I am curious: Have you ever, on a very hot summer day, one like we have experienced recently both here in Florida and there in Ohio, just closed your eyes and imagined you were lying on your front lawn (up north) and making snow angels in the snow? No? Neither have I.
In fact, when we moved to Florida almost six years ago, I said that the main reason I wanted to move here was because I was tired of “shoveling my weather.”
But in this heat it is often helpful to have a cool thought. One fellow was indeed up north during the height of the winter season (and a snowstorm). He had been working in his basement and went upstairs to find his 7-year-old daughter out in the snow. She had been making snow angels, but at that moment when her dad saw her she was just lying there in the snow, enjoying the wonder of it all. Her father later wrote about that incident: “There was something about our youngest child’s response that made me pause and experience the wonder of God’s presence as I gazed at the gleaming snow crystals. I set my work aside, put on some warm clothes, and went sledding with her and my son in winter’s natural beauty.”
We do not experience much in the way of cold weather here in central Florida, and it has been literally decades since this part of the world has seen any snow whatsoever. It has occurred, though, I am told. But no matter what weather the seasons may bring, God’s glory — His character made visible — glimmers. The angels sang as Isaiah listened: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3). Now, normally, we do not usually associate the holiness of God with His glory all around us. If God is so high above and beyond us, surely He cannot also be anywhere near us, can He?
Author H.G. Wells (“The Time Machine” and “The War of the Worlds”) was no friend of the church, but sometimes he served us well. Years ago in the New Yorker he told a story about an Episcopalian clergyman. (He could have told it about a preacher from any denomination.) This Episcopalian bishop was the kind of man who always said pious things to people. When troubled folks came to him, he found that a particularly helpful thing to say, if said in a right tone of voice, was, “Have you prayed about it?” If said in just the right way, it seemed to settle things a bit, calm people’s hearts, and alleviate their fears.
The bishop himself didn’t pray much. He had life wrapped up in a neat package. But one day life tumbled in on him, and he found himself overwhelmed. It occurred to the bishop that maybe he should take some of his own advice. So, one Saturday afternoon he entered the cathedral, went to the front, and knelt on the crimson rug. Then he folded his hands before the altar (he could not help but think how childlike he was).
Then he began to pray. He said two words, “O God,” and suddenly there was a voice. It was crisp, businesslike. The voice said, “Well, what is it?”
On the next day when the worshipers came to Sunday services, they found the bishop sprawled face down on the crimson carpet. When they turned him over, they discovered he was dead. Lines of horror were etched upon his face.
What H. G. Wells was saying in that story is simply this: there are folks who talk a lot about God who would be scared to death if they saw him face to face.
Have you ever been scared to death about meeting God face to face? We can be assured that God is at the same time both transcendent (existing apart from us) and immanent (near to and with us). Do we have eyes to see? Or ears to hear? In the laughter of friends, in the rising of the sun, in the music of the birds, we find constant reminders that the earth and everything in it is His. All of it is filled with God’s glory.
Being present in the moment and expecting to see His very presence with us will help us worship Him with our whole lives. And that is just what we were put here to do, isn’t it?
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.