June 11, 2017
16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:16-20
This is how Robert Farrar Capon describes creation:
“One afternoon, before anything was made, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost sat around in the unity of their Godhead discussing one of the Father’s fixations. From all eternity, it seems he had this thing about being. He would keep thinking up all kind of unnecessary things – new ways of being and new kinds of beings to be. And as they talked the Son suddenly said, ‘Really, this is absolutely great stuff. Why don’t I go out and mix us up a batch?’ And God the Holy Ghost said, ‘Terrific, I’ll help you.’ So they all pitched in, and after supper that night, the Son and the Holy Ghost put on this tremendous show of being for the Father.
“It was full of water and light and frogs; pine cones kept dropping all over the place and crazy fish swam around in the wineglasses. There were mushrooms and grapes, horseradishes and tigers – and men and women everywhere to taste them, to juggle them, to join them and to love them. And God the Father looked at the whole wild party and he said, ‘Wonderful! Just what I had in mind! Tov! Tov! Tov!’ [Good! Good! Good!] And all God the Son and God the Holy Ghost could think of to say was the same thing…So they shouted together, ‘Tov meod!’ [Very Good!]. And they laughed for ages and ages, saying things like how great it was for beings to be, and how clever of the Father to think of the idea, and how kind of the Son to go to all that trouble putting it together, and how considerate of the Spirit to spend so much time directing and choreographing. And forever and ever they told old jokes, and the Father and the Son drank their wine in [the unity of the Holy Ghost] and they threw ripe olives and pickled mushrooms at each other [world without end.]
“It is, I grant you,” he continues, “a crass analogy; but crass analogies are the safest. Everybody knows that God is not three old [friends] throwing olives at each other. [Yet,] I give you the central truth that creation is the result of a Trinitarian bash, and leave the details of the analogy to sort themselves out the best they can.”
We too often forget the playfulness of God. We get caught up in the seriousness of the world. We get caught up in taking ourselves too seriously. We get caught up in trying to nail down faith in words and explain a God who defies naming and numbering. We divide ourselves up by how we talk about God. We tell the story of creation as one in which chaos is tamed into order and one in which humans come to dominate the others. We tell the creation story as one in which this happened before that and seek out some scientific connections in the poetry. We too rarely hear the profound refrain – And God saw that it was good.
Perhaps we figure as we look at everything crumbling around us that the world God saw to be very good is no longer, that somehow we’ve managed to mess it up beyond repair. That leads us to point fingers at others or turn in on ourselves in despair. But this raucous banquet, this poem of creation is not a story about what happened long, long ago before anyone remembers, before anyone even came to be as if it was good and is no longer. It’s a story about what’s happening now, today. It’s a story about God’s reveling in all creation as it unfolds day by day by day. A story about God over and over again overtop our chaos proclaiming, “And it is good.”
None of this is to negate that God also deeply grieves with us at the losses we experience and that God, in Christ, joins us in our deepest suffering. It does not mean that God condones all we do or ceases to worry about the injustice that exists. But it means that insofar as God looks at you there is cause for celebration because you are, you exist. You in all your particularities and quirks, with all your gifts and skills. And that celebration is all the more for God’s being somehow more than just one.
Capon continues his analogy a bit further to shed light on this idea:
“What happens is not that the Trinity manufactures the first duck and then the ducks take over the duck business as a kind of cottage industry. It is that every duck, down at the roots of its being, at the level where what is needed is not the ability to fertilize duck eggs, but the moxie to stand outside of nothing – to be when there is not necessity of being – every duck, at that level, is a response to the creative act of God. In terms of the analogy, it means that God the Father thinks up duck #47307 for the month of May, 1970 [C.E.], that God the Spirit rushes over to the edge of the formless void and, with unutterable groanings, broods duck #47307, and that over his brooding God the Son, the eternal word, triumphantly shouts, ‘Duck #47307!’ And presto! You have a duck. Not one, you will note, tossed off in response to some mindless decree that there may as well be ducks as alligators, but one neatly fielded up in a game of delight…The world is not God’s surplus inventory of artifacts; it is a whole barrelful of the apples of [God’s] eye, constantly juggled, relished, and exchanged by the persons of the Trinity.”
Of course there are biological processes. Of course there are all kinds of ways that the parts of creation interplay with one another generating and creating themselves. But in that place that makes the difference between being and not being, God creates each of you – the inspired idea of you, the rush of creating you from nothing, the naming you “You” and calling you beloved – very good.
And in the midst of this joyous celebration of being and existing and creating we hear the call of Jesus: Go. Go make disciples of all nations. Go invite all creation into an awareness of the creator’s great joy. And splash with them in the waters of baptism. Go remind them of their belovedness. The call of Jesus to the disciples isn’t meant to be an onerous task, or a command to coerce and drag people kicking and screaming to church. It’s a joyful invitation: Come! Celebrate! Come eat at this incredible table of creation where God rejoices in you.
Today we welcome another set of new members to join us in the little piece of the celebration that happens at Immanuel. The little corner of God’s table that is in Amherst, Massachusetts. They get to share with us the awareness they have of God’s joyful celebration in other places. We get to learn about their gifts and skills, the things that make them who they are. Together we all get to discover new things that God is creating among us.
Together we get to eat at this table, taking part in the great feast of creation, tasting a tiny bit of the joy our creative and creating God has in us. The very flesh of God offered for you – you who are not a mere number or simply the result of generations multiplying, you who are held up with joy and named beloved through the waters of baptism. You who are held up and admired and loved from the heart of God in the midst of God’s grand creation dinner. And full of God’s joy we hear the invitation to go and invite others until every last person knows the love and delight of God, and all the time the echo of God’s proclamation over us: Tov! Tov! Tov! Good! Good! Good! Tov meod! Very good! Amen.
-Pastor Steven Wilco