Last week Monica and I had the pleasure of spending a few days at Boyne Mountain for a pastors’ conference. You might recall that the weather at the beginning of last week was very different from that of this week’s beginning. We had clear skies, crisp mornings, and afternoons where the temperature rose past 70 degrees. You certainly cannot beat that for mid-October in northern Michigan. All I can say is, “What a beautiful world God has given to us.”
And I haven’t even mentioned the colors yet! Monica and I cannot remember an autumn where the trees were more beautiful. The spectrum of yellows, oranges, and reds was spectacular, enhanced by the bright sunshine. Added to this were contrasting greens and browns. I just wish photos could capture more of the beauty, for by now, much of it is lying on the ground, waiting to be raked, bagged, or burned … or, in another beautiful act of our gracious God, blown away by the wind.
That said, I will still find beauty in the trip a son of ours and I will make in a few weeks to deal with those leaves the wind does not remove (and those the wind delivers from some neighbors). A couple days – even if they end up rainy – at the cottage with the calm and quiet of the fall have their own unique beauty. Then add to it the good feeling of productive, physical labor (a beautiful change of pace for me) supplemented by the companionship of family, and I will experience a completely different, but equally spectacular, spectrum of beauty. “What a beautiful world God has given to us.”
In between these two trips – this past weekend, in fact – I was given the opportunity to view a third spectrum of the beauty God has graciously given to us, the crowning point of his creation. Friday evening was a wedding, a great celebration of life and love … of family and friends … and the anticipation of great things to come. Saturday was our annual fall S.A.S.S. (during a football game, that I also found beautiful), a special time to gather with a beautiful collage of people from our community and congregation (to know more about this event, please watch the G@W time in last Sunday’s service). Then on Sunday came the beauty of new human life and relationships our Lord has placed into his creation with a baptismal family!
However, as I mentioned earlier, often times this beauty quickly fades. I wonder if we will have the changing of seasons in the new creation? I know there won’t be death or sorrow, but I can’t quite comprehend what the bible says about human relationships. All I know is that most, if not all of the dwindling of beauty in this creation (in every spectrum) is the result of us being corrupt human beings. The very creation that has been entrusted to our care by our creator we, his prized creatures, are destroying!
While my thoughts today are focused upon the beauty of our world, my mind tends to wander to the contrast we see in the many forms of ugliness that not only surround us, but also are within us all. The beauty of autumn is contrasted by the litter that seems to be scattered everywhere, the virtually unlimited amounts of garbage we dump into landfills and oceans, and the many ways we pollute the water, air, and land. Weddings are contrasted by divorce and family divisions. S.A.S.S. is contrasted by loneliness, racism, prejudice, and hoarding. And compare the joy of new life with our utter disregard for human life and often times, our own bodies. We can’t even agree upon when human life begins and when it is justifiable to compromise a human life. (For those of you living in Michigan, I recommend you watch this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z236C1-YmK8)
In spite of this all, I still say, “What a beautiful world the Lord our God has given to us.” David reminds us that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who well therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” (Psalm 24.1-2) In spite of what we may do to creation, it remains the beautiful work and possession of our God. And Saint Paul reminds us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5.17-19) All who are baptized are already part of the new creation, (re)made beautiful in the image of Christ – at least in our creator/redeemer’s eyes, though those created still see all the warts.
In one way, all of creation is able to say “What a beautiful world” because of our creator’s artistry – seen in the leaves of the forests and in the healthy relationships of his people. In another way, all those who are baptized and believe in Christ are able to see an even more beautiful world in its remaking. And, even beyond this, we anticipate a new creation yet to come that will be beyond our wildest imagination (Ephesians 3.20).
Thus, in the midst of so many things that I cannot understand, all I can say is, “What a beautiful world God has given to us … and has prepared for us … in Christ Jesus” … Yes, still beautiful in spite of the ways I may have offended you this day or (m)any time(s) before!