Browsing From the Pastor's Desk

True Wonders

Jul 28, 2017

There are wonderful things around us if we just open our eyes to see them. After driving over 4,500 miles on my vacation, this truth has never been impressed on me with such power. How could I not have seen these wonders so close to us?

It is truly amazing that there are so many on Interstate 70 between here and Columbus, Ohio. Hard as it is to believe, on this stretch of road you will find the world’s largest wind chime. I didn’t hear it, probably because it was a calm day, but I saw the sign. There is also the world’s largest rocking chair; maybe it’s the one Lilly Tomlin used to sit in on Laugh In back in the early 1970s, or maybe it’s even bigger. At any rate, I didn’t hear any creaking. Then there is, according to the sign, the world’s largest golf tee. I can’t imagine how big that would be, especially if it were to be useful for anything other than teeing off the world’s largest golf ball; but there was no sign for that. These signs reminded me of another wonder nearby, advertised on I-44 down toward Springfield… the world’s largest gift shop in Phillipsburg.

The only wonder that I did see on I-70 was the world’s largest fireworks store, which must be a work of love. I can’t imagine it does much business in February or most other months except in the lead up to July 4th.

Real wonders are works of love. Take the rainbow. God said: This is the sign of the covenant that I am making between me and you and every living creature with you for all ages to come: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth Gen 9:12-13. A rainbow is indeed a wonderful sight, and a double rainbow even more so. The first one of those I ever saw was in Chile, when I took the first group of students from Priory to visit to learn from the Benedictine schools there.

My nephew’s ex-wife lives near Orlando, Florida. She used to live in Anaheim, California when their children were in high school. To her and her children, there are no greater wonders than Disneyland and Disney World, where she takes her now-adult daughters whenever they visit. I guess it is fun, but to me it is far from wonderful. It’s not such a small world after all. If you go to the top of the Empire State Building or the Sears Tower in Chicago, you’ll see some Hudson River and Atlantic Ocean, some Lake Michigan. But mostly you’ll see blocks and blocks of man-made buildings. Impressive perhaps, but not really wonderful to my eyes.

The U.S.A. is quite wonderful, though. There are many wonders to see, but it’s rather like I remember Central Park when I lived in New York City. When you went there on a weekend to experience some green and peace, there were 3 million other people there with the same idea so the traffic jams and crowds just moved into the park. For example, Yellowstone National Park (definitely one of our wonders) accommodates a million visitors a month each June, July and August; and the Grand Canyon, 750,000.

Someone asked me “Why do you go to Canada on vacation?” Well, once you get away from Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City, you have a land of vast tracts of very sparsely populated land mostly in the natural state, much like I envision the land to have been over which God spread that first rainbow for Noah. It’s a pleasure to drive on good roads with not much traffic, to interact with unhurried, friendly and courteous people so different from those in New York. It’s a pleasure to see a gleaming Church steeple over every little village. You do see power lines snaking through the wilderness, and if you step out of your car in the wilderness, a cloud of welcoming mosquitoes may descend upon you. I never did see a moose but plenty “Danger Moose” signs. There’s probably a reason for that.

Canada I find good for the spirit. I visited a monastery of Trappist monks way up north of Lac St. Jean. They spend their lives praying and in silence making chocolate. Outside of the few big cities, most of Canada is like a natural monastery. Of course, it’s not to everyone’s liking. That monastery was founded way up there to make the land productive and stem the tide of French Canadians fleeing to the U.S. But the people there now love their land, their culture and their way of life. That is wonderful to experience.

Canada may be vast and lightly populated, but it is tied to the U.S. This was made so clear to me by a peculiar interjection of technology into the wilderness…pairs and triplets of sophisticated fighter jets practicing flying in unison and swooping over the trees and waters of the fjord. It seems I chose my visit to the Saguenay fjord for the exact time of the annual Bagotville International Airshow at the Canadian Air Force base there, which did not appear on any maps I saw. The show attracts 300,000 people from all over Canada to this one town in a region which has a total population of not quite 100,000 spread over a wide area. I left the morning the show began, heading in the opposite direction from the rivers of cars, vans and buses streaming toward the base.

However, those jets are wonders too, of the increasing human mastery over the matter and principles of God’s creation. They are powerful symbols of strength; they can protect as well as destroy. Canada and the U.S., the wilderness and the cities, the trees and concrete buildings, the gravel roads and the highways all remind us that there is a proper time and place for all things in God’s creation. God trusts us to place and use all of these wonders, natural and man-made, to hold up our end of the covenant God has made with us. It started with Noah. And I’m pretty sure I saw a sign on I-70 about a replica of the ark being built somewhere along there.

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