To those of you who are moms, or fill the role of a mom in someone’s life, Happy Mother’s Day.
For some, Mother’s Day is a special time filled with happiness and love. For others, the day is more difficult. Perhaps we didn’t have a loving, caring mother. Perhaps our mom has passed on, and the day is bittersweet – filled with memories, but also a touch of sadness. Because of the various emotions invoked, it gets a little tricky writing a Mother’s Day message.
Scripture is full of stories of wonderful mothers. But today, I’d like to talk about a different mother – a universal mother to us all; one that offers us unlimited beauty, one nourishes us throughout our lives, and one through whose beauty we can see and commune with God. She is known by many names – Mother Earth, Earth Mother and, more encompassing, Mother Nature, just to name a few.
“My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through earth’s loveliness.”
In Genesis, God created the earth. Mankind was formed of the earth, and God breathed the spirit of life into man. “God is Spirit…,” says John 4:24. 1 Corinthians 8:6 tells us, “…there is one God, the Father…,” and Ephesians 4:6 says, “One God and Father of all…” Genesis 3:19 tells us, “For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” Thus, in a sense, we have the two elements necessary to create life – male and female. God is our Father and, in a sense, Earth is our Mother.
God is defined as Spirit. The earth, indeed all of nature, is a physical world – the environment in which we live. Not only is it the earth, but that plants, animals, birds, fish, sky, clouds, trees, flowers, deserts, mountains, streams, lakes, and oceans. To our human minds, since God is our Father, and we refer to Him as He, it makes sense that we would refer to the earth, or nature, as she. Ancient cultures, focusing on nature as providing life, worshiped the earth and nature as goddesses.
The ancient Greek goddess Gaia, meaning earth, was considered to be the mother of all and was referred to as Mother Gaia – hence the term we use today, Mother Earth.
Now, let’s be clear. Although we may refer to our physical environment as Mother Earth or Mother Nature, it’s important to understand that, from the Christian perspective, the earth, or nature, is not a being, is not a god or goddess, and is not to be worshiped. We all appreciate and even love nature. And we should. It’s part of God’s creation. It is through nature that God provides for our physical needs – lumber for housing, food and water to nourish our bodies, etc. Even the sun itself provides us with Vitamin D. And it is through nature that we can worship and enter into a deep communion with God.
Unfortunately, we, as a society, tend to spend entirely too much time indoors. Jobs have become sedentary; we spend our entire day indoors behind a desk, at a computer, stocking shelves, behind a cash register, etc. Even our children spend most, if not all, of their time outside of school in front of a T.V., computer, or video game consul.
My own grandchildren are a wonderful case in point. My daughter and her husband recently moved their family from an apartment into a house. They now have a beautiful, safe, secure yard in which to run, jump, dig, roll around, and play. What do they want to do? They want to Watch TV, watch a movie, or play a video game. My daughter constantly encourages them to play outside, sometimes actually forcing the issue. She simply turns off all of the electronics and sends them outside.
How do they respond? They stand, and pout. They’ve gotten so used to being inside, and so accustomed to the technology, they’d rather stand and pout than play!
Many adults are the same. We get up, go to work, and stay indoors all day. Then we go home, too exhausted to do much of anything, and we flip on the TV, or we plop ourselves down in front of the computer. With the invention of remote controls, we don’t even have to get out of our chair to change the channels.
When we do venture outside, it’s not to spend any quality time appreciating nature all around us, it’s out of a sense of duty – we have to mow the lawn, trip the bushes, pull the weeds.
Now, some of us do find yard work to be a source of enjoyment. But, a lot of us do it not because we genuinely enjoy it, but because it’s something that needs to be done.
And, some of us do spend a lot of time outdoors. Most of us, however do not. Personally, I believe we would all do well to spend more time outside – me included. How many times have we heard, or told someone else, “take time to smell the roses”? We should take time to admire and appreciate what we call Mother Nature. Not from the standpoint of worshiping Mother Nature as some sort of goddess, but with the desire to appreciate and admire what God has created and provided for us. There is great beauty all around us, if we would just slow down long enough to enjoy it.
