Rural

Rural

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Significance

As I mentioned in my last blog, my husband and I recently returned from a vacation I have dreamed about taking for many years.

You see, I love the wilderness and the unspoiled beauty of God’s world that can be experienced in the wilderness and my husband has grown to love it as well.

So this year, we went back to the place I was born – Northern British Columbia. In fact, we went as far as the southern tip of Alaska.

We are accustomed to hiking in places where we may not see another human being for ½ hour or sometimes even more. But we are not used to driving in places as remote as this area of the North American continent. There were a number of days where we could drive for 20 minutes or even more
never having encountered another car, truck, or other sign of human life.

One of the things I was struck by as we drove and hiked and walked in this remote area, was the vastness of God’s creation. I’m pretty sure the bears outnumbered us. In this northern wilderness, my husband and I were not even dots on a map. Its easy to feel pretty insignificant in a place like that.

And then at night – I wish a picture could capture those nights – the sky filled with stars so bright and close and numerous, I could not help but proclaim in a way similar to the psalmist, ‘who am I that you are mindful of me?’

That sentiment is the central theme of Psalm 8.

Here is what the psalmist writes in verses 3-4:

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and the stars which you have set in place,

What is man that you are mindful of him,
The son of man that you care for him?

In the parallel set of phrases of verse 4 the psalmist ponders why God cares for us.

Another way to translate the first reference to “man” is “weak creatures.” So we might just as well say, ‘Who are these “weak creatures,” these sons and daughters of Adam – that original, fallen human?’ Why should God single humans out from this vast creation which includes the angels in heaven? Why should he care for us? 

As John Calvin writes in his commentary on this Psalm, “God was under no necessity of choosing men who are but dust and clay.”

Curiously, the psalmist does not answer this question. He simply affirms that God is, in fact, mindful of us and cares for us. Or, slightly more literally, God remembers us and takes account of us.

Out of the whole creation, God remembers us. God remembers you.

You don’t have to be in the wilderness to feel insignificant. Sometimes we feel the most insignificant in a crowded room, or maybe even at church.

At those times, we should read Ps. 8 and remind ourselves that we are remembered. The God who formed the oceans, who pushed up the mountains, and made the vast array of plants, animals, and the stars in the sky has chosen to be mindful of us, of you and of me.

Calvin says we should be astonished, deeply affected and grateful at this miracle.

Indeed!

LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Ps. 8)

Adapted from a chapel talk given at Calvin Theological Seminary, Aug. 19, 2014.


Monday, August 11, 2014

The Family of God



My husband and I just returned from what for me was the vacation of a lifetime. It was the vacation I had always hoped to take someday and someday finally came. I still feel a little overwhelmed by it all, and its not because of jet lag. This will likely not be the only post associated with this trip.

You see, we went to my birthplace, a little town in northern British Columbia called Houston and along the way, we spent some time in a number of Canadian national parks, and took a side trip to Alaska. My husband said I took him to the middle of nowhere and then went north. That's a fairly accurate description of the location of this little community. It is surrounded by pristine, unspoiled wilderness full of wildlife the likes of which we rarely see, even in U.S. national parks.

I have not been there since I was a child, and yet it was a home-going of sorts. The border agent told me I am Canadian despite my American passport. Fair enough. I was born in Canada.

My parents had asked me to call some friends of theirs in Houston, just to say hello. I did not call all of the people they asked me to but I did call one couple whose four year old son had been my father's first funeral as a young, inexperienced pastor. They invited us for dinner and welcomed us as if we were family telling us to send their love to my parents. She even sent us home with two jars of Huckleberry Apple Jelly!

We walked along the Bulkley River, just down the street from where my first home had been some fifty-plus years ago. I saw the home of our neighbor, whose children were good friends of my older brother and sister. I remembered on a trip back to the area with my parents, my brother and his friend Daniel built a raft out of big inner-tubes and plywood and went floating down the river. It was an adventure Huck Fin could have envied. And I wondered as we walked around if my sister loved the mountains so much because this place was where she lived and ran and played before she lost her sight.

We visited with a friend of mine who I met through a creation care committee we both served on. She and her husband took us on a tour of the backcountry better than anything we could have paid for in the various tourist destinations we stopped in later on our trip. And again, we were welcomed with open arms, as if we were family. They took the time to introduce us to their kids, and one of their siblings who happened to stop by. All seemed glad to have us in their home despite the fact that they had just gotten home from vacation themselves.

So maybe this really was a home-going. For my parents, who often felt called to serve in places that were far from family, the church became family. That was true for us as children as well. We rarely had grandparents or aunts or uncles close by, but we had our church. These people were, and I now realize still are, my family, brothers and sisters in Christ, the family of God. And isn't that at least in part what union with Christ is all about?