God in the Sunrise?
Sunrise is an event that calls forth solemn music in the very depths of our nature, as if one’s whole being had to attune itself to the cosmos and praise God for the new day, praise him in the name of all the creatures that ever were or ever will be. I look at the rising sun and feel that now upon me falls the responsibility of seeing what all my ancestors have seen, in the Stone Age and even before it, praising God before me. Whether or not they praised him then, for themselves, they must praise him now in me. When the sun rises each one of us is summoned by the living and the dead to praise God.
~Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, quoted at http://www.plough.com/en/subscriptions/daily-dig/odd/april/daily-dig-for-april-30
I'm a "let's get to work and change things" kinda guy. It shapes my spirituality, and my theology. I love new things, new experiences, new designs, and people with a passion for the future—and a willingness to sacrifice for the future, combining patience with passion. It's about sociality, not nature, for me. So, I've often found folks who talk about finding God in sunsets, or sunrises, or hikes in the woods or walks on the beach, or in repetition and stability and preservation . . . curious. I believe them (you?), but don't really feel what you feel. Now it must be said: I do enjoy sunrises, and sunsets, and woods, and beaches, and singing familiar songs and remembering well. I find beauty there, and am moved. But I tend (tend . . . not exclusively, but mostly) to find "God" in action. Beauty comes in repetition for me. God comes in change: Godly change, that is: positive, dynamic, love-creating, justice-making change (not the change of destruction and loss).
But I also know that mine is one form of the faith. It tends to be the kind of hardwired spirituality that created Protestant faith. But it's not the only way. That other form, the one you might be hardwired for, tends to go to beauty first. It tends to let beauty, remembering, preserving, and celebrating be the way in which change is welcomed—rather than the other way around. And that's the spirituality that has given us traditions more open to art, ritual, and structures designed to preserve things.
We kinda need each other, don't you think? We need to remind each other of the ways God reveals Godself, and balance each other now and then. We need to let God be in the sunrise, reminding us of who we are and who God is and so giving us courage to face a day of following Jesus. And we need to let God be in the work following Jesus gives us to do, which gives us reason to accept the sunrise as a call on our lives to keep open and keep hopeful and keep going toward the future that God imagines. Let the 'sunrise' metaphor apply to other things, too.
The contemplative monk and active writer, Thomas Merton, wrote the quote at the beginning of this post. Merton was well known for his commitment to wedding faith and concern for social change, for the poor, and for creating just communities. Yet he was also a great advocate for connection among all things. His comment here about the sunrise, about beauty and the reassurance it gives is a nice reminder that all things praise God: what is given us that does not change, what reminds us of our connection to all who've seen the same, and in our urgent, humble acts in response.
All good. All God.