a regular basis.  It reads, “Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellowship workers in your creation.   Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

There are several things I like about this prayer.  One of the great things about it is that it reminds us of the true meaning of the word “dominion.”  The biblical call found in Genesis 1:28 for humans to have dominion over the earth has certainly been misunderstood by many over the centuries.  This misunderstanding has led to the horrible abuse of God’s Creation in a lot of instances.  In this prayer we catch a glimpse of the true meaning of dominion; it involves our being “fellowship workers” in God’s Creation.  Our calling is to work with and in Creation for its good.  When we do this together the world becomes a better place for us and for those who will come after us.

Another thing I like about this prayer is the recognition that we need “wisdom and reverence” to do what we are supposed to do.  We need wisdom because it is not always clear exactly what we should do or how.  We are called to be caretakers of God’s Creation but at times we must seek the Creator’s help in knowing how best to take care of what He has made.  We must also do our work with an attitude of reverence.  We revere the One who has called us to serve in His Garden and we must also show reverence for the work of God’s hands.  If we fail to do either of these things we will likely be unsuccessful in our fundamental calling to tend to the earth.  Reverence for both God and Creation are essential.  This prayer helps us to remember this.

Finally, I like this prayer because it serves as a reminder that our actions have consequences.  If we do not seek God’s wisdom and live in reverence of the Creator and the Creation we may very well abuse the earth’s resources.  We will be more likely to cause harm where we are supposed to bring help and healing.  This abuse and harm, as we have clearly learned, comes back to bite us.  The earth alone does not suffer when we abuse it, so do we.  Furthermore, it is not just we who live today that are affected by this abuse but also those who shall follow us.  As “fellowship workers” we have to be concerned about more than just ourselves.  We must tend to the earth in such a way that there will be plenty of resources left for the generations yet to come–resources that will not only sustain and nurture them but lead them to worship and praise the Giver of all good gifts.

For a short prayer this gem from the Book of Common Prayer has a lot of important reminders for us.  For that reason I encourage you to remember it and to use it on a regular basis as part of your prayer regimen.  It can’t hurt and it has the potential to do a world of good.

–Chuck

*This blog was originally posted in June 2013.


Jun 13 2022

Rejoicing in His Works?*

Toward the end of Psalm 104, having spent thirty verses praising God’s greatness made manifest in Creation, the Psalmist says in verse 31: “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works…”   What God has created is worth an eternity of praise!   It is the Psalmist’s hope that God can “rejoice in His works.”

We know that when God created the earth that following each day God paused and “saw that it was good.”  Like an artist (or photographer) standing before his or her work, God looked upon what He had made and took delight in it.  In the Psalmist’s words here he seems to be hoping that this delight will be ongoing, that God would always be able to take delight in what He had made. Did the Psalmist have reason for concern?

I don’t know if he did then or not but as we observe God’s Creation now there does, in fact, seem to be reason for concern.  We have polluted the skies and water that once were clean.  We have destroyed mountains and made new ones piled high with waste.  We have hunted some of God’s creatures into extinction or destroyed their habitat to the point that they can no longer survive. We have poisoned the land and cut down the majority of the earth’s forests.  If present day scientists are correct we have even altered the environment to the point where the climate is being changed in a detrimental fashion. 

Is God still able to rejoice in His works?  My guess is that God still does find much to delight in (just as we do) but I also cannot help but feel that God must experience some degree of sadness at the current state of the world.  That which God created “good” has been marred.  Out of love for God we should all seek to do everything we can to preserve and restore God’s Creation.  It should be our concern, as it was the Psalmist’s, that “the glory of the Lord endure forever” and that God “rejoice in His works” always.

–Chuck

*This blog was originally posted August 23, 2009.


Mar 24 2022

Holy Love

During my retirement I have been rereading some of my textbooks from seminary.  Many of these are over forty years old!  Currently I’m reading The Christian Doctrine of God by Emil Brunner.  In this classic work Brunner highlights the self-revelation of God and emphasizes God’s revelation of Godself as holy and love.  Both aspects of God’s nature must be maintained in order to have a significant grasp of who God is.  Brunner says “love is the very nature of God.” “Love is the self-giving God: love is the free and generous grace of the One who is Holy Lord.” Elsewhere he adds, “Only now do we understand why love and revelation belong to one another. Love is the movement which goes-out-of-oneself, which stoops down to that which is below: it is the self-giving, the self-communication of God—and it is this which is His revelation. The idea of self-communication gathers up into one the two elements love and revelation.”

