Sunday looks like it will be a good day to beat the heat. Yes, it’s time to gain some elevation.
On Sunday afternoon, you are invited to have a worship experience up at Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Trust me, it will be cooler there than down in the valley.
We’re not looking to simply escape the sweltering heat of the valley, though it will be nice to experience some natural air conditioning. We’re headed to a thin place so that we can worship God in a location that has natural power. In June, we gathered by the banks of Deep Creek to experience worship by the water. And in August, we will venture to another thin place—a forest glen up at Pinnacle Point Park.
Mountain tops have long been considered to be thin places for a variety of reasons. Thin places are locations where the membrane between this world and the next is thin. In addition to the beauty that high places typically afford, the ancient Celts considered mountain tops to be the closest one could get to heaven without leaving this world. High lands have long served as places of retreat and refuge for people who needed to be quiet. Their ecosystems are often unfamiliar and other-worldly. The craggy outposts feature gale-force expressions of God’s divine breath. Mountain tops are both visible and yet often inaccessible. These attributes work together to transform high lands into sacred spaces. Just as our ancient forefathers and mothers have taught us, worship outdoors can be a powerful experience.
No, in retreating to these thin places it is neither nature nor creation that we worship. We venture to the water’s edge and to the forest glens because these places change us when we are there. These thin places cause us to be thin; that is, accessible to a God who wants to break into our lives. It’s not the rocks, trees or views that we worship. It is God that we are seeking. And our God wishes to be found.
But we often don’t wish to be found, do we? We resist God’s revelation by turning away from the source of our strength. We choose to drink from cups that promise quick relief rather than to drink from the living water that God offers us in Christ Jesus. We fill our heads and our hearts with noise and distractions because we cannot bear to hear the truth in God’s still, small voice. Sometimes, we don’t feel like having an encounter with God.
So, we choose a change of scenery. We remind ourselves that God is the author of creation and that we, too, have been created with the same care and creativity that He employed with the design of the towering balsam trees and the evocative sunsets. Being in nature can better help us to be more natural and authentic ourselves. When we retreat to places of beauty and power, God can reveal Himself to us in sublime and surprising ways.
The Blue Ridge Parkway makes the inaccessible accessible. The highlands that we occupy will perch us high above that which often drags us down. I hope you’ll choose to join us as we worship God there together.
Join us at the parking area at Waterrock Knob (milepost 541) at 5:00 PM this Sunday afternoon, July 14. We will worship together first, and then you’ll be free to hike, have a picnic, or take in the sunset at your leisure.