Jul 25 2012

Creation as a House of Worship

“Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him all the earth.” Psalm 96:9

Where do you worship?  Most Christians, when asked this question, would likely answer “At church.”  That response makes sense since we often call churches “houses of worship.”  It’s where we go on Sundays or some other day of the week to worship God.  I have been going to church my entire life and have spent the last thirty-six years serving in churches.  Needless to say, I spend a lot of time “at church.”  Still, I would be the first to admit that church is not the only place where one can or should worship.  Worship ought to be a part of our everyday lives and by no means should it be limited to one set place.

As I have continued my studies of Celtic Spirituality I have been reminded over and over again that Creation itself is a “house of worship.”  In his excellent work, The Book of Creation, Philip Newell says “The Celtic tradition has a strong sense of the wildness of God.  Like nature it is unrestrainable.  A true worship of God, therefore, can neither be contained within the four walls of a sacred building nor restricted to the boundaries of religious tradition.”

Newell points out how the early Celtic Church “was characterized by patterns of worship and prayer under the open skies.”  He adds, “Earth, sea and sky, rather than enclosed sanctuaries, were the temple of God.”  Eventually the Celtic Christians would, indeed, build actual structures to worship in but they always held on to their conviction that “the holy mystery of God is unbounded.” Because God is everywhere we may worship Him anywhere.  That certainly does not mean that joining with other Christians in a church to worship is not necessary.  There will always be a need for corporate worship.  But hopefully we can learn to see Creation as a house of worship too.

In his first letter to Timothy Paul says he wants people “everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer.” (1 Timothy 2:8)  Perhaps this is just his way of saying everybody should worship God but it would seem it might also mean, “wherever you are, worship God.”  Since God deserves far more worship and praise than we can give Him in the limited time we are at church any given week, it would help us to realize that we are always in a house of worship and that wherever we are it is an appropriate place to give God our praise.

–Chuck

(I photographed the three “houses of worship” shown above at Garden of the Gods in Colorado, Bryce Canyon in Utah, and Portage Glacier in Alaska.)


Jun 27 2012

The Light of God

Yesterday I started reading Philip Newell’s book, The Book of Creation: An Introduction to Celtic Sprirituality. I can already tell I’m going to love it. Its seven chapters are divided up by the seven days of Creation. Genesis 1:3-4 says “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” This passage is the focus of the first chapter.

Concerning Genesis 1:3-4 Newell says, “To say that light is created on the first day is to say that light is at the heart of life.  It is the beginning of creation in the sense that it is the essence or centre from which life proceeds.  At the heart of all that has life is the light of God.”  Newell makes sure to distinguish the light spoken of on the first day of Creation from the sun and moon that are created on the fourth day.  It is the light created on the first day that makes everything else possible.

Newell goes on to say “the heart of all life is the light of God.”  What he says next I find most intriguing. He claims “The more deeply we move in relation to any created thing the closer we approach ‘the divine brillance’ at the centre.”  In other words, the more we get to know other life forms the more we will come to know and experience the light which comes from God.  This means learning more about the flora and fauna that surround us, not to mention our fellow human beings, can bring us much spiritual benefit.

Even though the Scriptures declare that “God is light” Newell is careful to distinguish the light created on the first day of Creation from God Himself.  He says, “God is always more than that light. Though invisible, it is a created light and can never truly reveal the Uncreated.  God expresses the light of creation into being and yet is beyond creation; he is simultaneously immanenet to the universe and transcendent to it.”

Towards the end of the first chapter Newell draws some practical implications of what he has written.  He says “God is to be found not by stepping aside from the flow of daily life into religious moments and environments, or from looking away from creation to a spiritual realm beyond, but rather by entering attentively the depths of the present moment.” What wonderful advice! I encourage you to give Newell’s words some thought and to begin looking harder and deeper for that light which God spoke into existence the first day of Creation long ago.  As God Himself said, that light is “good.”

–Chuck

(This week I’m in Louisville on a summer mission trip with a group from my church.  We’re helping out at a facility with about 500 elderly residents.  On the grounds there are some nice gardens.  I took the pictures shown above there.)