…for You have exalted above all things Your Name and Your word…
This blog has been formed in Northern Michigan rather than the usual Southeast Pennsylvania. And not unexpectedly context drives content. Three days ago while dragging a variety of hapless baits through a weedy, shallow lake I was focused on the lower variety of creation’s fifth day offerings when an eerie laugh brought my thoughts above surface. You can hear what I heard here.
Common loons are rare (despite their name) and absolutely stunning with dark feathering broken up by a “starry host” of white spots. But their “laugh” can bring back the feelings I had as a middle schooler sneaking the opportunity to watch horror movies at one of my classmates more libertarian home. In short, though I have heard their call before, I was terrified at first. But then the beauty of the scene broke through my senseless fear. There is something about watching a bird that is so reclusive that they only ever exist one pair per lake. I have gone years without seeing a pair together and yet the laughing source of my fear was accompanied by a mate and a pair of offspring. Loons generally disallow paddlers access as they are well equipped to either fly away or more likely to dive below the surface and swim for remarkable distances. Yet due to the young that were incapable of flight or diving, the loons stayed atop the surface and floated several yards from my kayak. I hurried by to ease their tense parental instincts but marveled at the beauty of seeing close-up one of the more unique birds of the Northern woods.
John wrote referring to Jesus, the One he understood to be Creator of all things as the logos… the word. The creative power of God that once spoke the sun into existence and the breath into man spoke the incarnate Son of God into humanity. And He speaks still, words that move in the unseen sometimes and others that result in floating families of birds. Creative words creating beauty in unexpected places.
Worship is a faint and fleeting response in me. If done correctly, as the Psalmist noted, worship is a response to who God is and what He is saying. And his words are woven in all that surrounds us. Yet I find myself walking often in a state of escape wandering amidst great beauty with eyes too narrowly focused to take it all in. These unexpected water fowl, with their burgeoning family, elicited in me what church musicians work endless hours to accomplish. In a few, brief moments of observation I witnessed God, once again creating, whether I was awake enough to respond or not.
Albert Einstein once asked a friend whether the moon really existed if no one cared to look up at the night sky and observe it. As I watched this family swim past me, hurrying their young away from me on a secluded woodland lake, I wondered whether God created hoping upon hope that at some point a worshiper, a wonderer such as myself, might come and return thanks for the few moments of beauty.
God and his words have largely accomplished two things, simple in their categorization yet almost endless in their effects as far as I can tell. He has saved. Through his Son, through the cross, through the resurrection, salvation has occurred. Theologians are even now working to understand all that has been saved for it is much more than merely the eternal souls of wayfarers like myself. The title of Albert Wolters book, “Creation Regained” reminds us of the inquiry ongoing into how far the effects of the cross reach into our world altering cultures and affecting outcomes.
Yet there is a second category of God’s activity; his words have done more than save. They have created. Magnified in our midst, holy and broken, are the words of God surviving even now in a “twilight” state, holiness and light mixed with common brokenness and darkness. And we find wonder and grace in the effects of these creative words. Poet Wendell Berry’s words remind us of the power of these words existing in their wild habitats, skimming the surfaces of Northern lakes:
When despair grows in me
And I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives with forethought
Of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
Waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
So as the loons slipped silently by me on the glassy surface of Lake Dubotton and hysterically interrupted their own quiet beauty with their haunting calls, it seemed to me that words were speaking. Drenched in creative beauty the Logos, the Word who was created and yet continues himself to create, was calling, seeking once again to pour peace into passers by such as myself, if I cared to listen. So here is to the magnificent nature of God’s exalted words, floating across our paths unseen, directing us, providing interest often and if we are observant providing opportunities for nothing less than centering worship and peaceful repose.