He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn't make. (John 1:3 NLT)
[Jesus said] "For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:20)
Our small group of fishermen was surrounded by the incredible beauty of Juneau, Alaska — mountains, glaciers, emerald green waters, islands, ocean, kaleidoscopic cloud formations, lush greenery, unusual wildlife, whales, dolphins, eagles, migrating salmon, and the bright colors of wildflowers. Peter uses the phrase "manifold grace" (1 Peter 4:10 NAS) to describe the gifts we are given to use in the church. I believe this phrase also describes the incredible natural beauty that the Lord has given us in his creation. Alaska reminds me of this "manifold grace" each visit I am privileged to make there.
The New Testament reminds us that Jesus was intimately involved in the creation of all of that beauty and he continues to uphold the world by his word of power. (Hebrews 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6) In the beauty of our world, with all of its variety and majesty, we catch a glimpse of the Savior and his powerful creativity! (cf. Romans 1:20) If we choose to listen, we can hear the voice of creation proclaim his greatness. (Psalm 19:1-6) To experience the beauty of creation is to hear the whispers of the Lord's formative voice.
As wonderful as catching glimpses of the Lord's glory in creation may be, the best glimpse of the face of the Savior was not tied to the beauty of creation. Instead, the generosity, the warmth, the hospitality, and the grace of God's people in worship, fellowship, and friendship helped us see the face of Jesus. They made us feel at home and welcomed us as long lost members of their family. Even though we were a long way from home, we knew we were among family.
So often, we let the critical and cynical bombardment of our TV-conditioned and consumer-driven age blind us to the preciousness of Christian fellowship. Jesus told his first followers that when they met, he would be with them. (Matthew 18:20) Paul reminded the Corinthians that when they met in the Lord's name, that the Lord's power and presence was with them. (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 5:4) The most poignant reminder of this grace of being with other believers is given us by Dietrich Bonheoffer in the days of Nazi Germany's gathering storm and persecution of loyal Christians:
It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. ... It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden underfoot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brothers and sisters is a gift of grace, a gift of the kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us .... (From Bonhoeffer's 1939 book, Life Together.)
Let's never devalue the blessed privilege of Christian fellowship. Let's recognize that each time we are with other followers of Jesus that he joins us and makes that gathering a holy moment. We will have no difficulty finding fault with some of those who gather, what happens when we are there, or the particularities of how the event is staged. We gather with other flawed people. However, in the middle of our flawed gatherings, our Lord Jesus joins us and makes the moment eternal. Let's choose to see the face of Jesus rather than the faults of others and ourselves.