Sitting in a beautiful Catholic church sanctuary this morning, I was reminded once again about the non-negotiable, essential, life-or-death need of human beings to create art. It could have been the beautiful, extravagant cover of the copy of the scriptures sitting on the communion table, or the way in which the sanctuary was laid out by the architects in cruciform shape with the altar as the point of focus. It could also have been the eight brilliantly-colored stained glass panels that hovered above the table depicting the story of Creation. All of these details are extravagant. They aren’t necessary. They are superfluous to the gathering of people to worship. And yet, somehow, they aren’t excessive. They are manifestations of our innate human requirement to encounter the beautiful and, by extension, the divine. Song, glass, chalice, wood, color, shape – these things, too, are the spoken Word of God. And somehow these silent, yet pregnant words, become like umbilical cords that channel and ignite the divine spark of life that rests within us all. They are words that create order out of chaos and light out of darkness.
I spent the day yesterday in my youngest daughter’s room. The state of chaos there had reach epic proportions and threatened to unravel the space-time continuum. The moment had come to utter the sacred and time-hallowed command handed down to me by my father and his father before him from time immemorial. “Clean up your room.” But, that command is always easier said than carried out. The situation was beyond my daughter’s capacity to deal with on her own. So, Saturday was spent clearing out corners, drawers, and the dark places underneath the bed, sorting, donating, discarding, cleaning, and organizing. My older daughter was impressed with the outcome, so much so that she asked, “When are we going to do my room?” “Why don’t you go ahead and do it yourself?” I asked. “Because, you won’t be there to tell me to throw things away!” We forget the power of the spoken word.
That is what I love about the first Creation story. It is the reminder of God’s ongoing creative work of pushing back chaos so that order and light can exist. And you and I live in the midst of that ongoing creative work. We hear God’s life-giving words spoken into the world, commanding that the things that are decaying, broken, and corrupted be discarded so that life may have room to breathe. But we don’t merely have existence. We have life! We have color, and music, and hummingbirds, and the smell of freshly ground coffee, and topiaries shaped like dinosaurs, and Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and Bach, and bedrooms put in order again, and ice cream, and used bookstores. These things are God’s spoken word, and no less are you and I. And as such they—we—point to something beyond ourselves, namely, to the beauty that is in God, the life that is in the resurrected Christ, and the sacredness that is this Creation. Let us not, then, disrespect anyone nor anything on this wonder-filled, though deeply-fractured, place. No one is superfluous. Nothing is excessive or expendable.
For this is God’s spoken world.