Today’s post in the series Creating Sacred Space Do We Need Churches? comes from Richard Dahlstrom. Richard is the author of “The Colors of Hope: Becoming People of Mercy, Justice, and Intimacy”. You can look for him in the forest, where he’ll be listening for God’s voice amidst the trees. If you can’t find him there, you can find him at www.richarddahlstrom.com
Jesus warned us that the Bible could get us into trouble. He told the religious experts of his day that the searched the scripture, thinking that in them they’d find eternal life. And yet, he goes on to say, they were unwilling to come to him that they might actually find life. It’s as if the profound and life altering possibilities of intimacy with our creator had been reduced to a formula. Take 15 minutes of morning; add a chapter of Bible reading; toss in a dash of prayer and presto! Spiritual Maturity to go!
These formulaic criteria for spiritual maturity are always, always, getting us into trouble. In a hyper-educated society like ours, there are lots of people who confuse the amassing of knowledge with spiritual maturity. For them, Christ is found careful lexical studies of Greek words, long sermons, note taking, and Bible memorization. The complaint of Jesus, articulated in the previous paragraph, exposes the reality that I can do all of this stuff and still not know Christ. Instead, my so called knowledge runs the risk of filling me with pride and arrogance.
The problem isn’t the Bible. The problem is our invalidation of other powerful forms of revelation, in particular creation. One can’t read Psalm 19, or Psalm 104, or Romans 1, or Genesis 2 and 3 without recognizing that the entire cosmos is one endless sermon. The heavens are preaching, from the rising of the sun, to the flinging of the stars through the nighttime sky, to the rising again. That endless hydration cycle and the seasons preach of God’s provision; the bright green of new life each spring of Jehovah’s character as the source of all life; the mountains as places where the glory of heaven touches earth and we’re transformed.
For too long evangelicals have bought into the false dualism that exalts mind over body; heaven over the earth; and text of the book over the text of creation. God’s in all of it! We who breathe the air of false dualism daily, throughout our sterile concrete cultures, absolutely must find ways to listen to God once again in a context where the text of the book and the text of creation can intermingle.
That’s why, 17 years ago, my wife and I did away with our chemically supported lawn, and planted a forest in backyard – cedar, fir, hemlock, and redwood. It’s grown into a sacred grove, a canopy of green that shelters life for birds and squirrels and provides a rich soil for other flora on the forest floor. That’s where I sit most mornings, with a cup of coffee, and a Bible, to meet with Jesus. The intermingling of Bible and creation has become, for me, the context in which God speaks to me most clearly, most profoundly. I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness to, and love of, all creation every morning. Various elements speak to me, such as new saplings, or fresh green sprigs, rain or wind or sun sneaking through the trees. God’s alive in it all, shouting. The book text interprets creation – the creation text interprets book. Indeed, my backyard is a sanctuary, opening my eyes and ears to God’s revelation and preparing me for each new day.
May all of us find or create sacred spaces where the creation text and the book text can kiss. It’s there we’ll find hope. It’s there we’ll find transformation. It’s there we’ll find Christ.
Check out the other posts in this series: