I’ve been marveling at the wonders of creation lately. Not things like the majesty of mountains, the wide open wonder of the open plains and the stunning beauty of a sunset. No, I’ve been contemplating more nitty gritty wonders: the beyond words awesome feel of a sudden cool breeze on sweat drenched skin, and the rugged endurance of bindweed that takes the full force of a drought right between the eyes without even blinking. I’ve also contemplated the creative, artistic side of nature which grows a monster face into a tree limb complete with gaping eyes and doglike snout and the avalanche of apples from the summer apple tree contrasted with another apple tree which creates a treasure out of its one lone fruit.
The wonders of creation abound. Yet I notice our worship services contain little in reference to the natural world aside from the occasional psalm or prayers for rain or a rare hymn. This seems odd considering the number of people who claim they feel closest to God in the great outdoors.
Perhaps this is in part due to the complexity of nature. If we only sing the praises of nature we ignore the horrible power which can wipe out neighborhoods, the fickle creation which washes away one town while another starves from drought. I often despair at the fuzzy bunny attitude which sometimes masquerades as environmentalism or concern for animal rights. Watching a cat play with a mouse or a flock of chickens peck to death one of their own, or a herd of goats beat up on the one who is different puts the lie to glorifying sweet and cuddly nature. Nature is full of dimension and depth. To treat only part of that complexity paints a distorted and unhelpful picture.
Even if one were able to more fully explore nature in the context of a sermon still I fear it would sound like old news. People have been extolling the wonders of creation since people began. I think it might be best to leave this to the artists. Some truths when spoken sound like nothing new but when sung or painted or danced they move us. Not just move our hearts with warm and fuzzy feelings but move us to act, move us to be differently in our world.
Thus I come to two things I think are going to be part of the future church: an emphasis on environmental stewardship and a greater use of the arts. Just to put in my two cents. (See Lynn’s blogs Things to Look for in the Future Church: Part 1 and Part 2).
I hope some of that art and environmental emphasis will manifest itself in playful melodies or joyous dances celebrating fireflies flickering. Their orange warning lights cautioning when it is time to head home or twinkling celebration of Christmas in July. Even in the midst of drought when my being aches with the thirst of the land, or maybe especially then, it seems good and right we remember the creation which sustains our lives, enriches them with beauty and endures the consequences of our failings.