Exploring God: Creating Imperfection Since the Beginning
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost • August 6, 2017
Genesis 1:1-2, 4
Pastor Elyse Ambrose
In the beginning God created. Whether through word, or gentle hand or cosmic explosion, or some combination of these or even more circumstances, God created. Creation stories like what we’ve heard in this morning’s annotated scripture reading attempt to convey some truth through stories intended to be passed from generation to generation. The power in these stories is not that they are factual, but, like all sacred text, they give us some revelation of the Divine and of ourselves.
In Genesis 1:1-2:4, the priestly writer gives us one account of creation from the Israelite perspective. You’ll find another in Genesis 2:5 and onward. None of us can know what specific meanings this writer or these writers had in mind, so this morning, and each time we approach the sacred text, we’re invited by a creative God to step into the story as a seeking community and be creative as our evolving Christian tradition has taught us to be. For a long while, many felt that this creation story was intended to signal the sanctity of the Sabbath day; that if God chooses to rest, so must humanity. I think that’s a great lesson for us to learn, but what else might this sacred story of creation be speaking to us?
Let us pray: Creator God, you have created good. Yet, so often, we do not see good. In our well-intended desire to see the ideal, to see perfect justice, to see perfect love, to see perfect Christianity and perfect politicians, perfect equity in this world, to see a perfect plan at work in our lives, we often are disheartened and uninspired, and find it hard to try for the good. Give us courage to accept, and even celebrate imperfection, and to see in the middle of the imperfect, the opportunities you place before us to co-create: to have and do and be and see good. Amen.
With today’s sermon, Exploring God: Creating Imperfection Since the Beginning, we take time to explore God who does not offer us visions of a flawless utopia, but a creation that is a work in progress. It is imperfect, but good. Somewhere along the way in Christian tradition, we got the sense that things ought to be perfect (including us), and that its our fault—and sometimes more specifically, a woman’s fault— that everything is horrible, sinful, and contradictory to God’s perfect plan. Well, as tempting as it is to embrace this well-known story, God is inviting us to explore more deeply. To look into this story to see that maybe God was never really one for perfection and we’re the ones who’ve been placing this burden on ourselves.
If something is perfect, it is complete, it is whole, it is ideal, absolute. Nothing to be added or taken away. It seems to me that this is not a story of God creating the perfect, but God beginning to create some good, and of God beautifully inviting humanity along for the ride of co-creating good. “Be fruitful. Expand. Care for the earth. And let it be good.” Trees will continue to grow, land will continue to do its thing. People are going to do their thing. This is the beginnings of an ongoing co-creating process that isn’t complete or ideal; yet, God calls it good. But, still, we want so badly to have the perfect. Perfect meetings. Perfect lovers and spouses. Perfect days. Perfect selves. We are held hostage by the perfection that we think should be, and so often cannot see the good that is and the good that can be.
But, back to the text. This story of the Creator God begins with God and chaos. The wind or Spirit of God hovered over “the face of the deep,” says the text, the abyss. In Hebrew that word is tehom, and you might call it, a primordial, watery “chaos.” Anyone familiar with chaos?
Maybe visits to your home town or your own living arrangements feel like a disorienting experience of internal dissonance and disruption. Chaos.
Maybe the real life “House of Cards” that we are watching unfold in the White House feels tumultuous and worrisome. Chaos.
Maybe you’re in a season of transition, and it isn’t necessarily negative experiences that you are encountering, but things feel in disarray and up in the air. Chaos.
What we have come to see from living for a little while or a long while is that chaos is part and parcel of this human experience. But, some good news is that God is still creating, and inviting humanity and I would dare say all creation, to co-create with God from chaos, and it is good.
The president and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (aka ICE’s) recent attacks on the lives of immigrants has those who support our migrant siblings in great flux. I have recently begun working with an organization called the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, an interfaith network that stands “publicly in solidarity with families and communities resisting detention and deportation in order to stay together.” The organization is hustling to ensure that as few people are harmed as possible, that ICE does not get to capture and deport at whim, and most importantly, that immigrants who are trying to build lives in our city feel that they have support. I had the pleasure of accompanying one woman and her daughter from Honduras who were seeking asylum in the US. I and a team of three others sat with this woman who spoke very little English as we filled out forms that only read in English. A fellow accompanier sat with the woman’s daughter as this 3rd grader practiced her English on an iPhone app, assuring her that no one says “chips” when referring to French fries or orders an “infusion” when they really want tea. Apparently, the app had British English in mind. But these moments of levity and care and awkwardness and of strangers coming together to try to help someone navigate this broken system was a sign of us co-creating with God some good from chaos. In a perfect world, maybe there would be no borders and no need to seek asylum and no red tape for gaining the most basic of human needs—safety and shelter. But, that’s not reality. That’s not what we have. We have an incomplete, imperfect picture and we are empowered to co-create good out of it.
I believe the wisdom in today’s scripture is that chaos is the perfect ground for creating good. In the face of chaos, the answer is not perfection; its goodness.
I want to close by answering this question of what is the good that God wants us to co-create? What is good? Well, it seems to me that this entire text called the Bible is a story of creating and co-creating, and the pitfalls that happen when humanity cuts off their relationship with God and abandons the co-creation project. It’s a book about right relationship that brings about the good. In the beginning was relationship. The reign of God that Jesus preached is a kin-dom of relationship. Our scripture and Christian tradition reveal to us that that which is good is that which brings us into right relationship with God, ourselves, others, and all of creation. This good that God wants us to co-create is all apart of this larger process of all creation being in right relationship. Whatever deepens and more authenticates these relationships is good.
We are called to consistent and committed co-creating of the good. See an injustice. Do the work to respond to it and turn it on its head. Then, say with God, it is good. See a broken relationship. Take the steps that God is speaking for you to take to heal. And say with God, it is good. See the places in your own life that feel without hope, see your own growing edges. Take action. And say with God, it is good, trusting in the Creator God that this God will always be with you. And that’s reason enough to know that at some point in this journey of co-creating, by God’s grace, you will be able to say “it is good.”
Take a moment: What is God calling you to co-create? How can your creativity be used with God’s to co-create good? Please don’t deter yourself by saying I’m not a creative person. The Creator God is in you. You are creative. What imperfect, and good thing might God be calling this community called Church of the Village to co-create, or even this UMC?
It is in the imperfection that new things can be imagined and created that will bring about more and more good. Take the invitation to co-create with God. I absolutely promise you that what y’all make will be imperfect. And, thanks be to God. It will be good.
May it be so.