Creativity: God’s Beloved Masterpiece; Genesis 1:1
Plymouth First United Methodist Church; August 8, 2021
Pastor Toni Carmer
I trust in the last 4 weeks as we’ve talked about Travel as a Spiritual Act, the different places where you’ve visited have come to mind. Our emphasis these past weeks as we’ve talked about travel has focused on the people and the relationships we’ve gained, and on the lessons we’ve learned about our similarities and differences. But today I want to guide our journey on a little different path. I would like for us to see/to breathe in/to receive/to give thanks for the awesome beauty of the creation God has gifted us, and then I’d like for us to consider the ways in which we have been invited to be co-creators in God’s continuing gift of creation.
We’ll begin at the very beginning, with the first verse of the Old Testament book of Genesis, which you’ll notice ends with a comma and a promise that there is more to come: “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,”
Our creation story is written in beautiful, poetic language. It’s not offered as an historical account or a scientific explanation of our origins. No human being observed our beginning (we weren’t created yet); it’s about revelation and testimony. Our story reveals the who, rather than the how. Our story neither contradicts nor argues science; it provides the raw material upon which scientific inquiry begins. God intentionally—not accidentally or randomly—but actively and creatively—forms the whole of creation, bringing it out of nothing. God is at the heart of the process. Everything that exists relies upon God at its origin and purpose. God tells the story. (This story comes from the Storyteller’s Companion to the Bible, Michael E. Williams, editor, Volume One: Genesis).
It all began as a formless void. The emptiness was emptier than anyone could imagine, and the loneliness was lonelier than anyone could imagine.
So God begins to tell the story that becomes the universe, saying, “Once upon a time there was light”. And there was light. Then God named the light day and the darkness night, the first two characters of the story. At the end of the first day God said, “This is good.”
God continued the story, “Once upon a time there was a sky that sat upon the water.” And that took care of the second day.
“And once upon a time there was dry land surrounded by oceans, and the land sprouted all kinds of trees and bushes and plants and flowers, all with seeds to reproduce themselves.” And at the end of the third day, God said, “This is good!”
On the fourth day God continued, “Once there were two lights, a greater one to look over the day and a lesser one to guard the night. We’ll call the greater one the sun and the lesser one the moon.” And so it was. Then God said, “This is really good!”
On the fifth day God said, “Once there were fish and birds and other creatures of the sea and sky, and they were blessed by giving birth to others of their kind and filled the oceans and the heavens.” And when God saw the colors of the fish sparkling in the water and how the birds graced the sky, the Creator sighed, “This is really good.”
The sixth day was a very busy one as God moved toward the completion of the story. “Then there were wild animals in the forests and jungles and tame ones on the pastures and plains.” But the story still wasn’t complete. Then God had a flash of insight as sometimes happens in stories. “Let’s put a character in this story who is just like us to take care of all the other characters and things in this story. This character could pick up the story and tell it just as I have.”
So God told of a character who would be the very image of the divine storyteller. The character was like God and came in two styles, male and female. God told the new creatures to care for everything else in creation and gave the green plants of the earth for the human creatures and all the other animals to eat. So God’s story that spoke the world into being came to a close.
When God looked at all the wonderful parts of this divine story, the Creator’s voice boomed across the entire creation like a strong wind, “Now this is really good!”
Then on the seventh day God rested from telling the story of creation and blessed the day, setting it aside for rest.
On this day we still gather on the day of rest to tell God’s stories and to bless the day, each other, and creation.
Consider all the wonders of God’s creation. As I’ve snorkeled, visited aquariums and/or watched the National Geographic station on Cable, I’ve seen fish and other creatures under the waters, colorful coral, little glowing neon fish, great big sharks (not while snorkeling, thankfully!) with little tiny fish swimming along like personal body guards, and jelly-fish (ouch). We see the majestic flights of hawks and eagles, fireflies and dragonflies and hear the twerpy chatter of parakeets, sparrows or whatever those are outside our bedroom window that begin their conversation after the sun comes up.
