In 2006 I was with friends in Yosemite National Park. We had gone to the United States to enjoy the country and engage in kind of tour of God-hot-spots among the churches. I noticed at Yosemite, amidst the grandeur of rock walls that the people were filled with a spirit of joy, hope and well-being. I discerned that this arose in them because from this landscape they were receiving a revelation of God.
THE ORGAN PIPES
I have been sensitive to this for much of my life. Once alone on Mt Wellington after a heavy fall of snow I perceived the witness of a God-presence among the snow-gums and the rock tors of the summit plateau. It just was.
Outside Broken Hill many years later I sensed the presence of Holy Spirit in the scarlet and black, when I discovered a bunch of Sturts Desert Pea growing at a lookout above the town.
And again at the Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo in New Zealand. You don’t have to be a mystic to ‘see’. But you do need to know that God is about life and not about religion.
HOPE OF REALISED GLORY
God made you. God redeemed you. God has woven Himself into you and your life so that you can be you and in being you to add richness to life as a whole. Thomas Merton writes, “Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfil my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself.”
God is in you and with you. Never somewhere else.
In June I was with my brother in the Southport RSL. Having finished my pleasing schnitzel, chips and salad, we were waiting for our wives to return. I noticed a lady working at the servery with great efficiency and charm. I remarked to my brother, ‘Look at that lady, she’s exhibiting glory just by being herself!’
CHRIST THEIR LIFE
If you can train yourself to see God, where God is your, life will be more than an existence – more a series of encounters with glory. He’s not just in things. You can sense Him in people of good heart who in their own unique way release a bunch of life into the atmosphere through something they have said or made or worked on for years.
A fine hostess who brings people around the excellency of food and table is a minister of God. Sometimes after talking to these real people, I turn away and say, ‘Thank you Jesus’, because I have encountered His Spirit in ordinary people who are far from ordinary. Not banal because they are sons and daughters of God. Richard Rohr notes the following.
“This change of perspective, to bottom up and inside out, can take the form of religious language or totally secular language. Words are not the reality itself (the Ding an such, as the Germans say). We all know respect when we see it (re-spect = to see a second time). We all know reverence because it softens our gaze.
Any object that calls forth respect or reverence is the “Christ” or the anointed one for us at that moment, even though the conduit might just look like a committed research scientist, an old man cleaning up the beach, a woman going the extra mile for her neighbour, an earnest, eager dog licking your face, or an ascent of pigeons across the plaza.
All people who see with that second kind of contemplative gaze, all who look at the world with respect, even if they are not formally religious, are en Cristo, or in Christ. For them, as Thomas Merton says, “the gate of heaven is everywhere” because of their freedom to respect what is right in front of them—all the time.(1)