Almost every day when Will and I leave the house, I hear the same cheer from the backseat of my car: “The sun came up!” As the sunlight shines on him through the windows of our car, warming his bright smile, he continues his celebration of the new day. He invites me to participate. “Daddy, look!”
“I see! God made the sun come up!”
“Thank you, God,” he says, and our liturgy is complete.
Three-year-olds are experts at seeing the miraculous in the mundane. In this series, Derek and I have already covered the parts of our sanctuary you might describe as the most significant: the cross, the candles, the table, the bible, and the pulpit. The rest of our series (with one exception) now shifts decidedly to the common: some flowers, windows, wood, books of music, a gathering space, doors. Early on, the Reformed church rooted out any hints of idolatry in its worship spaces. The result is simplicity. I find worshipful joy in the majesty of Catholic cathedrals, the icons of Orthodox churches, and even the fine altars of fellow Protestants whose traditions chose not to strip their sanctuaries.
But there is beauty in the simple, too. Our God is God of the common. As we say in our confession: “God exercises providential care over all creatures, peoples, nations, and things…. God ordinarily exercises providence through the events of nature and history.” (1.13 & 1.14) God’s sovereign, providential care over all creation – even those acts we see as common, everyday occurrences – are still miraculous works of God’s abundant grace. It is common grace, poured out on all humanity, by God who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good.” When we worship, the sunlight that passes through our windows to warm our faces is the reminder that God is God of the whole world. And he cares for the whole world.
But the windows are not made of one-way glass. Even greater than this common grace we see in the rising sun is the grace extended to us by the resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This grace is greater, but it is not for us only. It is for the whole world. When Christ died, the curtain in the temple that separated the common people (and even most priests!) from gazing directly into God’s holy presence was torn in two.
Our windows are tall, unstained, and the natural light of God’s common grace shines in on us during worship – just as it does on the whole world. But our light – the light given to us in the grace of Jesus Christ and for his glory – radiates outward as well. We cannot hide Christ’s light under the bushel of the chapel! As we worship, and as we leave worship, we proclaim – with Will’s enthusiasm – the words of the psalmist: “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”