|The Rev. Canon Jan Cope in Alaska|
In August my husband, John, and I went to Alaska for our vacation—a place we had never been and had heard so much about. We both love nature and exploring new places so this seemed like a good choice. We were prepared to see wildlife, beautiful mountains, streams and rivers, and exquisite sunrises and sunsets. What I was wholly unprepared for was encountering the sheer magnitude and awesomeness of our Creator as we cruised through Glacier Bay National Park.
Glacier Bay is comprised of 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, forests and waterways. When we entered the bay in the early morning, it was cold, rainy and quite foggy. While initially concerned about our ability to actually see the glaciers once we reached them, it set the stage for the breathtaking moment when the fog lifted and these spectacular rivers of ice came into view. Nothing could have prepared me for that encounter with our Creator. I had no words—just the sheer sound of silence. What soon came to mind, however, was the wonderful canticle, A Song of Creation, Benedicite, omnia opera Domini (a paraphrase of Psalm 148), that captures the glory of all of God’s creation.
The experience reinforced my belief that we all need those wilderness encounters with God to be reminded of the mystery and majesty of our God. When we are confronted with all of the challenges and conflicts within our own community, nation and the world, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Parker Palmer writes about “functional atheism” which is the “belief that the ultimate responsibility for everything rests with us.” Alaska helped me to regain my perspective and deep rootedness in our quite awesome God, our true refuge and strength. Obviously one need not travel to Alaska to encounter the sheer magnitude of our Creator. There are many wonderful places in and around Washington to experience God in nature, and I would love to hear about some of yours. The point is that it never has been nor ever will be “all up to us.”
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains be toppled into the
depths of the sea;
Though its waters rage and foam,
and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Psalm 46:1 - 4
The Rev. Canon Jan Cope is vicar of Washington National Cathedral. Find her on Facebook.