Scripture: Genesis 1:26-31
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose
October 18, 2015
There was an elementary school class who was performing the play, Cinderella. As the teacher was giving out parts, a sea of arms waved wildly. Each child trying to get the teacher’s attention. “I want to be Cinderella!” the some of the girls yelled. “I want to be the handsome prince!” some of the boys shouted. And there were a few who said, “I want to be the wicked stepmother!” and “I want to be the ugly stepsister!” Soon everyone was assigned a part. Everyone, that is, except for Norman. The teacher said, “Norman, I am afraid that all the main parts have been taken for Cinderella. I am sure that we can find an extra part for you. What character would you like to be?”
Norman didn’t hesitate. “I would like to be the pig,” he declared.
“Pig?” the teacher said, bewildered. “But there is no pig in Cinderella.”
Norman smiled and said, “There is now.” And Norma designed his own costume. A paper cup for a nose and pink long underwear with a pipe-cleaner tail. Norman’s pig followed Cinderella wherever she went and mirrored her actions. If Cinderella was happy, the pig was happy; if Cinderella was sad, the pig was sad. At the end of the play when the handsome prince placed the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot and the couple hugged and ran off happily together, Norma went wild with joy, danced around on his hind legs and broke his silence by barking.
In rehearsal, the teacher had tried explaining to Norman that even if there was a pig in Cinderella, pigs don’t bark. But as she expected, Norman explained that this pig barked. And the barking, she had to admit was well done. The presentation was a smash hit. At the curtain call, guess who received a standing ovation? Of course, Norman the barking pig. Who was, after all, the real Cinderella story (Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality).
Norman is my hero. He resisted the limits of the script, the confines of society. He allowed his wild, creative, divine, imaginative energy flow. He was willing to be the unique person God created him to be.
This weekend we celebrate uniqueness and the creative arts in their many forms – visual arts, musical arts, culinary art, the arts of gardening, storytelling and worship. Yes, there are many artists this day among us!
And, of course, the Original Artist is God. Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning, God created…” Oh did God create! God created humpback whales that sing and birds that have more colors on them than a box of Crayola crayons, and gorgeous lions stretching under the shade of the African boabob tree. And God declared that it is good – the universe is good. Rocks are good. Clouds are good. Trees are good. Rivers and valleys and forests are all good, good, good! Life is good! The intentional design of this sanctuary with its many windows affirms that nature is good, that all of creation praises God.
In the Genesis story, on the sixth day, God created humans, male and female in God’s own image. God breathed God’s own breath into us. We have running through us the same creativity that built the stars. We are not just creations of God, but we are co-creators with God. And what did God say about us? That we are good! So, very, very good!
The ancient mystics have been aware of this Divine creative energy flowing within us for centuries. Rabia, an Eastern mystic from the 8th century, puts it this way, “In my soul there is a temple, a mosque, a church where I kneel.” Rumi says, “I know there is a gold mine inside of you.” Mohammed declares, “God is closer than your jugular vein.” Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” And modern day Desmond Tutu says, “If you are made in the image of God and I am made in the image of God, then when we meet we shouldn’t simply say hello, but we should genuflect or bow saying, ‘The image of God within me recognizes and greets the image of God that is within you.’” The Hindu concept of Namaste.
This is what we call Original Blessing. I am sure that many have heard of Original Sin – words that are not even in the Bible. They are words coined by Augustine of Hippo in the fourth century C.E. The theology of “Original Sin” says that since the first humans sinned, all human life would be born in sin. In other words, says Augustine, we are inherently bad. It has been the primary theology preached in Christendom for 2000 years.
The Genesis story, however, states that the first words out of God’s mouth after we were created were, “It is good!” We are good. We are inherently good. Original Blessing comes before Original Sin. This is the message that needs to be preached in our churches. So strongly do I feel this that my doctoral thesis was entitled, “Preaching Original Blessing in the Homiletical World of Original Sin.”
Bishop John Shelby Spong explains it this way, “If as a parent, you were to tell your child how bad, sinful, evil, and rotten he or she is every day of his or her life, you would create a dysfunctional child. If as a parent, you were to tell your child how wonderful, incredible, and good he or she is, you would most likely create a healthy child. For the past two thousand years, the church has been creating dysfunctional people with its overemphasis on sin theology.” If you have ever walked out of a worship service feeling worse than when you walked in, the service probably was laden with Original Sin. I say that it is time to stop the religious abuse. I say that we spend the next 2000 years preaching Original Blessing create healthy people in our churches.
As co-creators with God, we are so very capable of creating goodness and beauty in this world. It is a part of our essence. Artists, especially, are aware of the divine cosmic energy flowing from us. We see Handel weeping as he composes The Messiah, Da Vinci overcome with emotion as he creates the Last Supper, Michelangelo stepping back from the rock-carved David and bidding the stone to speak, Norman, the barking pig, dancing wildly on his hind legs. Creativity transforms and transcends.
It’s been said that when Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favor of the war effort, he simply replied, “Then what are we fighting for?” Interestingly, some of the most beautiful music and artwork and writings were produced during the dark days of WWII. Beauty transforms and transcends. Beauty brings healing and hope to our world. Good art is essential for good religion.
There is an artist in each one of us. Splash some colors on a canvas. Work with flowers or gourmet foods or old furniture or words on a page or the steps of a dance or the melody of a song. Let it flow. Play with it, fiddle with it, and arrange it until the cakes says, “I’m done,” or the story says, “The end,” or the canvas declares itself complete.
We are not just creations of God; we are co-creators with the Divine artist. You are an Original Blessing, after all.
O.K. Jill, some of you may be thinking – that is all lovely – embrace a beautiful God, create a masterpiece, claim your Original Blessing – but there is more to the story in the book of Genesis. There was a tree, after all. God said to Adam and Eve, to humanity, “Let’s create, let’s love, let’s walk and talk, and you can eat of all the fruits and vegetables you want…just don’t eat of the tree of knowledge. Yes, we will have an amazing time together, but just don’t eat of the tree of knowledge.” Have you ever wondered about that? Knowledge is good though, right? Many of us in this congregation build our livelihood on the art of education, of sharing knowledge in creative ways with others? Why wouldn’t God want us to have more knowledge? We will talk about that next week…