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Saturday, April 23, 2011

An Easter Meditation on The Song of Faith

God is Holy Mystery,
beyond complete knowledge,
above perfect description.

in love,
the one eternal God seeks relationship.

So God creates the universe
and with it the possibility of being and relating.

The United Church Song of Faith was published in 2006. It is our most recent effort to express our shared faith. As we were reading it responsively during worship one Sunday, I felt my spirit resonate with one particular line, as if someone had rung a bell inside me.

“God creates the universe”

This is a statement in the present, and not the past tense. It suggests that God continues to be at work, and that the universe, including the part where we live, and our very lives, are still works in progress. Creation was not a static, once and for all action.

When I was studying philosophy at university, one of the images suggested for God was a kind of cosmic clock-maker who built everything, put all the pieces together, and then wound it up, and let it go. In this model, the universe was complete at the beginning, and is winding down as time passes. God’s work is done, and now all God does is observe.

I personally find more hope in the image of God as one who is still busy creating the universe. God’s work with the stars and planets, and with you and me, is not nearly done. We can learn, and grow, and change, and improve. There are always new possibilities.

Not long ago I went to the graduation performance of my daughter’s improvisational acting class. The teacher told us that one of the basic principles of this art form is “Yes, and…” The improvisational actor is challenged to accept what their colleague has just said or done on stage, and somehow add to it, improve upon it, carry the creation forward. It does not really work to say “No, I can’t work with that!” That would result in an abrupt, uncomfortable, and unsatisfying end to the show.

The Song of Faith goes on to say:

God tends the universe,
mending the broken and reconciling the estranged.

God enlivens the universe,
guiding all things toward harmony with their Source.

The image of God as Clock Maker does not work for me. Neither does the image of God as Puppet Master, pulling all the strings, and controlling all that happens. Somewhere in between these extremes is God as the Loving Creator, still at work, tending to the universe, mending what is broken, and nudging each of us in the best directions, without making us do anything.

On Good Friday we remember the story of Jesus dying on a cross. To me, this is a story of brokenness. People who felt threatened by Jesus, and all that he represented, conspired to kill him. His death was a malicious, violent, unspeakably cruel response to a loving and peaceful man, who gave his life and spirit to showing others the love of God.

How does God respond? It is conceivable that the evil of crucifying such a good man would have been enough reason for God to say, “No, I can’t work with that!” We could imagine God’s divine hands washing themselves clean of all humanity.

But God, the Ultimate Improv Artist looked upon the death of Jesus, one of his beloved children, and said,(at least in my imagination) “Yes, and….”

Somehow, God accepted what had been done to Jesus, and found a way to work with it- to allow that evil act to result in good. The revolutionary faith movement that had begun with Jesus and his first followers was not stopped. Jesus’ friends experienced the Risen Christ. Wondrously, mysteriously, Jesus was still with them.

The events of Easter Morning are part of God’s ongoing creative effort, to make and mend the world, and us. Happy Easter!

Grateful for God’s loving action,
We cannot keep from singing.