The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas and established it on the rivers. – Psalm 24:1–2 (NRSV)
It never fails. When Autumn descends upon us, and the smoke clears enough for us to see and to breathe, I am blown away by the beauty that surrounds us in the Basin. The cool crisp air of the morning, with sunlight fingers poking through the trees. The green leaves only just beginning their process of letting go, begin their fade to red, and gold and brilliant orange. I feel the cool Fall breeze against my face and in the distance hear the gentle din of birdsong. Truly, the earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it!
And the fullness of God’s presence is not just in the beauty of nature, but in the people. Most days I’m at the church office, I make it a point to walk to lunch somewhere downtown, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. I stop to listen to musicians, smile at runners who are jogging by, and greet passersby. Sometimes I see faces I recognize from church, and from PALM. I see all kinds of people—the homeless, and the addicts, the shoppers, and the diners and those out running errands, those just hanging out. Sometimes I stop to talk with people. More often I say a silent prayer on their behalf of someone who looks distressed, asking for God’s shalom to reign. The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it; the world, and those who live in it!
As good church people, we are trained to think of our church building as a sacred space. It is here that we gather each Sunday for worship, encased in stained-glass, adorned by banners, and beautiful centerpieces on the altar, our vaulted ceilings drawing our eyes heavenward as we contemplate God’s presence in our lives. And there is something special about our gathering space. I meet God in this place. Just not only in this place.
Our church leadership has been talking these past months about what the church can do in our neighborhoods and out in the community. Part of this is because as the body of Christ, we are meant to be the presence of Christ in and for our world. But also, when we venture out into the world, we discover something else. The Spirit of God is already here—the wind blows where it may—and we meet God in new ways whenever we step outside. The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it; the world, and all who live in it. In what places does God’s presence feel most real to you? Where does God feel distant?