Not only is spending time outdoors good for us physically and emotionally, it’s good for us spiritually, too. Spending time out in God’s creation can be a very prayerful time. Our quote for today points to this truth. The basis of meditative prayer is silence and stillness. When we’re out in nature, we can find those “sacred spaces” – that quiet spot next to the river, under the shade of a beautiful tree, or surrounded by fragrant flowers. When we quiet our minds and breathe in the beauty of God’s creation – what we call Mother Nature – the stillness enfolds us. Our thoughts begin to slow, our minds become less cluttered, and we come to a place of peace within. It is in this quiet, still peace that we hear God’s voice.
This way of worshiping God, being still and communicating with Him, surrounded by the beauty of the Nature He created, has a basis in Scripture, too.
With but a few exceptions, where did Jesus go to pray? He consistently went into Nature to spend time with His Father.
- Luke 3:21 says, “When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.” Now, we know from Matthew and Mark that heaven opened immediately, while Jesus was still in the river. So, it stands to reason that here, in Luke, that Jesus was praying immediately after being baptized, while he was still in the river.
- If we look at Mark 1:35, we see that Jesus went out into Nature to find solitude and stillness in order to commune with God, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”
- Later on in Mark, 6:46, we read about Jesus’ reaction to John the Baptists murder. After preaching to and feeding the crowd that had gathered, He sent His disciples away in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Then, “…when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.” He didn’t walk back to town to go to the synagogue. He went out into the splendor of God’s creation in order to find solitude and stillness, and to spend time with God.
- Luke 5:16 tells us, “…He himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”
- John 18:1 tells us that Jesus went to a garden to pray.
- And in Matthew 26:36, Jesus told His disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.”
Time and time again, Scripture shows us that one way to be silent, to be still, and to be at one with God is by spending time out in what we today call Mother Nature.
I like the way Pastor John Hickman says it:
“God’s Creation fills us with a sense of wonder and worship for the Creator. Psalm 111:2 says, “The works of the LORD are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them.”
We take great pleasure in God’s Creation when we are outdoors looking at mountains and trees and take great pleasure when we are walking on the beach with the warm waves washing over our feet.
It is in God’s Creation that we sense and see the presence of the Creator. Have you ever seen such a glorious sunrise or sunset that your eyes were filled with tears at the beauty of God’s work? As if God was doing sky painting in His Creation?
People who admire the beauty of Nature appreciate the beautiful sunrise and marvel at how the rays of the sun light up the water vapor and impurities in the atmosphere. But when the morning sky turns to brilliant shades of red and orange, those who know God see Him showing off His Creation. We look at the heavens and God reminds us of His presence in all things. Psalm 19:1-4 [tells us] “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.”
When we meet God in His Creation, we are recharged and renewed in His presence. We need to be refreshed. Just our day-to-day life takes something from us. Going to school, working, caring for our family or for another person takes effort and energy that needs to be replaced. We soon find ourselves running on empty if we are not coming into God’s presence to be refreshed and recharged…
The Yosemite Naturalist, John Muir wrote “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir was a devout Christian. He was in love with his Creator and Creation and John Muir understood “nature” to be God’s creation. With that understanding, lets paraphrase that quote. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where God can use His Creation to heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
Without God, it’s just nature. It is ONLY when our worship is directed toward God that we can really see and appreciate His Creation. It is in His Creation, we come into His presence and it is there that we can find healing and wholeness. In His Creation we find the silence, solitude and stillness. It’s in His Creation that we meet the Creator.”
We here in Southern Oregon are blessed. We have mountains, rivers, trees, lakes, and streams. We have parks. Just a few hours west we have the ocean. And just a few hours northeast we have the high desert. We have the beauty of God’s Creation all around us. All we have to do is walk out the door!
In closing, I’d like to honor and bless all Mothers. I thank God for mothers everywhere who not only chose to give life, but who nurture us and fill our lives with love. I also thank God for His most wonderful Creation – Mother Nature. And I invite you to walk out the door, spend more time enjoying her, and, like Jesus and Michelangelo, climb the staircase to heaven that is found Through Earth’s Loveliness.
- John 4:24
- 1 Corinthians 8:6
- Ephesians 4:6
- Genesis 3:19
- Luke 3:21
- Mark 1:35
- Mark 6:46
- Luke 5:16
- John 18:1
- Matthew 26:36
- Psalm 111:2
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