As I am writing this post I find myself halfway into a Masters in Sustainability Studies at Texas State University. In this degree I have studied plants used for agricultural purposes, water management for both humans and the environment, specific species, and more. The courses I have taken so far have been far more in depth than a basic biology course. I love what I am studying and I love that I see things in my world in a new way in light of my education.
I often look at plants and think about the way they grow, respond to environmental factors, and produce fruit and flowers. I look at streams and rivers as they flow by me. I think about all the decisions that go into the flows. So many stakeholders are seeking those molecules of water. As I look into the river I see fish of all kinds. I picture their skeletal structure and respiratory system. So many detailed and nuanced things are happening inside of a single minnow.
These things mean so much to me. I can’t understand all of the systems around me. Things too complex, too large, too small, too infinite to grasp. There is wonder in my eyes and in my heart when I look at the world around me.
My undergraduate degree is in Pastoral Ministry. As a pastor I have studied large portions of scripture. I love the portions of scripture that speak about creation such as in various Psalms and Job. I know scripture asserts that there are parts of creation that humans cannot hope to understand because we were not there when it was made. We know nothing of the mysteries of creation or why things such as the “behemoth” exist (Job 40:15-16). All I know is that much like the psalmist, I am struck with awe in light of creation. I have studied God’s Word so that I might teach others. I have sat through theology classes contemplating God’s Word, philosophy classes where I discussed how God’s Word impacts me, internships where I taught others about what God’s Word says.
It is no surprise to me that I feel overwhelmed with creaton. It impacts me at a core level. But why? After some study, I believe that the way creation overwhelmes us might just point to ways we are lacking in our spiritual lives, particularly in the way we worship. Worship is often taught as a personal experience. Almost as if we “think” ourselves into a state of worship. We feel like we need to know who God is before we worship God. The more we know, the more we introspect, the “better” the worship experience. In some ways this creates a lackluster version of ourselves particularly in the way of worship. I heard it said that we become or rather are taught to be, one-demensional Chrisitans.
Once again we turn to the Hebrews and their ideas about God in an effort to understand our own ideas. The Hebrew people seemed to know that the immense power of God could be seen in the work of God. There is “knowing” that can happen when we enjoy God’s creation and learn more about it. Joy comes from our experience with God and the things God has created.
In Redeeming Creation, the authors say,
“Modern worship must return to an emphasis on the joy of the works and wonders of God in order that joy may become once again an experience instead of a concept. Joy must be a taste, a touch and a smell, not an idea only, and God must be not only the Lord of heaven above but also the Maker of earth beneath.”
Maybe our worship would not feel so one dimensional if we understood God as more than the things we read in scripture but also as the Creator of the world we see around us. I also believe that what we typically think of as worship will change with this mindset. Just maybe we will not feel boxed in to gathering together, singing 3 songs, listening to a sermon, singing 2 more songs, praying, and walking out the door. Instead worship could look like sitting quietly near the stream. It could look like cleaning trash from a greenbelt near you. Hiking is one of my favorite ways to worship. I worship God through walking through and enjoying the things God has created. Witnessing creation in all its glory gives me many ways to praise the Creator and a new understanding of God’s love for all of creation.