Jul 29 2018

Light and Love

This past weekend I spent some time reading from the works of John Muir. I always find his writings inspirational but this time especially so.  Consider the following passage I came across:  “Alpenglow is the most impressive of all the terrestrial manifestations of God and suggests the spiritual Love-light in which the flesh-walls of earthy tabernacles are dissolved and everything puts on immortality… The alpenglow is so holy, spiritual; even the inspired atmosphere of the New Jerusalem is inadequate.  When we read, ‘And God said: Let there be light,’ we are too apt to think only of the light of the sun.  But it is not the sun that makes the day, it is Love.  In this Light of light, rocks and seas and everything is not only illumined, but transfigured and fused and changed into religion.”

I find Muir’s connecting of light and love to be quite meaningful and do not recall seeing this connection made elsewhere. The Bible declares that “God is light” (1 John 1:5) and that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) but you usually don’t see these metaphors conjoined as Muir does.  I like the thought that when God said “Let there be light” that one can substitute the world “love” for light.  The beginning of Creation is indeed a manifestation of God’s love.  Light may very well represent God’s love.  If nothing else, it can serve as a perpetual reminder to us that God loves us.  One does not have to experience the alpenglow Muir wrote about to make the connection.  Simply observing the sun in the sky or the play of light on Creation should be enough to remind us of God’s love.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declared, “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16) Here, too, it would appear that substituting light for love works quite nicely.  How does one let his or her light shine before others?  Through deeds of love.

I am thankful for John Muir’s insight and definitely plan to give his idea further thought. I encourage you to do the same.

–Chuck


Apr 17 2015

The Circle of Love

Clingman Dome sunset (h) crThis past week Rob Sheppard was here doing a photography workshop for John James Audubon State Park.  Once the workshop was over we had some time to run around and visit some of my favorite places in the area.  One of those places is New Harmony, Indiana.  Once the site of an utopian experiment it is now something of a living museum.  The Roofless Church is located there and a number of historic buildings.  In New Harmony you will find a memorial garden honoring Paul Tillich and a number of other impressive gardens.  New Harmony also features a couple of labyrinths.

AGPix_summers402_0387_Lg[1]Labyrinths have been used for centuries as a tool for prayer.  I took Rob to one labyrinth that is modeled after the famous one located at the cathedral at Chartres.  While we were there I noticed a sign I don’t remember seeing before.  On that sign was the following quotation attributed to Black Elk: “Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle.  The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.  Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.  The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle.  The moon does the same, and both are round.  Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were.  The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.”

I remember from some previous studies that circles were very important to Native Americans.  Some believed that natural arches continued underground and formed circles.  Medicine wheels also played an important role in some tribes.  Black Elk’s words remind us that there are many examples in nature where the Creator has utilized circles—the earth, stars, wind, nests, the sun and moon, and the seasons.

_CES7969I like to think that a circle also portrays the love of God as it is revealed in the Scriptures.  The Bible declares that “God is love” and I believe that God’s love encircles or encompasses everybody.  I also happen to believe that you and I are supposed to love as God has loved us.  At our recent Maundy Thursday service, where we paused to remember Jesus’ “new commandment” which tells us that we are to love one another as Christ has loved us, I used a passage from a poem by Edwin Markham as part of my message: “He drew a circle that shut me out–heretic , rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle and took him in!  I do, in fact, think God likes circles and that when it comes to love He expects us to draw a circle that will take everyone in, even our enemies.

When I pause to remember that the circle of God’s love included me I feel both obligated and inspired to love others too. I hope you’ll think about that when you happen to come across one of the many circles that can be found in nature. Perhaps one reason God used so many circles was He knew we would need the reminders.

–Chuck

(I took the top image in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the middle one in Middlesboro, KY, and the bottom one in Henderson, KY.)


Nov 17 2013

Enwrapped in Love

_CES1488I try hard not to sound preachy on this site.  I’m sure there are times I do not succeed but since I am a preacher I guess one could expect that.  If today’s entry does sound preachy there’s a reason for it.  This was part of the message I preached at my church this morning.  The sermon was called “Can God Love Someone Like Me?”  I spoke of three places where we find evidence of God’s love for each of us—the Scriptures, Creation, and in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross.  Below is the section on Creation:

_CES7636“In addition to the testimony and promises of the Bible, we might also note that the world is filled with signs of God’s love and acceptance.  All around us in God’s Creation are hints and evidence of God’s love for us and His desire for us to be full of joy.  These signs show us that God’s love surpasses what we can comprehend.  If we look at these signs closely and meditate upon them, not only will we find ourselves saying with the Psalmist, ‘What is man that thou art mindful of him?’ but we would also cry out, ‘How great thou art!’

Long ago Meister Eckhart said, ‘Every creature is a word of God and a book about God.’  I’m convinced he is right and that the subject of those books is love, God’s incredible love for you and me.   Another great Christian writer, Julian of Norwich, said ‘Everything is enwrapped in love and is part of a world produced not by mechanical necessity but by passionate desire.’  If only we had eyes to see we would recognize that we are surrounded by a beautiful world which is literally filled to the brim with the evidence of God’s love.  Everything—from the singing birds to the babbling brook, from the tiny acorn to the majestic oak, from the smallest flower to the tallest mountain—yes, everything that God has created reveals His love for us.”

_CES1364I wish more people realized just how much God loves them.  I say that because so many people do, in fact, wonder if this could possibly be true.  For me the evidence is overwhelming; God does indeed love each of us more than we could ever imagine.  That love is not based on our behavior at all.  It is instead a gift bestowed upon us because it is God’s nature to love.  You and I can love others but we can also choose not to love.  God, however, cannot not love us.  Why?  Because “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)  Furthermore, the apostle Paul declared “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

_CES0629I am very grateful for God’s love.  We all should be.  I hope each day you will open yourself up to the unconditional love of God.  Julian of Norwich said “The greatest honor we can give to Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”  With that in mind I encourage you to embrace the love of God and live gladly.  Recognizing that we are lavishly loved by the Maker of heaven and earth, how could we not?

–Chuck

(I took all four of the images above over the past few days here in Henderson County, Kentucky.)