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Saturday, January 2, 2010


Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created. It's part of what God does.

A cabinetmaker designing a corner china cabinet to custom-fit a space in his mother's house. A farmer manufacturing a part to coax a few more years of life out of old equipment. The consummate hostess planning a party. The chef creating a masterpiece. Painters and musicians, writers and mechanics and city planners and teachers and architects and plumbers all bear the image of God by creating stuff.

What is this act of "creating"?

Luther's explanation of the first article of the Apostles Creed in the Small Catechism says this:
"I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true."
Creation is a diverse and complex business. It involves everything from aardvarks to zebras, from shoes to family, the spending money in your pocket and the Himalayas. Seeing God as creator is a view we will never fully grasp, for we can never fully grasp creation itself. Yet God stands over and outside his creation (as well as being deeply present within it and to it in some sense) as the Creator.

When we think of God as Creator we are often tempted to envision him in a static pose much like Michelangelo's God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, reaching out his finger to touch Adam and bring him to life. But I like Tony Campolo's picture of God as creator. He says, have you ever watched a little child playing a game? Swing them in the air and they giggle and as soon as their feet touch the ground they say, "Do it again!" Campolo pictures God making something simple, trivial, like a daisy, and out of his thought, his hands, his words springs a flower, and he's so excited he giggles and says, "Do it again! Do it again! Do it again!" And over and over again until pretty soon there's a whole field of daisies. Think how many times you have to rinse and repeat this idea to get just Minnesota, let alone the universe!

Two key ideas we can't leave this word "created" without touching:

First, God created you. He is absolutely madly crazy in love passionate about you, because you are his creation. You look in the mirror and see a worn leather bag of sin, fault, trouble, wrinkles, failures, disappointments, and tragedy. God looks in your face and sees the pinnacle of his creation. I am not making this up. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what it means when we say that God loves you. Just the tip.

Second, (jumping ahead a little bit) God made you in his image. We'll have a lot more to say about that later. But for now suffice it to say that you are creative because God has made you creative. There are activities that bring you deep down joy because God wove those into your being. Yes, there has been some trouble along the way, and yes, there are some things you do that maybe aren't what God intended. Don't focus on those things for the moment. Right now, we need to see that we are created -- you and me -- to do certain things that bring joy to us because God wired that desire and that appetite for joy into our beings. Maybe it's teaching. Maybe it's rebuilding an engine or talking with a lonely person or baking pumpkin bread. Knowing God as creator means that you acknowledge his Godhood by doing what he created you to do. Coyotes are created to hunt. Trout are created to swim. What are you created to do? What activities bring deep, deep joy to your heart? This doesn't mean you have to make your living at these activities. (Why do we make this so complicated?) It just means you find a way to do that stuff that's deep in your heart.

A few years ago I got down on myself in serious fashion because when I go to the Boundary Waters (one of my joy activities) I sometimes neglect to read my Bible or even pray much. I came back from a canoe trip and had a really rough time getting back into the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible reading. I started to beat myself up pretty badly, and for a while I thought maybe I need to cut way back on my wilderness time. Finally one morning when I couldn't sleep for worrying about this, I got up, made a pot of coffee, and watched the sunrise from my screen porch. Sitting out there listening to the cardinals and robins, I began to think about all the "wilderness" stuff in the Bible. Reading that book, it sounds like God has an interest in the natural world. (I wrote a 30 page paper on this in seminary, by the way -- you'd think I would know by now.) Finally as I sat, a little confused, God's Spirit nudged me hard. "You think I'm afraid of your love of wilderness?" he said. "I created you that way. I wired that love into you. Stop worrying so much. Be who I created you to be."

God has a deep delight in creating. He is passionate about his creation, like the cabinetmaker or the chef. He created you to be passionate about some part of his creation as well, and to live in his image. Following that design will bring you joy and will benefit the rest of creation.

Who did God create you to be?

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