Sermons in Stones

A Summer in the Psalms

It was Shakespeare who said that “There are tongues in trees, books in running streams and sermons in stones,” and where he got this idea was from the Bible, from places like Psalm 19 –

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their sound has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end; and there is nothing hidden from its heat. (vs. 1-6)

And the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans –

Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. (1:20)

So, where has this happened tor you? What is your spiritual geography?  When you close your eyes, where do you go in your imagination when you think about a place where you felt like you were in God’s immediate presence? 

Celtic Christianity knew of “thin places.”   A “thin place” is somewhere heaven and earth have touched for you; a place where the barrier separating them just seems to thin out, and you find yourself standing in the nearer presence of God.  There are places in our lives where God has shown up in especially powerful and memorable ways, and after that happens, well, those places become sacred to us.  So, what are yours?  What’s the terrain where you hear God speaking to you most clearly? 

aPersonally I’ve always been drawn to the mountains.  I remember the first time I saw the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.  Their rugged beauty and sheer majesty left me breathless, but it was more than that.  You see, there’s this small log cabin chapel in Grand Tetons National Park that has what’s known as “the sacred window of the Tetons.”  Behind the altar, the Chapel of the Transfiguration has a big picture window that looks out across a mountain meadow and up into the Tetons’ craggy peaks.    It’s as spectacular a view of any piece of real estate that I have ever seen, and I had a religious experience there; a real encounter with God.  The opening words of Psalm 121 interpreted the moment for me: “I will lift my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come?  My help comes form the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  Psalm 19 says that God speaks through nature, and standing there, looking up at those majestic mountain peaks through that window behind the altar, I heard the Lord speaking to my heart.   He told me that that as enduring as those mountains are, that He is even more enduring; that as strong as those mountains are, that He is stronger still; and that as glorious as those mountains are, that His glory is even greater!  Those mountains may very well be one of the mightiest things in all of creation, but the Lord is the One who made those mountains, and that makes Him the mightiest of all, the Maker of the heavens and the earth!

bCreation told me something about the Creator that day, and that’s what the first six verses of Psalm 19 tell us to expect from all of nature.  Nature speaks; it speaks of God.  In a misty summer morning, God speaks.  In a flower blooming in a spring garden, God speaks.  In a hummingbird flitting outside your window, God speaks.  John Calvin, the Protestant Reformer, described the natural world as a “theater full of the wonders of God.”  But just like what happens in a theater, you’ve got to be paying attention to what’s happening on the stage if the message is to get through.

The story is told of three men walking in a forest.  One of them, a lumberjack, calculates the board feet of lumber that he could extract from the trees that surround him and thinks about the profit that he could make.  Another one of them, a biologist, closely examines the ecosystem and notes the complex relationship that exists between the plants and animals that he sees in front of him.  And the third one, a simple Christian, sees the beauty of the scene as he walks, and starts to sing –

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze: 

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!

Three men were walking in a forest, one saw a way of making money, another saw a science project just waiting to be examined, and one saw the handiwork of God and found himself lost in wonder, love and praise.  Psalm 19 tells us that God is speaking to us all the time.  The natural world is one of the stages from which God speaks. And so, if we aren’t hearing Him, then chances are pretty good that we just aren’t listening.  DBS+

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