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Finding God in Nature

posted Oct 9, 2014, 10:05 AM by Tom Harries

For the past week I’ve been reading my bible every day, even though I’ve never picked up a book. I’ve been reading that other bible, the first one really, in the beauty of God’s creation. First we visited Mount Rushmore. It’s an amazing combination of natural granite and human ingenuity. It was inspiring to think of the movements for good those people led, especially, in this context, the establishment of the national park system under Roosevelt.

God has created a world so fabulously beautiful in places that it calls forth deep feelings of awe and wonder. It’s interesting that the largest of the soaring redwood groves in Muir Woods is called the cathedral grove. And at Yosemite, three particularly tall, slender peaks are referred to as the cathedral spires. At Muir Woods, signs all along the trail encourage visitors to be quiet and soak up the awe, as one would in a cathedral. Both places share with the great cathedrals a sense of soaring up to heaven. The trees in particular seem to go on up forever.

Two miracles are involved here. First that creation has brought forth such beauty. And second, just as important, that God has given us the gift of appreciation. As far as I can tell, our dog was not particularly impressed by the mountains. But we are blessed with the capacity to perceive their beauty and be inspired.

At least since Moses went up on the mountain, people have felt the presence of God in high places and soaring trees or buildings. Our faith resonates in such places. They speak to us because faith, at its best, calls forth the highest and best in us.

One aspect of that highest and best, treasures held in trust for the common good, is exemplified in the national parks themselves. Because they are held in common, millions of people each year have a chance to experience the awe and wonder that we felt. Were it otherwise, these areas would either be overrun tourist traps or private preserves. Either way, the general public would be cut off from their beauty.

The great thing about such beauty is that, like love, it is not diminished by being appreciated. (Granted, some care must be taken not to overstress the trails.) When I look at cathedral grove, one infinitesimal part of the light bouncing off those trees enters my eye and I see them. Were all the light bouncing off to hit my eye, as when the sun catches in my rearview mirror, I would be blinded. But my eyes are perfectly tuned to work with the amount of light they normally get. The little light that enters my eye does not detract from the eyes next to me. They too can gather as much as they need to see the beautiful tree.

How much more is God’s love sufficient for everyone to receive what they need. God loves all of us, and his great love is sufficient to reach every last one. God’s love is manifest in compassion, the forgiveness of sins, and the awesome beauty of creation. May I suggest you go outside now, throw out your arms, and soak in God’s love.

Cordially,

Tom

The Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Harries

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