Monday, May 02, 2005

God is weaving

As I look around in my conference of the United Methodist Church, I do see many pastors who are lauded as exemplary managers-growers of churches, makers of disciples, payers of full apportionments. I also see many pastors who are lauded for their challenging and inspiring preaching, their dedication to outreach and their willingness to go to the margins, their respect for biblical scholarship and their assumption that tradition must stand on its merits and relevance. Fortunately for one just entering the ministry, there are pastors in whom these traits intersect in some degree or other, and they tend to be available for mentoring.

Strength in one area should not exclude at least competency in the other. The church requires both types, but my own preference, and, I suspect, my skillset, lies in the second category. I admit my bias before I go on to state that I believe the future and relevance of the mission of the church lies more in the hands of those who are concerned less with managing and maintaining the vehicle for proclaiming the message of God than with grappling with the challenge inherent in the message of God.

Struggle is certainly one aspect of our relationship with God. To approach our sacred texts with honesty and openness is to know oneself as one of those stiff-necked people, stubbornly determined to find in God what we find in ourselves. It is to attempt to live a life that seems at time to defy the instinct for survival.

Yet, there is also a sense in which we cooperate with God. For example, creation can be thought of as a process rather than an event. If creation is a one off happening, then we and everything in it can only be seen as the result. However, to understand God’s creative activity as incorporating us and responding to our existence requires our participation. And it is our task as those who would be a part of God’s creation to see our actions and our relationships with God and with each other as an integral part of God’s activities. Consider this:

God is crying.
The tapestry of creation
That she wove with such joy
Is mutilated, torn,
Made into pieces,
Its beauty torn apart with violence.
God is crying.
But see!
She is gathering the pieces
To weave something new.
She collects the pieces from hard work;
The aim: to defend
The initiative for peace,
The protests against injustice,
Everything that seems
Small and weak;
Words and deeds given
As sacrifice
In hope,
In belief,
In love.
And see!
She is weaving them together
With the golden threads of joy
To a new tapestry:
A creation richer, more beautiful
Than the old!
God is weaving,
Patient, persistent,
With a smile
That is shimmering like a rainbow
Over her face, striped with tears.
And she invites us
Not only to continue
To give her our works
And our suffering pieces-
But even more-
To sit beside her
At the loom of Jubilee
And weave
Together with her
The tapestry of a New Creation.
-M. Rienstra, translated by Yvonne Dahlin

There are a few obvious flashpoints in this piece from the foundation of traditional, patriarchal, Christianity of God as “wholly other,” omnipotent, omniscient, and, above all, masculine. Would I preach from this perspective? Oh yes. I would because it adds another layer of meaning to our struggle with God, and perhaps our understanding of God.

If we are God’s “good creation,” made in God’s image, then God too must be creative and imaginative enough to see “results,” as mere beginnings and our struggles with God and with each other as the warp and woof of something new. This could be uncomfortable to a stiff-necked people who like clear boundaries, security in right belief and actions, and “results.” I would hope so, anyway, for in the ensuing struggle is potentiality for new creation. Perhaps the new creation will be readily apparent when we fully recognize ourselves as both God’s good creation and God’s co-creators.

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