Welcome to a preaching series we’re calling: Finding God in Harvard Square. For part one this evening, we’re exploring creativity.
In the beginning, God “birthed creation from the formless womb of space.”[i] Birthed breath-taking beauty of earth and sky, bumblebees to blue whales, pumpkins to prickly pears, delphinium to dogwood. God who “counts the number of the stars … knows them all by their names.”[ii] We and all creation reflect the image and nature of God the Divine Artist. Creativity, the ability to make or think new things, is of God’s essence. Creativity reflects God.
Many of us were taught a narrow, restrictive view of creativity. It’s not just the arts. Not just for a select few who others approve of as artists.[iii] We create when writing an academic paper or a poem or an equation, designing a motor, building a bench, setting up a celebration, cooking a meal, or playing a game. All of us create or think new things. All of us reflect God.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Word—Jesus—became flesh and dwelt among us. God descended all the way down to become human. Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” in whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Jesus came not fully formed and able as an adult, but rather as a dependent baby. The Divine Artist embodied art and the creative process by becoming human, risking vulnerability.
Creativity is risky, uncertain, open-ended, often uncomfortable, potentially hurting or costing more than we imagine. Pete Doctor, the talented Pixar director of films including Inside Out, said:
“If I start on a film and right away know the structure—where it’s going, the plot—I don’t trust it. I feel like the only reason we’re able to find some of these unique ideas, characters, and story twists is through discovery. And, by definition, ‘discovery’ means you don’t know the answer when you start. … We’re meant to push ourselves and try new things—which will definitely make us feel uncomfortable.”[iv]
The effort to be vulnerable, to enter the risky unknown of creating, can bring some wonderful fruits. For creativity reveals and helps us to see. Playwright Nigel Forde wrote:
“Like most writers, I don’t know what I know until I start to write about it. The very process of writing becomes the process of revelation. I write not because I see but in order to see.” [v]
Creativity reveals more than we know or imagine about the world and ourselves. New concepts, perceptions, and knowledge including of love, life, hope and meaning. Pay attention through your passions, and let new forms further expand your perspective.
A few years ago, my brothers asked, “Do you realize flower-arranging is part of your prayer?” I replied, “No, I just know I enjoy it.” Selecting and arranging flowers stirs, awakens, enlivens me. It sparks my imagination. I improvise given what flowers are available. Initial ideas often change direction. The outcome is always unique. Arranging flowers stirs my passion and helps me pay attention. It’s also part of how I meditate. Some brothers find other tactile tasks meditative: ironing, gardening, polishing and cooking. Creativity is one of many ways we relate to God, especially connected to our passions. What are you drawn to create? What enlivens you?
Creativity, whether writing, math, philosophy, coloring, engine-building, or anything else is risky because who knows how it will turn out or if it will work and what it might cost. Creativity in its risk and whole nature is divine; it reflects God. Creativity reveals, helps broaden and expand perspective of the world and ourselves. Whether we’re aware of it or not—and often we’re not—creativity is one way we relate to God, a type of prayer.
Please take the plastic bag you received when arriving this evening. [vi] I invite you to risk creating. What we’re about to do reflects God and relates us to God and likely will be revealing. Take out the piece of clay inside. Clay may stain, so just be careful not to touch anything with it. There’s a hand wipe in your bag too for cleaning up when we’re done.
Feel the clay. Let your hands get to know it. Squeeze it until it becomes soft. Notice the texture and weight, how it resists and yields to your touch. Notice how the clay feels and how you feel. Perhaps you mold the clay into a particular shape. Perhaps simply smooth it into a ball.
How is your life like the clay?
What places feel resistant?
How are you being shaped?
Stop and gaze at what has emerged.
Notice what is happening inside you.
Do you sense a feeling or an invitation?
Take a deep breath in and out.
Please put clay back in its bag and clean your hands with the hand wipe provided.
This clay is a gift. Take and play with it again and longer. Be creative in everyday ordinary life, with what’s familiar and enlivening and with what’s different and uncomfortable like with clay in church. Creativity reflects and relates us to the Divine Artist. Creativity is vulnerable, which Jesus fully experienced. Watch for what is revealed as you risk creating.
[i] Opening Hymn: Carl P. Daw, Jr. (1996) “Loving God, who birthed creation.” Hope Publishing Company.
[ii] Psalm 147:4
[iii] Ken Robinson (February 2006) “Do schools kill creativity?” Video from: https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity?language=en
[iv] Edwin Catmull (2014) Creativity, Inc.: overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration. New York: Random House, p151.
[v] Nigel Forde, “The Playwright’s Tale,” in Sounding the Depths, ed. Jeremy Begbie. (2002) London: SCM Press, p64.
[vi] Visible in each bag: “Our stretching towards fullness of life is an act of faith in Christ who is the living Word through whom all things have their being. … We are called to realize his life-giving presence within our own selves and bodies and to share in his ongoing creation.” –SSJE Rule of Life