Psalm 95:1-7; Genesis 1:1-5, 20-25
The Rev. Tom Herbek
August 30, 2015
There was a cartoon in Reader’s Digest recently of God sitting back in his cloud easy chair with a drink in his hand, looking out at the earth, with the caption: “And on the eighth day, God sat back with a scotch and soda and waited for the critical reviews.” We all probably have some criticisms, something we think could have been done better, or at least differently. For some it’s snakes, or bats, or mosquitos. For me, it’s spiders, especially large spiders. I regularly ask God, why did you think spiders were a good idea? There are those religious people that believe creation was a one-time act that God finished in six days – literally. Personally, I really like the perspective of much of Judaism on the creation stories (there are two) in the Jewish bible, our Old Testament.
When reading Genesis 1, it is helpful to note that the Hebrew word translated as “created” is not in static past tense. It can also be interpreted as “In the beginning, when God began to create the heavens and the earth …,” suggesting that God initiated a creative process that continues even to this moment. The God of Genesis is a creating God. As we are made in God’s image, we are made not only to bring order out of chaos but also to be creators. We are not shameful fallen creatures, redeemed only by some only by some cosmic and violent act beyond our control. We are emerging beings, blessed to be a blessing, and bearing special responsibility toward the creation in which we live and move and have our being.
Living the Questions
I like the idea that creation is an on-going process, and that we have a part-in-fact, a responsibility in it. One of the opportunities we have is the possibility each day to open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to the beauty of creation. Ralph Waldo Emerson called beauty “God’s handwriting”:
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful for beauty is God’s handwriting-a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.
The beauty of our world can be a “cup of blessing” for us, and sometimes it surprises us. As we become more and more aware of the beauty around us, we are often then surprised by the presence of God. There is a Sufi story about enlightenment:
“Tell us what you got from enlightenment,” the seeker said.
“Did you become divine?”
“No, not divine,” the holy one said.
“Did you become a saint?”
“Oh dear, no,” the holy one said.
“Then what did you become?” the seeker asked. And the holy one answered, “I became awake.”
One of the opportunities of living together, in a place of such natural beauty here in the Finger Lakes, is the opportunity to “become awake.” Author Richard Rohr describes it this way:
While our culture tends to compartmentalize the sacred and the secular, reserving special places and times as “holy” and others as hopelessly secular, the Divine has a way of sneaking into peoples’ consciousness at the most unexpected times.
There is a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the “thin places” the distance becomes even smaller. A thin place is where the veil that separates the sacred from the pedestrian is so transparent that one is able to catch a glimpse of the mystery beyond. A thin place is anywhere our hearts are receptive to “the More,” anywhere the distance we put between us and the Divine begins to evaporate.
And even though I have serious questions about spiders, I am amazed at the creation that God has initiated in our world. God certainly did not begin it in a half-way style. God poured all of his creative energy into it. Author Robinson Jeffers calls this God’s superfluousness:
Is it not by his high superfluousness we
Our God? For to equal a need
Is natural, animal, mineral: but to fling
Rainbows over the sun…
And beauty above the moon, and secret
On the domes of seashells,
Not even the weeds to multiply without
Nor the birds without music…
Is it not by his high superfluousness we
As we become awake to the beauty of creation, we find it sneaking up on us often, even on days when we are not expecting it. People often tell me that they experience God on the lake. Some tell me they are more apt to experience god on the golf course, and that is where they’ll be on Sunday mornings. And, although they are being funny, I think we overstep our bounds when we believe that God is limited to church, that the sacred is only found in a church building. The sacred sneaks up on us in places that are not limited by designation as sacred spaces. When we open our eyes, when we become awake, the sacred may sneak up on us when we never expected it. As Anne LaMott comments:
The search for meaning will fill you with a sense of meaning. Otherwise life passes by in about seven weeks, and if you are not paying attention and savoring it as it unfurls, you will wake up one day in deep regret. It’s much better to wake up now in deep regret, desperate not to waste more of your life obsessing and striving for meaningless junk because you will have finally awakened.
There is meaning in focus, concentration, attention. I now notice almost every single bird that flies by, as well as every single butterfly. I pay attention to most plain old butterflies, not just the ones in tiaras or argyle socks. Butterflies and birds are like one perfect teaspoon of creation.
Perhaps we can all come to the point of recognizing those “perfect teaspoons of creation.” The sacred is not limited in any way. And nature can change us in ways we never expected.
When whales are cut loose from entanglement in fishing lines, the divers in most intimate contact invariably recount a lifechanging encounter. They sound much like those who return from a near-death experience, describing an all-encompassing sense of peace. A diver who freed a humpback whale from crab-trap lines near the Farallon Islands said, “When I was cutting the line going through the mouth, its eye was there winking at me, watching me. It was an epic moment of my life.” After the whale was freed, it nuzzled him and each of the other rescuers before swimming off.
-Wendy Lustbader, Life Gets Better
It seems that God often uses our natural world to sneak up on us. As we continue to be agents of the on-going process of creation in our world, we must take seriously the sacred task of preserving and protecting the beauty around us. Despite a few critical reviews, our earth is extraordinarily beautiful, a sacred trust, even the spiders.
So, may we keep awake, keep our eyes open, in order to experience the sacred in our midst, the growth and learning that will sneak up on us today and every day of our lives.