“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1
At 6:30 a.m. on Easter our church gathered at the Sheridan Information Center to greet the sunrise and to celebrate the dawn of Easter.
While the temperature was cold the view of the sun coming over the hills and sharing that with friends, was amazing.
The tradition of the sunrise service goes back to the 18th century and is a gift to the wider church from German Moravians.
It speaks to something inside of us that recognizes God’s doings in our natural world.
For John Calvin, the testimony of nature, of scripture and of human experience should cohere. They are all faithful ways of discerning God’s character and activity in the world. Just as in the medieval cathedrals of old, the faithful learned the Gospel through stained glass windows, so nature can provide a stained glass window for us today. This is why our Congregationalist forbearers, the Puritans, were some of our country’s first naturalists.
They wrote painstakingly accurate journals of the ongoings of their natural environment because they were convinced that through that God would shine through.
So when the church proclaims new life, resurrection and transformation this is not simply pointing to an event that occurred a long time ago.
It’s a testimony of how God works continuously in our world. How God is discerned in the life of Jesus is how we would expect to see God operate in our life and world today.
Whether it is the in the flowers of spring to the transformation of those lives facing addictions to the women who greeted the empty tomb of scripture, the God testified to is the same.
In April, Earth Day, is celebrated around the world. At this time, the need to protect our environment is lifted up. There are good pragmatic reasons why we should be concerned about the environment, including that of our health, building a sustainable economy, giving a world our kids can live in and other quality of life issues. But there could be good religious reasons too. It could be that caring for the earth is important because we want to treat with care that which God chooses to be revealed through.
In that protecting the environment could be a sacramental responsibility, one where acknowledging that of God in each other and nature could mean a certain kind of respect, awe and care for one another and our world. Instead of a world where people and nature are treated as things to be used, imagine a world where people and our natural environment are honored and treated reverently.
In that spirit, First Congregational Church invites the community to an Earth Day service April 28 at 11 a.m. at 100 W. Works. St.
In the service we’ll celebrate God’s good creation and we’ll follow the service with the planting of flowers and other acts of spring beautification which hopefully can be a contribution to downtown Sheridan.
Dwight Welch is pastor at Sheidan’s First Congregational Church.