The sun is coming up in Arizona as I write this. I can see its light hitting sides of the mountains that surround this retreat center. The mountains, for a long time, have kept back the Phoenix suburbs, but the suburbs have turned the tide. I see the glints of windows in the sun, a gleam of a rooftop here and there on the side of the mountain. There’s a moment here when the streetlamps fade and the mountains glow, the sky is clear, and the breeze picks up, and you understand why Phoenix is now the fifth-largest city in the country. It’s beautiful, and wonderful to be surrounded by sky and mountains.
I’m here at a continuing education conference organized by faculty from California Lutheran University’s school of Business Administration. It’s a three week model in which they try to give pastors basic tools others would get in an MBA program. Yesterday I spent most of the day learning about basic church accounting, which was really helpful. I spent the night arguing with other pastors about what vindication means in Scripture, and whether or not the national youth gathering is a waste of time. I went to sleep looking forward to seeing the sun rise on the mountains, with all the thoughts of the day churning in my head.
Now, as I drink a cup of coffee, I think again about Gregory of Nanzanius, and his Orations at the Festival of Lights. The Psalm text for this week says to God, “In your light we see light.” Gregory delivered his orations at this time of year, welcoming seekers into the faith at Baptism. I’m not sure how we all see the world, and what we see when we look at it. Outside my window I see the beauty of the mountains and the dawn, the handiwork of human hands, and the slow and inexorable creep of the human destruction of nature. Eventually, if things continue as they are, there will be less mountain and more architecture, fewer birdsongs and more thrumming of car engines.
What could I see in God’s light? How could the world change in the light of God? The light of God seems to open possibilities to our sight, and stirs our hearts to desire something better, something good. The light of God unsettles us—but in it, we see the light of God, which is the most beautiful of all illuminations. What do you see in God’s light? What desires awaken in you?