15 The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the one who is first over all creation,
16 Because all things were created by him:
both in the heavens and on the earth,
the things that are visible and the things that are invisible.
Whether they are thrones or powers,
or rulers or authorities,
all things were created through him and for him.
17 He existed before all things,
and all things are held together in him.
18 He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning,
the one who is firstborn from among the dead
so that he might occupy the first place in everything.
19 Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him,
20 and he reconciled all things to himself through him—
whether things on earth or in the heavens.
He brought peace through the blood of his cross.
Save the date! Serve Saturday on May 21 (corrected from initial e-mail) will include a broad set of serving opportunities particularly focused on creation care. It will be a great chance for you to make a difference and meet other like-minded people.
Scholar N. T. Wright wrote that today’s passage made a striking claim: “Jesus holds together the old world and the new, creation and new creation. The ‘salvation’ or ‘redemption’ on offer in Christianity is sometimes described as if it meant that the old world, the ordinary world of creation we all live in, was worthless….Jesus Christ, says the poem boldly, is the one through whom and for whom the whole creation was made in the first place.” *
Lord Jesus, I am ultimately your creation, and you love me, just as you redeemed and love the whole creation. Keep teaching me how to love and value what you made. Amen.
* All three quotes are from N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, pp. 152-153.
My wife, Doris, & I co-wrote a study for her Ladies group this spring that focused on Thin Spaces, an idea developed by the ancient Celtics around 400 A.D. These are places where the boundary between heaven & earth is especially thin, a place where we can sense the divine more readily, or a place where God’s presence is strongly felt. We considered how architecture could help create a Thin Place, ala Notre Dame Cathedral, or art, as in the Sistine Chapel. Of course, we know that God, Himself, designed the greatest Thin Space of them all – Creation. Let’s consider how the Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas features creation to produce an amazing Thin Space.
To help you visualize the chapel, here is a picture of Thorncrown when we visited with our sons last summer:
Jim & Dell Reed purchased land just outside Eureka Springs to build a retirement home. But so many folks began stopping at their site to get a better view of the Ozarks that Jim & his wife decided they would rather build a nondenominational pilgrimage chapel in midst of the woods to help folks see God’s glory in creation.
Aside: Forest floors are always covered with dirt & leaves because nature abhors a vacuum.
Noted architect E. Fay Jones eagerly accepted the project. Mr. Jones, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright & former Eagle Scout, didn’t like grandiose structures, but preferred intimate designs that made nature the focal point. His design of the Thorncrown chapel received the highest honor awarded to architects & the chapel would be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Aside: Most architects don’t like to make their own deli sandwiches – they prefer to use sub-contractors.
Halfway through the chapel's construction the Reeds’ funds ran out. Jim thought he’d made the biggest mistake of his life. He went to the construction site for what he thought would be his last visit. In complete desperation, he actually got on his knees & prayed. A few days after this intense time of prayer, a generous woman from Illinois wrote to loan Jim the money needed to finish the chapel. (Jim later shared that he was embarrassed he had seen prayer as his last resort.)
Aside: Loan Officer: Um. Do you have any other assets besides a million-dollar smile, a silver tongue, & a heart of gold?
The architectural choices of Thorncrown are very intentional:
So what might this simple chapel mean for us today?
With so many visitors tromping around their land, the Reeds could have been tempted to build a fence to keep people out. Instead, they created an attraction that actually encouraged folks to visit – not to brag about their property, but to see God’s showplace. How might we make sure that we use our own home/talents to glorify God instead of ourselves?
The Reed’s could have spent retirement leisurely coasting through their twilight years letting their resources serve their own desires, hobbies, & pastimes. But they chose to dedicate their golden years to helping others connect to God via creation. (Since its construction in 1980, this little chapel in the Ozark hills has hosted over 4 million people.) When it comes to our own Godly mission/project, it’s never too early to start plotting/planning & it’s never too late to get started.
As noted, each pew has a light adorned with a cross. As it gets darker, the illuminated crosses become even more evident. This sure seems like a huge metaphor for us: When our own lives go through dark times, the light of Christ will continue to surround us & become even brighter.
Creation IS the ultimate thin place. We know we can readily connect with God via a hike in the mountains or a stroll on the beach. However, I submit that, with a little imagination & a deliberate choice to be still, nature could help us create a divine place anywhere. Maybe we sit outside & revel in the activity of creation, be it daybreak, an impending thunderstorm, or just lazily gazing up at the clouds. (In Kansas, we can experience a wide range of nature every 4 hours!) Perhaps we could plant some trees, a garden, or put a beautiful plant in a window to remind us to be in awe of God’s creation each day. I love the quote from noted naturalist John Muir, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”1
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to delete some pictures from last week’s rainstorm. I want to take some new pics of this morning’s sky, but my phone says my cloud storage is full.
1John Muir. AZQuotes.com, from azquotes.com/author/10523-John_Muir
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