The sunset sings us a new melody of God’s love every evening.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, 5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.
As I have been studying about the fathers and mothers of the Celtic church who lived over 1000 years ago, it is striking how often they see the fingerprints of God in creation. People like Aiden and Hilda would quickly slip into prayers of thanksgiving as they would see a painted sunset and hear the singing of birds as they wing their way to nests nearby.
These examples of the faith knew that creation isn’t perfect, and waiting to be redeemed and made perfect by the coming of Jesus Christ someday. They believed that that ALL of creation was spoiled in some way shape and form by the introduction of sin into a perfect world when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. We also align with the view they held that matter (the stuff that makes up things, people, stuff in the universe) isn’t evil. There is no separation of the secular and the sacred. God’s fingerprints can be seen if you are willing to pause and pay attention. Creation is still singing and telling of God’s nature, character and creativity.
Some people would say that God is IN everything… but that wouldn’t be Biblical (that view is called “Panentheism”). Colossians 1:15 tells us that it is Christ who holds everything together, so we know that it is God who sustains every single atom in every single person and thing in the universe. God is not defined or fully explained by what is in nature, we just get to see His fingerprints there. The trinity exists outside of nature and will not be reduced by it. The problem here can be that we can end up worshipping nature as God instead of perceiving nature as one of the ways that Jesus reveals Himself.
The Celts (people of what we call the United Kingdom) saw God reflected in all things. Whether it was in the drone of the bagpipes that would speak of a continuity and background for the melodies of life, or their art which contained lines that made a never ending loop, there was a message that was constantly being broadcast to humans by God.
The call of God to the Celts is the same one we receive today – it is one of stewardship and appreciation of the creation God speaks through. This doesn’t mean to worship the creation, but it does include honoring God by taking care of this earth. There is a celtic spiritual community in England called, “the community of Aidan and Hilda.” Their founders spoke of this when they said this…
“We affirm God’s creation as essentially good, but spoilt by the effects of human sin and satanic evil. We therefore respect nature and are committed to seeing it cared for and restored. We aim to be ecologically aware, to pray for God’s creation and all his creatures, and to stand against all that would seek to violate or destroy them. We look upon creation as a sacrament, reflecting the glory of God, and seek to meet God through his creation, to bless it, to celebrate it.” (Community of Aidan and Hilda, Way of Life, 1994)
So, what does it look like to linger a little longer in watching the sunset and pray a prayer of thanksgiving to the master painter of the skies? Will you pause when a butterfly bravely flies right in front of you and watch it delicately dance in flight in amazement? When you feel your dog jumping up and down when you arrive home, will you remember that God’s affection for you and excitement to spend time with you is infinitely more?
How will the next sunset lead you to a place where you see a painting that is being given to you as a gift of love… the invitation to worship your creator will come again this evening.