Reading Brunner’s words has caused me to give further thought to God’s self-communication through nature.  I firmly believe that God has used that which God created to reveal numerous truths to us.  These truths are given in love and continuously point us back to the Source of this love—a God who is Holy Love.  So many times nature has forced me to recognize the holiness of God.  How can we not be struck by God’s holiness or otherness when we contemplate the sun, moon, and stars?  The Psalmist wrote “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1)  How can we not sense God’s holiness when we visit the ocean, mountains, or desert?  I find myself standing in awe of God in natural settings more than any other place.  I suspect many of you do too.

Yes, Creation points me to the holiness of God over and over again, but it also serves as a perpetual reminder of God’s infinite love.  Creation may be viewed as an incredible gift God has lavished upon us out of love.  It is a precious gift for many reasons.  In Creation we find many of our physical, spiritual, mental and emotional needs met.  In Creation we discover a beauty that both humbles and inspires us.  For those with eyes to see, all around us is the evidence of God’s love.  The fact that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) here on earth reveals the full measure of God’s love for both the world and us.  Recognizing the value of this gift of love should move us to pay more attention to God’s overtures of love and affection.  It should also move us to cherish, protect, and preserve this amazing gift.

Now that spring has arrived I hope we will all get outside more and with the eyes of faith contemplate the wonders and glory of God’s handiwork.  As we do so, let us offer our praise and thanksgiving to the One who has been revealed to us as Holy Love.

–Chuck


Feb 24 2022

“Rewild Yourself”

This week I’ve been reading a book called Rewild Yourself: 23 Spellbinding Ways to Make Nature More Visible.  It’s by a British writer I enjoy reading named Simon Barnes.  The book begins with these disturbing words: “We’re not just losing the wild world.  We’re forgetting it.  We’re no longer noticing it.  We’ve lost the habit of looking and seeing and listening and hearing.  We’re beginning to think it’s not really our business.  We’re beginning to act as if it’s not there anymore.” 

I find these words to be alarming, sad, and discouraging.  Furthermore, I fear these words have the ring of truth to them.  So many people these days are largely disconnected from nature.  It plays only a small role, if any, in their lives. For me this is disheartening.  I firmly believe that nature is meant to play a much larger role.  Likewise, I’m convinced that there are serious repercussions for failing to give nature our careful attention.

Spiritually, our snubbing of nature causes us to miss out on one of God’s primary sources of revelation.  Both the heavens and the earth offer witness to their Maker’s love, mercy and goodness.  They supplement the Scripture’s witness to God’s majesty and glory.  As spiritual beings our understanding of God will be truncated if we fail to give nature our careful attention. 

Emotionally, our failure to notice nature will rob us of much joy and peace.  Numerous studies have confirmed that exposure to nature has many emotional benefits.  Our very health, emotional and physical, is connected to our exposure to the natural world.  We literally hurt ourselves when we fail to connect with nature on a regular basis while we reap benefits when we do. 

I would also argue that when we neglect nature we are less likely to be good stewards of God’s Creation. When we connect with nature we tend to love it.  When we love something we are strongly inclined to care for it.  Could our disconnection from nature be one of the underlying causes of the current environmental crisis?  I suspect so.

We, and the world itself, would be better off if we gave nature the consideration it deserves day by day, season after season.  But how do we do that?  In Rewild Yourself Simon Barnes offers many suggestions.  He urges us to be more intentional about being a part of nature and observing all it has to offer.  He suggests that we get a good pair of binoculars and take a closer look at nature.  Barnes believes we are missing much because we are not deliberately attempting to see what is around us. He encourages us to look for signs of wildlife around us, for tracks, scat, trails. We are likewise encouraged to listen more carefully for the sounds of nature.  If we only “look” at nature we will miss out on so much.  We need to put our ears to good use too.  Barnes thinks we would all benefit from learning to identify birds by their songs alone. 

Learning the names of various species, fauna and flora, is also strongly encouraged.  As Barnes points out, when we know the names of others we automatically enter a more personal relationship.  This is true for people; it is true for plants and animals too.   A similar suggestion is purchasing field guides or books on nature so that we can learn more about the subjects we see and hear.  Ideally, all of us should have a nature library.

There are many ways we can “rewild” ourselves and many good reasons for doing so.  Spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally we will benefit from paying more attention to nature.  Simon Barnes would suggests now would be a good time to start. I couldn’t agree more.

–Chuck