One of the best things I have done lately is to get back in the habit of morning devotionals. I get up at 5:30 before everyone else, and read the Morning Office in the Book of Common Prayer. I read a Psalm or two, the daily lectionary and then pray for various people. This trip has kicked a hole in that habit though. I totally missed yesterday, and let a sore throat deter me this morning. I tried to do them in the car, and get as far as the General Confession before I was diverted by the beauty of the scenery that was continually offering itself to me.
Time for something different, I thought, so I read Psalm 19, then put the book down, and let God’s glory come at me though nature and music–the majesty of the mountains, rivers and lakes with musical accompaniment by Thelonius Monk. The music has been continually shifting from Monk, to the Dead and now the Allman Brothers, and the beauty has remained constant.
On the whole I am the sort of Christian who believes that nature is a fickle and often errant teacher. Yes, there is a strong sense of God’s glory in the mountains and valleys, the rivers and lakes, the cloudy or clear skies, but all this is surrounded by the illusion of distance. If I were dropped down in these mountains, I would probably be dead in a few days, if not by some wild, hungry animal, then by the cold, or my own ignorance of how to survive in the wild. As my eyes feast on my surroundings, I am reminded of the man who reached out to touch the Ark of the Covenant when it was brought back to Jerusalem. It tottered on its cart, and he put his hand up to steady it, and upon touching it, instantly died.
God’s glory is a fearsome thing. I can enjoy the views of the rugged Yukon because I am safe in the Jeep with the Redhead. But if I were in direct contact I would probably meet the same fate as that man who dared try to stabilize the Ark. The mountains offer little sustenance for humans, the water is freezing cold, and the clouds contain rain and snow, and even the valleys contain all sorts of death traps.
Yet here I am, in midst of the glory, safe from its fearfulness. I can enjoy it, just as I can enjoy the presence of God. I just have to make sure that I am not mislead by romantic notions of what it all really means. Nature is more than fodder for the next Sierra Club calendar, and God’s presence is more than a comforting touch.
Rilke was right. Angels and beauty are things of terror.
Not a bad devotional for today!