In Celebration Of Our National Parks

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

Nowhere is God more completely revealed than in Jesus Christ, but Glacier National Park runs a close second. Today is National Parks Day, and this year we get to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

I had hoped at this point in my life to have visited more of the national parks than I have. But, of the ones I’ve visited so far—the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, and the Great Smoky Mountains—Glacier is my favorite.

Some people go to our national parks and come home without having seen God, but I honestly don’t know how. So if you haven’t been to any or all of the national parks, you ought to go, if for no other reason than that God is so clearly present in them.

More people than ever think that believing in God is crazy. They wonder what evidence believers have to support their belief in a divine creator. But as we celebrate our national parks, I’m reminded that the evidence of God is all around us.

Me and Julie in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (2014)

Me and Julie in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (2014)

I wonder if those who question God’s existence have ever dangled their feet from the ranger tower at the top of Apgar Lookout in Glacier National Park. I wonder if they’ve traced the peaks of the continental divide rising up over Lake McDonald with their fingers.  

I wonder if they’ve stood with the deer in the early morning fog to watch the sun rise over the cliffs of the Yosemite Valley.

I wonder if their hearts have skipped a beat as they peered over the edge of the Grand Canyon, trying to see the Colorado River more than a mile below.

I wonder if they’ve hiked the wooded ridgelines of the Great Smoky Mountains and imagined the journey of their ancestors who crossed those mountains more than two centuries before.  

I’ve done all those things and more in our national parks. I’m thankful to God for creating all that is in them—the lakes and the mountains, the rivers and the canyons, the deer and the valleys, the ridgelines and the hollows, the cliffs and the fog and the rising sun. And, I’m thankful to God for creating in me the capacity to see God through them.

President Teddy Roosevelt, in many ways the father of the National Park Service, once camped overnight at Yosemite with preservationist John Muir. He said of the experience, "It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man."

The national parks remind us that the whole earth is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3). The grandeur of the national parks both reveals and celebrates the one who created them. But, as grand as the national parks are, nothing preserved in them represents the high point of God’s creation. That distinction is reserved for you.

As grand as the vistas in Glacier National Park are, as awe-inspiring as the Grand Canyon is, as intricate as the inter-connecting ridgelines of the Great Smoky Mountains are, you are more so. Your intricacy is more stunning, your capability more awe-inspiring, and your humanity more revealing of God’s grandeur than is anything in any of our national parks.

So today I thank God for the ways that God is revealed in our national parks. But even more, I thank God for the ways that God is revealed in you.

See you Sunday.