Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Creative... Within Parameters

When God created the heavens and the earth and all things, He had no raw material to work with. He created what He used to create even more. It is this creation ex nihilo (from nothing) which no one has done since God did it. Our creations are always ex materia (out of material).

It has always been the rub against us that we cannot do what God did. Perhaps that was part of the attraction of the forbidden fruit. Our desire to be like God includes the desire to be creators in our own right -- though our creations are always from something and never out of nothing.

Part of living within the realm of God's creation is learning to be at peace with the difference between what we make and what God made. It is a certain contentment to live as the creature -- something that escaped us because of our rebellion and sin -- that Jesus came to impart. He shows us this contentment by deferring to the Father throughout His ministry (I have come to do My Father's will... I speak not my own words but the words of Him who sent Me... etc.). Though there is no monarchy in God by nature (no hierarchy of state -- see the Athanasian Creed) -- there is a monarchy of deference. What cannot be imposed upon the Son, the Son chooses... and the Spirit as well.

We who wear the flesh and blood our Creator gave us might learn something from the choice of submission. It is especially true when it comes the area of creation.

Even within the Church there are those who ruminate to start from scratch (as if this could ever be done). They long for the earliest days of Christianity when the Church was finding her identity and things seemed rather fluid and spontaneous compared to the present moment. They disdain the history that has brought with it complexity, tradition, and shape. They want to make the Church new without any restraining forms or formulations from yesterday. And they want it to happen every generation -- a spontaneous rebirth that makes the Church relevant because it is only as old as the moment.

When it comes to worship many hanker for the same blank slate. Instead of all those things that are their heritage -- forms and hymns, calendar and vestment, art and color -- they want to create out of nothing what will happen on Sunday morning. What is seen as a start afresh is generally a rehash of what culture sees as current or "in" but that is a discussion for another place. Tired of what has been, they think that the vitality of the Church flows from being new each week -- new in the sense of who we are, how we define ourselves, and how we interact together in what we call worship.

Those among us (from many different denominations) who are opposed to this tabula rasa approach to faith and life, are not naturally content to live within the parameters of history, tradition, and theology. We have learned this contentment. It is not that we are completely passive but our creativity is deliberately within the boundaries of that which we have received, what was delivered to the saints, and passed down to us. This is no stale, musty scent of yesterday but the living tradition of the saints, who, when they ascend to glory, leave us their place among the congregation as testament to the gracious actions of God working within the forms He has chosen (words, water, bread and wine...).

This contentment is what the Church and those within her struggle to achieve -- a peace of sorts with who we are and where we come in to this ever growing book of God's energy and saving works -- we are another chapter in the longer story that only God will end when the moment is ripe and right.

Sometimes we as people joke that we were born in the wrong era... I like to think that sometimes. I imagine myself at ease in another age when the music popular at the time is like the ancient music of the masters I listen to all day long. But we were not born at the wrong time. Though we sometimes wrestle with our age, we were born at the right moment. It is not the time we were born into or born for that needs to change but our contentment within this frame of the passing frames of God's timing and purpose.

It goes back to creation... to learning to be creative within the parameters of the material God has supplied us... All in all, I believe I am well supplied. I have great works of theology, great liturgical theologians, great musical treasures, a rich and diverse treasure of piety... there is much for me to use in my creative task... not like God to be sure, but creative within the parameters given to us and the material God Himself as supplied... It is a great theological and liturgical perspective...

1 comment:

revalkorn said...

I've been writing verse for a long time, but I only just recently started to write hymns. Part of my hesitation has been that I didn't want to seem as though I was trampling on the great heritage of hymnody that we already have in the Church. We have thousands of years of great hymns, and I used to believe that I had no place in attempting to add to them. I'm not a Martin Franzmann or a Stephen Starke, and certainly no Paul Gerhardt or Martin Luther.

But the Lord used each of them to increase the heritage of liturgy and hymnody which we are blessed to have today. I am sure the Lord will not strike me down for attempting to glorify him in verse . . . even if my verses don't have the same power as those who have gone before. "Creative within the parameters given to us and the material God Himself has supplied" is certainly a good rubric for us to follow.