Vital Elements of Worship: Breathing in Grace, Breathing Out Praise

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Psalm 150.
Questions.
I am answering a lot of questions these days.
How are you feeling? Have you been sick? What has your experience been like? Do you need anything? How can I help?
Questions…that are hard to answer because I do not like (prefer) talking about myself.
Answering these questions draws me out of my comfort zone. It is important for me to share. And I feel and experience great care when I hear these (your) questions. Thank you, friends, for your care of me.
My biggest adjustment in starting my gestational journey is rest. I need to rest much more frequently than I have in recent memory…and I am finding that some attempts to rest are completely futile. I lie awake – uncomfortable, curious, nervous, and sore. In the quiet and in the stillness I ebb and flow between feelings of chaos and order. With God and Andrew, we are experiencing a huge time of creation! This is a (our!) Genesis Moment.
In Creation, there was order and chaos. In Creation, God spoke and it was so. In Creation, God spoke and said it was – we are – all is good. In Creation God breathed God’s life-giving Spirit into us, eternally solidifying our connection. In Creation, God worked and rested.
Rest is not a sign of weakness. Rest is not a sign of inadequacy. Rest is a way – God’s way – our way of recharging, recentering, and reinvigorating our work in and for the Kingdom. If we work without ceasing, our work becomes our idol. If we work without ceasing, we do not offer our best selves or services to God and neighbor. If we work without ceasing, we cut ourselves off from what God seeks to offer us in the midst of rest.
I do not like (prefer) to rest, but I am learning the value of rest. I do not like that my production levels are not equivalent to the past, but on those days I just remind myself that I fortified a central nervous system in the last 12 hours!
I do like that in my rest I am reminded of God’s life-giving breath falling afresh upon me as my breath nourishes the life of my and Andrew’s son. In those moments of rest I ask God to relieve feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. I ask God to help me be and to breathe deeply.
Prayer: “Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.”* Amen.
*”Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” The United Methodist Hymnal 420.

Alpha, Omega, and Everything in Between ~ Creation

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Genesis 1:26-31, 2:4b-8, and 18-22.

This week we begin the sermon series The Alpha, Omega, and Everything In Between: The Bible in 12 Themes.  Through the next 12 weeks we will explore one of (what I believe) are 12 major themes in Scripture…beginning with Creation!

(Well…we had to start somewhere…we came from here…so here we go!)

The Bible includes two Creation stories, which we will explore in worship this week, but these are not the only stories existing of how things “came to be.”

Jews, Christians, and Muslims agree that God’s hand brought forth creation.  This creation was and is ex nihilo meaning God created from nothing.    These three faith traditions – we of the table fellowship traditions – share this beginning in our religious roots.

Some people ascribe to The Big Bang Theory – not the entertaining sitcom – but the cosmological model of floating space particles heating/expanding then cooling/contracting leading to an event my Gramps so eloquently summarizes as “Bang! and then it happened!”

Still there are other creation myths and explanations of how creation came to be offered to us.  There are creation myths that offer explanation from the stance of creation from chaos, earth diver, emergence, and world parent.  There are many other creation myths offered to us by specific cultures, traditions, and contexts.  These myths have been formed and reformed over time as many of them – including our Biblical creation tales – began in oral tradition, meaning they were told orally to numerous generations – adding and subtracting portions along the way – until they were written down.  And even then some additions and subtractions continued!

While in school I enjoyed studying these different creation myths and my favorite was the Enûma Eliš from Babylonian mythology.  You can find the whole text of this creation epic here. This story has many similarities with what we know of the struggling for hierarchy, status, and power between the gods in Greek and Roman mythology.

In short, Tiamat, the primordial goddess of the ocean, is torn in two by her rival, Marduk, who wanted to be the supreme king of the gods.  With her broken ribs Marduk inserted the firmament or dome that separated the sky from what was beneath it.  The creation myth states that the tears Tiamat cried in her demise was the source of the first water on earth.  Then Marduk sought out Tiamat’s lover, Kingu, and slaughtered him.  His blood was then mixed with the clay of the earth and from that humanity was created.

(I wonder why this hasn’t been made into a movie…could be a blockbuster!)

Our creation stories are peaceful.  Yes, God is bringing order to what might have been chaos, but it was done peacefully, and hopefully.  God called it good and all of it very good!

Reflection: Could you imagine the impact on the world if the Babylonian creation myth – or some of the others that are equally brutal – were true?  That blood, tears, and agony were the life-force of creation?  How do you think that would change how we relate to one another, to our environment, to our God?

Yes, sometimes there is blood, tears, and agony in creation and as we join God as partners in creation.  We know God eventually shed God’s own blood in Jesus for creation.  But I do not believe that blood, tears, and agony is the telos or the end goal of creation.  The end goal of creation is life – pure and everlasting life – that God gifted to humanity in the act of breathing, crafting, and loving us into existence.  The final word was, is, and always will be life, which was given to us in creation.