October 21, 2017

God Hidden in a Wondrous Web

All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in struggle, in government — to what does it all amount before God except child’s play, by means of which God is pleased to give his gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere? These are the masks of our Lord God, behind which he wants to be hidden and to do all things.

– Martin Luther, Exposition of Psalm 147

I hold in my hand a bus ticket. Waiting at the station, I am greeted by the woman behind the counter, who answers a question and directs me to the right location. A man with a broom and dust pan tidies up around the room, which is filled with early morning travelers. It is just past 3 a.m., and we look it.

The buses are lined up outside, ready for our boarding. The bus driver opens the door at the appropriate time, makes his announcement, and begins checking our tickets. When we and our luggage are safely aboard, he greets us over the sound system, outlines the course of our trip, backs out and we are off.

I think about what it takes for one passenger like me to make a trip like this.

People have designed and oversee a website where I can purchase my tickets and print them off. They deal with other folks at banks and credit card companies that process my order and information securely. This, of course, all depends upon a reliable electrical grid, as well as the computers and servers and wires and switches that enable our signals to connect and get to the right place. People designed my computer and the printer at home by which I print out my ticket. Others manufactured it, still others marketed it, and another group of people worked in the store that stocked it and sold it. Another store sells the ink refills I purchase, the final link in a similar chain.

Now here I am on the road. The same electrical grid lit the station where I waited for this bus. The water and sewer system keep it hygenic. The people who work there keep it clean and functioning. Some group of people designed and built this bus on which we ride. Thousands of parts were manufactured and assembled to form it. It runs on fuel from the earth — but not raw fuel — refined fuel that human beings harvested and processed and blended and carried to filling stations in other vehicles likewise made by human hands. We ride on a road that did not just appear in the wilderness. It was built by people. Citizens pay taxes to keep it maintained, which is another task done by a host of workers.

I could go on and on, and it seems clear to me at least, that this exercise is virtually endless. If we go far enough, we might hear God say, “It is good.”

Sometimes people talk about heading out of civilization to “God’s country” — some place where nature displays awe-inspiring vistas that awaken our sense of the Creator and the magnificence of his creation.

I like to do that too. But here I am today, sitting on this bus, thinking of the hidden God about whom Martin Luther wrote. How marvelous are his works! They are past finding out.

For everywhere I go and everything I do depends upon a wondrous web of people who are fulfilling their vocations, from sweeper to driver, from bus manufacturer to builder of roads, from IT person to the clerk who sells me my ink refill. They mask the common grace and goodness of God, who keeps this world turning and holding together and functioning with life and strength and skill. He does his work through our hands.

By virtue of that wondrous web, and the Spirit who animates it and keeps it operating, I made it to Chicago on time.

And now it’s almost time for the journey home.

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for the reminder of the many ways civilization praises God. I’ve felt similar things at times just looking at a freeway. We know all to well how civilization can hide our Lord through evil. It’s good to be reminded of how He is also hidden in the good.

  2. I love a car trip, bus trip, airplane trip, all for their variations on this theme…finding the hidden God in plain view and in very much glory! On the ell, watching debarkcation peering into each face to see the Image peering back, guessing how each one bears it, how they show.
    As they spin by the car, trees and crops drawing todays nutrients up through the teensiest of pathways, all while stretching toward heaven in praise. The land bearing prints of the Master Land Planner who has made it so all drains as it should to keep things clean, the water returning to the skies for new showers tomorrow.
    Tears streak my face as my hands go up, knees clutching the wheel as best they can while my sobbing voice sings in fits and glubs.
    Hidden indeed, but not well hidden at all! He is everywhere present all the time, and perceptibly all-filling with all His fullness. How do you hide somethone like Him?

  3. I think about these things at times, too, Chaplain Mike. Sometimes I watch the science channel’s show about how things are made and I am amazed at all that has to go into making even something that looks simple when it is completed. And then when you consider major things like bridges, airplanes, vehicles, it blows my mind to think about what kinds of minds it took to come up with all this. If the world had been made up of people like me, we would still be living in hovels, barely keeping ourselves alive with the food we may find or grow! It is like magic to me each time I turn on the computer, answer the phone, drive my car. Thank God for the intelligent, creative people on earth! (Even though there are times I want to get AWAY from the phone, the computer, the car.)

  4. Great reminder that we should take nothing for granted. This brings to mind some of Dorothy Sayers essays on the value of work and producing stuff, and how it connects us to one another, as well as ways in which the modern corporate world de-values these things at times. Wish I could remember the exact titles of the essays and the book they appeared in but it escapes me. Good stuff there if anyone has the inclination to look for it.

    • One at least is “Why Work,” in her book Letters to a Diminished Church. Is that what you were thinking of, John?

    • It may be The Mind of the Maker. That was a good book about creativity and how it’s a reflection of God’s “personality” basically.

  5. My mind goes through a similar tailspin of glorifying God when I hear Psalm 104. Especially now that we know “you made the moon to mark its seasons” and the like refer to a planetary dance of enormous proportions. I’ts dizzying to think about.

  6. Thanks for this. I so enjoyed Gene Veith’s “God at Work” which explored this concept in detail and Gustaf WIngren’s “Luther on Vocation.” Excellent works–they were paradigm shifting for me–God works our sanctification through our faithfulness at vocation. Amazing thought.

  7. “God works our sanctification through our faithfulness at vocation. Amazing thought.”

    That IS an amazing thought, Richard. Thanks for pointing it out.