I headed North from Seward on the way to Moose Pass for my 2nd church service of the day. While many churches were celebrating Epiphany on January 4th, I confess to having jumped the gun a week early to start on a 7-week sermon series on “Discovering Mission.” So, last week we had talked about the manifestation of God and those magi from the East. “God is still being manifested” we said.
Therefore, perhaps it is fitting that the sky as I headed out of town seemed to manifest the glory of God right before my eyes–on the day we might have been sharing about the sign from God in the sky.
This is my account of that sky from Sunday, January 4th, 2015.
Most Sundays I start up the road to Moose Pass at about 4:15 PM. It’s a 29 mile drive around the mountains, over train tracks and by a large lake that ends at a picturesque little church on another picturesque lake, Trail Lake. And, quite often I stop along the way to take a picture or two depending on how late I’m running. It’s a stunning drive on stunning days.
Sunday was one of those “stunning” days. Shortly after leaving home—still in Seward—I was taken by the beauty of the evening sky. At this time of year the sun is well on its way out by four o’clock and, if the weather is clear, the mountains can look pinkish as they capture some of the sun’s final rays of the day. But this evening the sky was particularly beautiful. I wanted to appreciate it.
Well, what made it so stunning?
You could tell it was getting dark out. But just over the mountains there was a subtle transition from purple to pink to blue that caught my eye. The pink was so very pink. The purple was a deep purple. The blue was strong. And, framed by the mountains below I found it to be quite beautiful. Stunning, as I said.
I had a dilemma at this point. I was still “in town” and there are businesses and homes and power lines and signs all around. I pulled off at one spot hoping to get a good view of the sky, without all of the visual noise in front of it, but it just wasn’t right. I knew that there would be a really good spot for a picture about 15 miles up the road but I wasn’t sure how much of the color would be overtaken by darkness at that point. And I was really hoping to share how wonderful the sky was to all my closest social media friends.
As I drove (never speeding, mind you 🙂 ) I had kind of given up hope of there being any color left by the time I got to a good vantage point. But, to my surprise, it was still pretty awesome 15 miles later. I pulled over and, with my iPhone, tried to do justice to this sunset that I was so determined not to take for granted. I took several pictures. I adjusted the tints and the contrast and the exposures after taking a final picture, trying to get what appeared on the tiny screen to match what I had seen in the sky. It’s amazing how many adjustments one can make these days.
The picture above is as close as I got. I have had several folks affirm me that it’s pretty. Yet I know that it pales in comparison to what the sky really looked like. Nevertheless it is the best representation I can come up with using the tools at hand and my limited ability to communicate through photography. A better photographer with a better camera could have done better. There’s no doubt. But that picture above is the best I can do.
As I struggled with trying to get that picture to look just right, so that I could show others just how awesome that sky looked and just how awesome our God is who is manifested in such a way, I realized that a lot of my job as pastor and leader is trying represent, as best as I can, the revelation, the manifestation, of God. It’s a tough role. And I often struggle with getting the words or the images or the visions just right to express what it is I’m feeling or seeing or believe God is calling us to.
Every Sunday I get up in front of folks and part of my role is interpreting the great mission of God, the MISSIO DEI, revealed through the Old and New Testaments, the history of the church, and the present workings of the Spirit. And I fear (or “know”) that much of what I say and much of what I do is only a poor representation, a weak interpretation, of the wonder and glory and beauty of what God is really doing.
This is not some false humility on my part. It’s the truth. It’s a healthy dose of self-awareness…awareness that I’m a “broken vessel” for God.
Yet, I hope my life can still convey something, can still let those around me see and feel and know something of our God. As I pray that the picture above reveals enough color and contrast and the purples are purple enough and the pinks are pink enough to give a taste of the greatness of a glorious evening sky in Alaska, I pray that my life and my words and my leadership gives a taste of the greatness of the God in whose name I do what I do.
As with the photo, I’m trying to do the best I can with the tools that I have and my own limited ability.
Thanks be to God.