One feature of ministry here in Luray and the Shenandoah Valley generally is that the congregation increases significantly during the summer season due to tourism. Certainly many places see an increase in tourism over the summer, but in this area we welcome a particularly large number of guests who come here to see and enjoy the beauty of nature in the caves, the mountains, and the green fields and hills in between.
From the standpoint of faith, this sense of the beauty of nature should be seen as an appreciation of the artistry of God, a theme that the Bible and especially the Book of Psalms celebrates many times, as with Psalm 98 which proclaims, “Let the seas roar, and all that fills it, the world and all who dwell in it! Let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for He comes.” Or, as the friends of Daniel pray, “Let the earth bless the Lord, praise Him and exalt Him above all forever / / Mountains and hills, bless the Lord // Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord … Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord // Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord.” Dan. 3:52-53, 62-64.
Certainly, the Christian spirit rejects any notion of the worship of nature, whether from ancient paganism or New Age ideas. We are likewise free from materialistic beliefs that the laws of nature control all events in a deterministic fashion. Rather, as St. Paul says in the letter to the Romans, we should see in the visible beauty of nature a first promise of the invisible glory of God. See Romans 1:20. It is true that nature is sometimes opposed to humanity, as with natural disasters or simply bad weather that interferes with agriculture or even family gatherings.
For as St. Paul goes on to say, all of creation groans in travail, awaiting redemption. See Romans 8:18-22. But as St. Paul also says in Romans, God promises to liberate the goodness in humanity and in nature. Even now this redemption is at work in the continual renewal of nature and the redemption of humanity, a first promise of what the Books of Isaiah and Revelation call “the new heaven and the new earth,” See Isaiah 66:22; Rev. 22:1.
Thus, as we welcome guests to enjoy the glory of nature here in this area, may our lives likewise show forth the first promise of the beauty of life with Christ.