Michael and I have recently returned from an incredible journey in and around the Hawaiian Islands. It was our first experience in the 50th state and what an amazing bit of grandeur it is, excelling in both largeness and smallness! First of course there is the Pacific Ocean, so large it comprises 40% of the earth's surface - - a world in itself teeming with fish and whales and dolphins, reefs and sunken treasures.
The first explorers to encounter the Islands traveled for weeks and maybe months in what was probably an expanded canoe, to get to the islands. So remote are these islands that it took us six hours (!) in an airplane (!) to travel from the West Coast of the US to Honolulu. One has to admire the tenacity of those early settlers.
On a map of the Pacific Ocean, the Hawaiian Islands are little more than a speck. The largest of the islands is only about 80 miles across. Oahu is more like 10 miles wide. Yet on the four islands we visited we found so much beauty and grandeur! Colorful flowers grow large in the tropical environment. The hibiscus and plumeria are so abundant that craftspersons are kept busy making of them the ubiquitous leis that are given to visitors everywhere we went. Palm trees grow tall wherever their coconut seeds land. Coffee plantations dot the landscape. The Waimea Canyon, called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii, is lush with green hills and valleys and a beautiful waterfall. We visited the Kilauea Volcano in Volcano National Part on the day before the great eruption made headlines around the world, demonstrating incredible power as well as beauty in nature.
Day after day, I found myself overwhelmed by the splendor in this tiny speck of land within the great ocean. It made me more aware of the grandness of our planet.
The sites of natural grandeur that tumbled over the islands made me so aware of the splendor of our planet. The presence of nature always makes me so grateful for this amazing playground that the Lord has given to us.
The Psalms are full of awe at the grandeur of the earth. Psalm 8: "O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! When I look at the heavens the work of your hands, the moon and stars that you have created, who are we that you should care for us?"
Psalm 104 sings a long hymn of joy over the many forms of life and nature on the earth: "You set the earth on its foundations so that it should never be shaken. The waters stood above the mountains, yet at your word they fled. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place where you appointed for them." And this long descriptive poem of praise ends "May the glory of the Lord endure forever; May the Lord rejoice in His works, who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live."
The magnificence of God's creation is visible everywhere on God's earth, and even from outer space. Astronaut Scott Kelly, far from earth in the darkness and emptiness of space, looked out at the distant blue earth shimmering in the distance, and said, "We sometimes don't really appreciate what we have here."
Contemporary theologian Richard Rohr notes the wonder that creation inspires in us: "We sometimes call it 'natural law' (that things had an inherent goodness and unfolding to them) ...and the Apostle Paul says it in one succinct phrase ' Ever since God created the world, his everlasting power and dignity -- however invisible -- have been there for the mind to see in the things God has made." (Romans 1:20)
"The sacred is established from the beginning, and it is universal. We live in a sacred and enchanted universe." (Yes, And; Daily Meditations, p.128)
Summer is a glorious time here in Northern Indiana. As you notice the beauties of trees and flowers, lakes and streams, clouds and sky, the sunset coloring the waves on Lake Michigan -- breathe in the glory of God and give thanks. It will brighten your spirit and open your eyes and your heart.
Pastor Nancy Becker