Whakapono: Creation as Sacrament
One of the ancient ways of understanding the Holy Spirit, was to speak of the Spirit as the breath and source of life; God present in and through all things. And if God is present in and through all things, then creation itself can be sacramental of the divine presence. Just as the Christian tradition has spoken of the eucharist as a means through which we experience the divine (i.e. sacramental), then so too can our experience of all of creation.
Clark Pinnock affirmed this in saying that “the Spirit’s presence in the world also enables it to be sacramental of the divine presence.”He goes on to say that “the Spirit is present in all human experience and beyond it. There is no special sacred realm, no sacred-secular split – practically anything in the created order can be sacramental of God’s presence.” This way of seeing the world invites us to see all things as holding the possibility of the sacred, to see all of life around us as being upheld by divine presence.
In light of this, Greg, Linda and Clint have each offered us an image about how this outworks itself in their spiritual pilgrimage.
Since Adam and Eve sewed together fig leaves to cover their nakedness, humanity has struggled to find their place in the created world. There has been constant tension for us, as the dominant species, between living harmoniously within the created order and seeing it as a commodity to dominate for our own desires, purposes and gain.
In reflecting the character of its creator, nature deserves the love and care that honours it’s sacredness as there is a mysterious, deep and resounding rhythm of Holy Spirit constantly pulsing through it all, not just those of us who confess a Christian faith. This painting by Gustav Klimt is a wonderful representation for me of this divine interconnectedness between God, humanity and the wider created world. Held together in love by God, in God and so reflecting the very nature of our Triune creator.
“I listen the voice that speaks to me from the ground” - James K. Baxter
There is a beautiful symmetry and interplay between heaven and earth, land and sea, nature and mankind that invites us into its wonder and mystery in order that we might experience a sacramental moment. The interpenetration of God in all matter is a cause for consideration and contemplation at its highest level. This awareness of the transcendental has the potential to reconstitute our awareness of the divine, no longer a distant deity who sits in the heavens like a master puppeteer who pulls the strings of destiny but one who is fully entwined in the very essence of all creation.
My surroundings are a summons to embrace and engage with its glory and be rapt in its absorbing fascination, to be grounded in the very dust that I came from. The sacredness of place reminds us to pause and reflect on the memories they plant in our psyche, an ongoing prompt to be grateful for the perspectives and interpretation they give our lives.
‘God's glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.'
Pataua estuary is one of those sacred places, an oasis of refreshment that recalibrates my body, mind and spirit, that keeps me inquisitive of what life is still yet to reveal.
In times of peace, where there seems to be an absence of conflict and overt challenge, the presence of God is easily captured as it tends to rest on the laurels of the ease offered by external, and internal states. Truth be told, self-sufficiency and capability are not the conditions where there is a push to experience God’s presence, rather they are moments of reprieve where God is easily found in all things; offered to me in the beauty of creation, embraced and celebrated. These are precious times, but they come and go in a cyclic manner somehow mimicking the natural seasons where Summer always feels shorter than Winter. It’s not that I don’t seek God in these times, rather I am able to intuitively celebrate the constancy of divine presence.
It’s in the tougher times, when the mist descends, that I purposefully seek out the presence of God, and often this is felt as I embrace the ‘cloud of unknowing’, by trusting in the seasons that come and go on rotation, reminding me of the faithfulness of God.
Creation shouts to me loudly in this context, and the following Wendell Berry poem reflects this:
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.