The Creator Is Still Creating

On September 20, 2016 by saintlukesgresham

Rev. Jennifer M. Creswell

God doesn’t create junk. It’s something I believe completely, and something that’s hard to reconcile with a lot of what I see. There are ugly places in this God-created world. Places where rot and decay seem to be winning. Places where garbage and filth have trashed neighborhoods. Places where harsh chemicals and human exploitation have rendered this fertile earth uninhabitable. It’s in people, too: so much beauty and so much that I might want to throw away. But God doesn’t. The love of the creator is in every atom of this creation. And what God sees that we can’t is the long arc of time and reconciliation. What looks like junk to us looks like an unfinished piece to God.

I read a husband’s account of his wife’s pottery studio. He writes that she has a garbage can where she keeps scrap clay and scrapped projects—the things that didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to—to be refashioned. A potter never wastes clay, he writes. It’s not something that gets thrown away. Rather, the bits and brokens get squashed in with the rest of it and get pulled out and shaped again for another try.

I love the earthiness of this passage from Jeremiah. I love how it makes me pause to picture the potter’s studio in my mind, to feel the clay moving in my fingers. I’m an introvert, a thinker. I’m more comfortable working things out

in my head than in the actual world. I can get stuck in my head if I’m not careful. One of the things I’ve been really grateful for in the last few years at St. Luke’s is how Springwater Studio has coaxed me out of my head and into my body. I usually stay away from art-related activities. While we were in Scotland last month, on Iona, there was an activity on the beach for kids and adults and it was simplified Pictionary in the sand. The kids were much more talented than I was. When I drew what was meant to be a frog, their guesses were “UFO,” “Frisbee,” “seal.” I have a really hard time putting an image from my mind onto paper. I’ll just say it: I’m really terrible at drawing. My handwriting has nothing neat or uniform about it. I’m not an artist. But that bit of self-knowledge, that belief about myself, has limited me. I’ve opted out of all kinds of experiences that involve drawing, painting, sculpting, creating, looking. What I’ve been re-learning in Springwater is that it doesn’t take artistic talent to be creative, and that the eyes and the hands have a wisdom that the brain doesn’t share. Because Springwater is here, and I’m the rector of this congregation, I’ve found myself sitting down at the art table far more often than I ever would have chosen. And I’ve had fun. I’ve been re-awakened to seeing God’s presence in beauty. And more than beauty. Something has happened to me in the process of creating. With colored pencils and bits of lace and rocks and oil pastels and papers of every thickness and color, scissors that cut in different patterns, stencils, stamps, knives and rolling pins—with all of this at my disposal, I’ve felt like a kid wanting to try it all. And in that childlike place, it has stopped mattering whether what I create turns out

“beautiful.” The creative process, the process of choosing, making, coloring, presenting—it’s spiritual. In it, I see more of God the creator and the artist. God who touches matter and lets it guide him into what it will become. God who takes his time, not concerned about the outcome but only in love with what he is creating. God who calls everything he creates “good.”

Because I’ve been re-introduced to God through art, this passage from a preaching website caught my eye. –Anathea Portier-Young writes:

“Jeremiah must leave his own familiar spaces, step away from the scriptures and the sanctuaries, bypass the committee meetings and professional development seminars, and instead learn about God and God’s people by watching an artist at work.

You too, preacher, must visit the potter’s shed. Or watch the painter mix her paints and fill her canvas in the open air. Feel the weaver’s coarse-spun wool as she weaves her tapestry of richly colored threads. Smell the shavings in the woodworker’s garage as she shapes and matches the joints that will secure board to board. Hear the songwriter test chord progressions and lyrical phrases as she scribbles, strums, and hums. When you do, you will learn something new about God and you will hear a fresh summons for God’s people.

Other scriptures invite us to imagine God as ruler and judge, writer and teacher, farmer and builder, father, mother, and lover. Jeremiah 18 invites us to see God as an artisan and artist.”

Sometimes it’s hard for a non-artist like me to see the value of beauty. It’s nice, but is it necessary? Isn’t it more important to take care of more practical things before we worry about art? What I’m learning is that God is an artist. God who blessed the woman for pouring out an entire bottle of perfume on his head, God who gave minute instructions for the design of the temple and everything in it, from red and purple wall hangings to pomegranates carved into the pillars, God who formed mud into humans and called it good.

God is like a potter, and Israel is like the clay. God forms them with his own hands, shaping the vision into reality, smoothing the rough parts and removing the impurities from the clay. And when the people Israel hardens into something misshapen and ugly, the potter takes them back into his hands and fashions them again. And again. And the same thing happens with us and with our communities, and with our neighborhoods and our wastelands, our Superfund sites and our own battered souls. The creator is still creating. Amen.

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