September 12, 2021
Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a
If you’ve visited my office, you might have noticed this painting sitting on the air conditioner.
I painted it for one of my final courses at the seminary. It was a summer course … this is a point needs to be kept in mind.
There was only one assignment in the course … so it was your entire grade.
Students were given the option of doing a 20-page research paper or creating an art or craft project based on a passage in the Bible and then writing a five- or six-page reflection on the project and the passage.
Twenty pages or six pages… twenty pages or six pages … remember it was a summer course and it was really sunny.
Twenty pages or six pages… it really wasn’t a hard decision to make.
I picked up a cheap canvas broke out my mom’s old oil paints and set out to paint something based on today’s passage from Genesis … in particular the breath of God … what the Hebrews called the “Ruach.”
As a subject, I picked a pine tree near our house in Sudbury.
It sits on top of a steep cliff and rather than stand straight … the north wind has shaped the tree into a curve toward the south. I thought it was pretty symbolic of how God’s breath shaped creation in today’s passage from Genesis.
Well, I had never worked with oil paints before … I didn’t know that they require a bit of time to dry and that … since you paint in layers … one layer needs to dry before you work on the next one.
With the deadline looming, the paint was still wet … so I laid the canvas out in the sun … when that didn’t seem to dry the paint any faster … I broke out my wife’s blow dryer.
Even that wasn’t good enough …
Still, I had to get the project into the professor … so I put the reflection into an envelope … packed it up with the canvas and mailed it to Waterloo.
I got my grade a couple of weeks later … an A, by the way.
I was at the seminary the following September when the professor handed me back the box with the canvas inside … “nice abstract. First time working with oils?” he asked.
Out in the hall, I looked at the painting … which didn’t look like the one I submitted.
Pulling back the flaps of the lid, I could see just how wet the paint had been when I mailed the box. It seems that I actually had two abstracts.
Abstracts … they look chaotic, but usually the artist has a structure they follow when composing it.
The ruach … the wind of change … the breath … that brings about creation is at the heart of today’s reading from Genesis.
In today’s recounting of creation … we heard about God’s activities that brought light from the darkness and life from the water that covered the earth. God provides the life-giving spirit that energizes all creation … a breath that gives motion to life as God provides space for life to flourish.
God’s breath brings order to chaos.
The Genesis story is a perfect starting point as we kick off a new church year … a new beginning … after a long pause as a result of the pandemic.
There’s a sense of newness today as we gather this morning … the brokenness of the past months has eased a bit … the anxiety we’ve felt is loosening its grip … and there is … or there should be … a sense of excitement over the new life that is being called forth from the void that has threatened to envelope the life of the congregation.
That’s one of the reasons Kim and I set on today for Stella’s baptism.
The beginning of a new life in Christ to begin a new chapter in the life of the church and the congregation.
Through water Stella joins the community of believers and … through the relationship we embrace today … we become nurturers of Stella … of Kim and Ray and their families … as a community we reaffirm our relationship with one another.
It echoes the relationship we have with creation.
In this story, creation is a gift … notice how people didn’t show up until the end … this means that everything God had created beforehand is a gift … a blessing … that has been given to us without any preconditions.
This is a grace-filled story.
… a story that on this special day … when we gather once again … when we welcome an addition to the church family … when we begin a new chapter … a new life … a story that merits appreciation and calls us to reflect on the new things that have been … and will be … realized.
God is doing a new thing … and we are the agents of that grace.
So welcome to the community, Stella. Confirmation class begins in 11 ½ years.