Hard-faced. . . severe. . . grim. . . John Calvin. If there is a person in history whose reputation is more dour than John Calvin’s, I can’t think who it would be. But John Calvin also wrote, “Wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of God’s glory.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, Ch. V, para. 1)
I was thinking about this claim a few evenings ago when I went for a walk and saw an extraordinary sky show. I almost skipped the walk because of threatening weather. Gusts of wind blew leaves off trees, grey clouds loomed overhead, and it started to rain. After approximately 39 drops, the rain stopped and the wind died down. So I decided to risk it, and headed north on my usual walking route.
Not long into the walk, the shadowless grey above me began to change, starting with the tops of trees. Golden light descended on the shimmering trees. Looking westward, I could see the beginnings of a splendid sunset. The sun’s rays were lower than the clouds, and high enough to illuminate the treetops. And then my path turned eastward.
And there it was, a rainbow emerging in the eastern sky. A sunset behind me, a rainbow before me–what could be better than that? But the show had just begun. For as I walked toward the rainbow, it grew in size and intensity. Now it was a full 90⁰, emerging from the clouds. Soon it expanded to a complete 180⁰. Higher still, a trace of its double began to arc over it. In the west, the sun was approaching the horizon and the sky was yellow orange, causing the clouds surrounding the rainbow to turn pink. I could hardly decide which way to look, but the rainbow and pinking clouds summoned my greater attention. And since there was no one to share it with, forward momentum kept me walking.
The trail turned south, and took me through a grove of aspen which obscured my view of the sky. When I emerged from the trees, the rainbow was fading and the pink returning to grey. But the process took several minutes, enough time for me to walk and look up, walk and look up, walk and look up to see the rainbow finally dissipate into the darkening clouds.
Soon it was time to turn westward on my walk. The sun was now below the horizon, yet still casting colors onto the low-lying clouds. The sparks of God’s glory filled my spirit. This is an evening walk I want to remember, I thought.
The sparks of God’s glory are everywhere in creation. I saw them today in a young couple who sat in my office sharing their plans to marry. They were glowing. The radiance of their delight in one another, their love of the life they are already sharing, and their joy in imagining their future together cast a beautiful aura over the room.
I heard the sparks of God’s glory crackling over telephone wires this morning as I talked with a woman about her friend who recently died. She told me what she thought was most important to say about her friend, what made her friend a unique gift in the world. I understood this special character in a new way, for what she said was so true.
I feel the sparks of God’s glory as I write. Our cat, jealous of the computer on my lap, sleeps between me and it. Her breathing reminds me that I too am breathing, my heart is pumping, my body metabolizing, my brain thinking, and my soul praying in gratitude for all these sparks of life. The quiet of the afternoon provides peace for contemplating my place in this universe of wonders: tiny, but connected in a conscious way to the divine being who is the source of its brilliance. Wherever I look, I am discerning sparks of God’s glory.
To write it is to remember it, and remind myself to live it.
With appreciation to Steve Garnaas-Holmes,9/28/2015, “If only we knew,” http://unfoldinglight.net/.
Photo: “Wunderkerze brennend” by Silberchen – selfemade picture. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wunderkerze_brennend.JPG#/media/File:Wunderkerze_brennend.JPG