Meditation on John Muir

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

What a lovely surprise, opening the daily Richard Rohr (Oct. 10, 2021) meditations and finding

Praise the Lord from the earth,
Sea monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
Stormy wind, fulfilling God’s word;
Mountains and all hills;
Fruit trees and all cedars;
Beasts and all cattle;
Creeping things and winged fowl;
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For God’s name alone is exalted;
God’s glory is above earth and heaven.

Psalm 148: 7–10, 13

These past weeks in the US I have been discovering and then been fascinated by the famous naturalist, John Muir.  John Muir was born in Scotland in 1836, the son of a conservative Campbellite preacher who required his children to learn the Bible – both testaments – by heart.  The family emigrated to the US where Muir would find his way from the family’s farm in Wisconsin to the American West.  Working first as an inventor and then a handyman in the nascent tourist attraction, Yosemite area, he would continue as its champion, being instrumental in the region becoming the 1st National Park.  A self-taught geologist, botanist, and even an expert in glaciers, he acquired unsought fame through articles and his endeavors to preserve the natural world that he loved so.  Eventually he would found the quintessential American organization dedicated to the protection of nature, the Sierra Club, and go on to become its president.  His legacy includes over 300 articles and 12 books and he is known as the father of the National Parks, having worked to preserve not only Yosemite but also several other areas like Mount Rainier.

A Christian all his life, John Muir’s connection to the divine he found in nature nevertheless raises many questions.  Was he a pantheist?  Is his spirituality not closer to Buddhism?  And yet, does it really matter?  In our modern age when we in the Western world have the luxury of caring and then ultimately the obligation to take responsibility for our planet, his words have never rung truer:

“No Sierra landscape that I have seen holds anything truly dead or dull…everything is perfectly clean and pure and full of divine lessons.  This quick, inevitable interest attaching to everything seems marvelous until the hand of God becomes visible; it is then reasonable that what interests Him may well interest us.  When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” 
[Italics LSE].

And it is not only the interconnectedness of all things that transfixed Muir, it was the peaceful solitude that replenished him.  He is quoted as having said that, when he met a plant or a stone that he was unfamiliar with, he would sit for hours, even days, next to it, observing but also absorbing its presence.  Paul says,

Ever since the creation of the world, the invisible essence of God and his everlasting power have been clearly seen by the mind’s understanding of created things.

Romans 1:20

Which brings us once again back to the Franciscan monk, Fr. Richard Rohr.  “Perhaps once we can see God in plants and animals, we might learn to see God in our neighbors. And then we might learn to love the world.”

Wishing you sublime God-finding experiences in the natural beauty that surrounds us. 

The ACF Midweek Meditations
are written by a diverse group of our church members with the intention to seek God’s fingerprints in our lives. They range from somber to humorous and are inspired by all facets of live and faith. Written by ordinary people from all walks of life, they reflect a wide range of Christian backgrounds and spiritualities.

Each week’s text portrays the individual viewpoint of its author. They might not always resonate with everyone, and are not meant to be understood as representing the Anglican Church Freiburg as a whole. Yet, as a church that is aiming to ‘Build a Community of Grace’ we seek to practice learning from and listening to one another.

We pray that these humble ponderings add a small spark of blessing to your week.

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