Recently, my wife and I took our first vacation abroad visiting Spain & Portugal. For me, the most exciting part of the tour was the opportunity to visit several cathedrals, a monastery and art museums. I pictured Europe with beautiful churches but few active attenders, assuming that Europeans like increasing numbers of Americans were no longer interested in religion.
Those assumptions turned out to be biased, arrogant and not necessarily true. The cathedrals were filled with lines of tourists and locals. Guides told the history behind the beautiful architecture as well as the magnificent paintings and statues inside. The stories were about the conflicts and struggles of artists creatively expressing their faith. At each place, people obviously moved were pausing to reflect.
One guide said: “Art, opens a door to the sacred. It’s a window to heaven. It is a way to see Jesus, to know him, to love him. It’s a way to know he is an awesome God, an omnipotent God. He reveals himself through all these sculptures, these paintings.”
Philip Yancey writes: “There are three kinds of Christians that outsiders to the faith still respect: pilgrims, activists and artists. The uncommitted will listen to them far sooner than to an evangelist or apologist.” God was working through the creativity of architects and artists to reveal Himself to others.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary near Fatima, Portugal attracts millions of visitors each year from all walks of life. They often walk for miles, then line up to burn candles and offer prayers. The candles are a reference to Christ – “I am the light of the world” but they also represent the faith as well as the anxieties of those who visit. One guidebook: “They say that judgment does not exist here. Once one sets foot on this hallowed soil, all barriers of race, social status, background and religious differences cease to exist. One is no more than a humble soul in search of a renewal of one’s connection with God.”
In 1916, on three separate occasions, Lucia and two cousins, saw an angel and started doing acts of penance and self-sacrifice. Many flocked to Fatima to see for themselves. Although the last sighting occurred in 1917, Fatima continues to be a destination of pilgrims.
A pastor writes: “Although nonbelievers do not oppose a spiritual search, they will listen only to those Christians who present themselves as fellow-pilgrims on the way rather than as part of a superior class who has already arrived.” God was actively working through the dedication of ordinary children to reveal Himself to others.
What I witnessed in my travels was not so much an outpouring of faith but more a spiritual curiosity and openness that God really exists and could still have an impact on our lives. God was at work through the creativity of architects and artists as well as through the changed lives of ordinary children.
Billy Graham looking back on his life said: “Back when we did those big crusades in football stadiums and arenas, the Holy Spirit was really moving – and people were coming to Christ as we preached the Word of God. But today, I sense something different is happening. I see evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in a new way. He’s moving through people where they work and through one-on-one relationships to accomplish great things. They are demonstrating God’s love to those around them, not just with words, but in deeds.”
Is the Holy Spirit be working in a new way or is this what God intended all along? Billy Graham preached to millions, but Rev. Graham recognized something else at work. God is also moving through people where they work and through one-on-one relationships to accomplish great things.
Jesus said: “You didn’t choose me. Remember; I chose you and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.” (John 15:16) Jesus put us on this earth to bear fruit. Whatever our gifts, whatever our talents, as fruit bearers we have an opportunity to make a difference in our homes, in our community and in the world.