A pursuit of beauty

Ewing Brambling

On Sunday, Duncan tried an experiment which involved us all listening to Luke 10:1-17 read twice by Eilidh in the wonderful Message version. We then had to use our smartphone (if we had them!) to enter the word or phrase into an on-line site which generated a word-cloud which we were able to watch unfolding on the screen in front of us.  One phrase which captured quite a few folks’ imagination was where Jesus told the 70 people he was sending out that they should assure people in the towns they visited that ‘God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep.’ This wonderful dimension of God’s love and grace has come seeking us out, inviting us to live evermore within that kingdom.

But the phrase which meant most to me was used by Simeon earlier in the service. He was giving us an update on the Ewing Family’s Big Year – during 2018, the Ewings are trying to spot and photograph as possible as many species of birds as they can in Scotland.  Their total is currently 147 and their target 150. So three to go in the remaining weeks of 2018!

They are also being sponsored for each species they identify, and the money will go for research into Ocular Melanoma.  They aim to raise £10 in sponsorship for each species – currently they have been promised £8.30 per species – they would welcome further financial support.  A 10p donation per species would mean giving £15 if the Ewings reach their total!

But Simeon had added a strapline to the project – ‘A pursuit of beauty’, emphasising the loveliness, variety and beauty of the birds the family were photographing.

And that phrase appealed to me.  There is something in all beauty which points to the beauty and perfection of God.  So to pursue beauty is ultimately in fact to pursue God.  As Christians we are called to see ourselves as beautiful, as those whom God loves and cherishes.

‘Beauty’ in human lives is seen not in the absence of pain and trouble, but in the grace which reflects the presence of God despite our struggles.

We are called to see beauty in others: to see that those who do not see themselves as beautiful are loved, cherished by God and by that very fact have incalculable value and beauty.

And we need discernment: what matters is not so much physical beauty, as beauty of the spirit, beauty of the heart.

If we are serious about the pursuit of beauty it will affect our consumption of media and social media. We do not hide from the ugliness of reality – instead we look out for beauty amidst the ugliness, and seek to express the loveliness of God in messy situations. But we know we will not be nourished by a diet of ugliness as entertainment.

As the Ewing family scan the horizon for a hitherto unseen species, so we can be alert to beauty,  open to the beauty of God  reflected in unexpected places, and in unexpected ways.

(The photo is of a Brambling, the Ewing Families 147th species of the year.)

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