For our fifth wedding anniversary, Sarah and I made the trek across the pond to Iceland. Word was starting to get out about this not-so-hidden-anymore gem. We couldn’t resist when the opportunity arose amidst careers and before diaper dandies came along. There are only so many experiences in life that no matter how much the anticipation builds and the expectations soar about certain places or events or whatever else, that they can somehow still be met. Iceland was and is one of the few so far (I suppose diaper dandies can be a part of that list, too).

It’s as if our eyes could not look away no matter how lengthy the rental car rides were somedays. Over there was a black sand beach with pristine waters as the backdrop. Over here was a monstrous glacier (although not as large or as many as there used to be!). On the other side was Reykjavik with one of the most beautiful Lutheran churches you’ll ever see in Hallgrímskirkja (which I will never be able to pronounce). In between were the most serene waterfalls, not to mention animals freely roaming over hills and valleys and mountains, and on and on we could go. It had the most mind-boggling variety of the natural world, as if it was the best exhibit of God’s transcendent beauty.

Safe to say, it remains my favorite place in the world. Perhaps that will change over time, but it is our family goal to take our children there someday. There aren’t too many other places that we know of to match the memorable depth for the eyes to see. That is why pictures of that most wondrous country hang in my office. Although I haven’t taken the time to really, really look at them since putting them up at the start, they still offer their own humble, but eye-catching serenity: as if these walls can actually talk.

And yet, there’s an irony that they hang inside a church building, as organized religion continues to desperately search for ways to be all things to all people. Even we Lutherans have ventured into different musical styles and technological communications, among other things, not simply to stick with the times, but to be at least somewhat more things to more people. Granted, no community faith can pull off offering everything to everyone. It’s not possible for we humans to have all the energy and resources to pull off the richest depth of Creation, for instance. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t try a few new things here and there.

One of the most memorable parts of that new journey for Sarah and myself was being stopped in our tracks on our way back to the Airbnb for the night. Other cars had pulled over too. Tourists from all over the world were mesmerized by what was ensuing in the sky. The Northern Lights were on full majestic display. Again, one of those things that doesn’t disappoint no matter how much is talked up beforehand. Sometimes, trying the new things will unleash such a spiritual symphony of joy and beauty. I like to think that’s what God did in Jesus: a new way of reaching out to our humanity, a way that wasn’t quite anticipated. And I suppose part of the church’s trying a few new things to be a bit more to more people is remaining committed to the call to help children of God experience a double-take over the Christ: over the grace that is even more breath-taking than all the natural world, that reaches further than the entire universe and beyond. Thanks be to God, indeed!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad

Image: Aurora borealis over the Snaefellsnes peninsula, western Iceland, March 2013.