You can’t help but wonder what a great day God was having when zebras and giraffe were designed, along with sweet piles of kittens and pointy-nosed dogs that sniff their way into our hearts. And then, there are sunflowers, lilacs, sunrise, sunset, moon glow, thunder and lightening. Not to mention mountains and seas and volcanos and whatever else comes to your mind that you have delighted in and that have taken your breath away. Too much to think about, more than we can name.
God is amazing. And God left us in charge to care for all these creatures, to care for one another, to continue to discover new ways and new possibilities of living, tending and responding to the needs and changes in our world.
Made in God’s image, we are designed to be co-creators with God and with one another. When we think of all that can involve, we may feel completely inadequate. We may, with conviction, proclaim, “I’m not creative, at all.” But I want you to think again about that, and broaden your vision of creativity. Creating isn’t limited to the arts. You may be someone who is really good at setting up Excel spreadsheets. You can keep track of stuff for the groups you’re a part of in ways that cause others of us to go cross-eyed. You may be good at figuring out solutions to problems. You might be a great cook or baker. Or you’re someone who restores vehicles who looked like they belonged in a junkyard and now are parade-worthy. Maybe you can hear that noise in the vehicle while it’s running and can diagnose and fix it! Maybe you’re someone who can calm down an irate customer on the phone, or who knows just the right words to comfort a grieving family. God gave you creative gifts that you use every day.
And yet, sometimes we lack confidence in the gifts we’ve been given. Or we expect perfection, when perfection isn’t the point.
A woman shared about a choir experience that taught her a valuable lesson. Her church choir had begun rehearsing to perform some of the “greatest hits” of Handel’s Messiah, but she wondered if they’d be able to pull it off. Whenever they began a new selection of the music, the director would halt them repeatedly urging them to focus on the tone, pitch, pronunciation and articulation. The mistakes and corrections felt endless.
As they listened to one of the soloists practice, she omitted a few words during her solo. Before going on, the director held up his hand to get everyone’s attention. But rather than pointing out the soloist’s mistake, he unexpectedly instructed everyone to resist following the musical score as each soloist sang.
“If you follow along and see a mistake” he explained, “you won’t be able to help reacting, which will draw attention to the mistake because the audience will see your reaction. Just sit back and enjoy the music as it is performed. I’ll cue you when to come back in.” He was adamant on this point. “No looking!”
Once on stage and singing before a standing-room-only audience, the nitpicking and fine-tuning were done. As the end of the concert, with the final notes still hanging in the air, the crowd greeted the choir with a loud appreciative applause. Were there mistakes? Of course. Did the Director stop and correct us? Not once. Nor did he give any indication that there ever were any mistakes. We just kept singing.
The audience hadn’t come hoping to pick out mistakes, nor did they expect perfection. They had come to enjoy the familiar comfort of the majestic sounds of Handel’s music.
I started painting at some point the year before Scott and I moved here in Plymouth. I had taken a sabbatical and decided there were some things in life that I had always wanted to do. If I didn’t start now, then when?
Painting was one of those things that I’d wanted to do since I was a kid. I was late elementary or early junior high when I visited with a neighbor who had an easel set up in his garage and paintings hung all over the walls, in the same way the men I knew hung tools or sports equipment. I wanted to learn to paint, too!
Over the years, I would do some sketching and wished that what I saw could be translated onto paper, but nothing looked like it “should.” I finally discovered that what I created didn’t have to be literal translations, but my own interpretations, and with that, painting became fun and challenging in a whole different way. What I paint is an expression of my creativity, and that’s enough.
It’s the same with the guitar lessons I started taking a few months ago. I can play some songs now and my chords are getting clearer, but I’m far from ready to have ANYONE hear me. But I remember my dad playing the guitar when I was a kid and how much I loved singing along with him. He left when I was 6 but I still remember those moments. Maybe I can create some good and memorable moments with my grandkids someday. I’ll keep practicing. I don’t think they’ll be expecting perfection, either.
We were each made in God’s image, which means that God’s creativity has been gifted to each of us, to bless our lives, to bless one another. There are protégé’s, yes, who amaze us with what they can do…and we give thanks and celebrate their gifts. But at the same time, we can give thanks and celebrate the gifts God has given us. Some come more naturally to us then others do, some require practice, but none require perfection.
You’ve been given gifts. Do your best. Offer your best. Give your best. And your best will bless. Amen.