“When I have a terrible need of—shall I say the word—religion—then I go out and paint the stars.” —Vincent Van Gogh
In a turbulent world, a turbulent man had it right. Before he painted, Vincent was a failed preacher who remembered that the heavens still declared the glory of God. In Alex Haley’s novel Roots, Kunte Kinte’s ancestor held his newborn son heavenward, declaring, “Behold, the only thing greater than you!” Carole King wrote in her song Up On a Roof, “At night, the stars, they put on a show for free…”
Turbulence drowns in a sea of peace when we take time to go outside and just look up. The Heavens still declare God’s Glory—He made them, you know, and He is bigger than all of it. Best of all, He loves you.
I confess have a favorite movie—Babette’s Feast*. Like Jesus, Babette prepared a feast for a village of enemies—of each other. The table is set with mercy, peace and reconciliation. I hope you’ll watch it someday. Near the end, Old Lorens, a surprising character in the story, offers a great toast…
“Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another. Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.” —Old Lorens Lowenhielm, Babette’s Feast
*Rated ‘G’, French-Danish, with subtitles
“The secret of tranquility is the presence of Christ. When He is in the boat the waves calm themselves…if you and I are conscious of restlessness, interruptions of our tranquility by surging, impatient passions and hot desires within ourselves, or by the pressure of outward circumstances, or by having fallen beneath our consciences and done wrong things—let us understand that the breaches of our peace are not owing to Him, but only to our having let go His hand.” —Ian Maclaren
The devil makes every effort to keep our hearts turbulent—to keep us unsettled and afraid—grabbing for anything but Jesus to calm the storm—to make us fear walking on the storm with Him. But when Jesus arises He’ll rebuke the winds and waves, and there will be a great calm. “It is I—be not afraid.” Take His hand, hold tight and go for a walk.
“O, God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.” —An Old Breton Fishermen’s prayer, from a plaque on President John F. Kennedy’s desk
God can seem dark and vast, stormy, dangerous and overwhelming—like the churning sea. But like the sea, He’s also encompassing—unpredictable at times—but His love and grace fill the deep, endless expanse of all He is. The sea is always bigger than the storm. Even on the waves He comes to us walking, reminding us, “Fear not—it is I,” and calms the storm.
We are surrounded and we are safe.
“You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive,’ or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity.’ [But] In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” —C.S. Lewis
We all want a better world—in fact we really need a new one. Someday. Until then, the world isn’t the problem, rather it’s the people shaping it, who crave a perfect world while rejecting any perfect, benevolent, loving standard. That’s where Jesus’ followers come in. We aren’t Him, but God is making us to be as much like Him as anyone can in this messy world. He’s often hated—and that means we will be, too—He said so. But in a world of “men without chests” we bring a beating heart of purpose, love and salvation to an increasingly turbulent generation. Until He comes, we are what the world needs—because we bring Him, all of Him, plus nothing.
The world is starving itself. Bring the fruit.
Among the Jews is an old expression, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”* Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends.” Today we thank God for those men and women of the United States Armed Forces who stood in the obstinate gap between peace and violence and fell defending liberty, virtue and faith—defending us—and even saving the world.
*Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a
A merchant once found something much bigger than America…
“I am a most noteworthy sinner, but I have cried out to the Lord for grace and mercy and they have covered me completely. I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my whole purpose to enjoy His marvelous Presence.” —Christopher Columbus