This weekend we discovered the beauty of Muir Woods along with nearby Stinson Beach and Mt. Tamalpais. I had already fallen in love with the glory of Coastal Redwoods while on retreat at St. Dorothy's Rest and enjoyed seeing them at Tilden Park, just up the road from school. But this was new. This is old-growth ancient forest primeval. This is walking quietly along a trail to bask in the deeply cool and moist shade and listen to the chuckle of a small creek. Stopping periodically in awe to see the fingers of sunlight slipping through to illuminate the emerald green of moss and ferns against the red bark of a giant tree.
Even more than church has been recently, this was a place where I felt the presence of God. I was reminded of the words in Eucharistic Prayer C in the Book of Common Prayer: Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Only it is the Table of the Book of Nature and not the Eucharistic Table I was experiencing. Walking determinedly deeper into the park and up side paths to escape the tourists crowding the main trails close to the entrance I felt soothed and comforted. Standing at the roots of these giant trees and looking up my soul was reaching for heaven with them and peace was drifting down like the soft sunlight. But deliver me from the presumption that this place, this peace, is only where I go for comfort and pardon. I come to this place for strength and renewal also - for the courage and restoration to return to my everyday world and continue to do what God is calling me to do in the community in which I find myself.
Working with Incarnational Theology this week for a paper in History of Christianity is certainly a form of wrestling. I am reminded, and laugh somewhat sheepishly, that God has a way of bringing us to a place where we come face to face with what me most need to learn or embrace. Though Tertullian is not the easiest of reads, and the form this paper is taking is not the easiest choice I could have made when determining how to approach this assignment, it is teaching me more than I could have imagined about my own living experience of God in this time and place in history.