The Journey Blog

Reflections on the art of leading

Monk’s Beard in God’s Classroom

This is an adapted version of a meditation I gave onboard a riverboat that travelled the Rhine last April. We were visiting the area where much of the history of the Reformation occurred and this little vingette perfectly captures the stance with which we entered that time. It is an example of our view of learning and of the joy of giving our hearts to others through our work as redeemed men and women. 

Psa 24:1 “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein...”

This morning I want to frame our time time together in a particular mindset—that the entire world is God’s classroom. This is clearly seen in how Jesus taught the disciples as they walked, as they were in a boat, when he saw the widow in the Temple putting in her pennies.... I want to encourage you to open your eyes and ears and hearts, to see the myriad marks of the image of God on display in the works of his image bearers all around us. We will see it in culture, architecture, food, winemaking, brewing—everything we observe.

Walking through the streets in Zurich a few days ago, we passed a little shop with bundles of an edible succulent plant. It was labeled, Barba di Frate (which is Italian for monk’s beard). We were interested because it was obviously being sold as food, but we weren’t familiar with it. I learned that it is also known as saltwort, because it is of the family of plants that tolerate a salty habitat. What one might not know about this plant when thinking of it as food is that it has great historical significance: it is the plant from which soda ash was made out of the ashes of the burned plant. It was the reason the world famous Venetian Glass had such amazing crystalline clarity. The artisans on the island of Murano off the coast of Venice still make their prized glass today. Murano glass is one of the 100 oldest continuing operations Companies in the World, and would have been in operation, and in wealthy homes, during the 16th Century.

Consider the wonder of the outpoured creativity and artistry of God’s image bearers all around us. Wherever we see it, it should always point us to the Creator, and move our hearts to wonder, and worship, and thanksgiving that he not only created the world but he came into it to rescue it, and that his rescue included you and me.

Note the words of the poet William Cowper describing God’s great and wonderful wisdom, and his creative power:

Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never-failing skill,

He treasures up His bright designs,

And works His sovereign will.