Blank Space (Phil’s Version)

We start at the Beginning

Today we start at the beginning. Yes its the first Sunday of our Summer series on Creativity. But I am talking about the very beginning. To explore creativity, we need to explore it from its origins. Creativity starts at the dawn of… creation.

We live in creation. An ongoing creative process that keeps generating the world we are living in. The spark of creation, still happening all around us. And in our tradition, what is doing this ongoing sparking, generating, and creating of this universe, is the creator. Some call the creator God. Some call the creator, Father. Some call the creator, Mother. The head of the trinity. Yahweh. Elohim. Today, I am going to think of God as the creator.

As part of this creation, we humans are created vessels, clay pots, holding this same spark that the rest of creation has also been given. And as vessels holding this spark, we too can be creators with the creator. If we are open to it.

Let there be Light

In the beginning there was Emptiness. Void. A blank canvas. An empty bowl. An unwritten card. An empty vase.

Like a blank canvas, we have learned from science that all matter and energy in the universe was compacted into the size of a baseball. Waiting.

Time has not yet started. Nothing was moving yet to create time.

It just was.

The creator, stepped up to bat around 14 billion years ago, eyed up that baseball and BANG! Sparks flew – let there be light.

And God said it was good.

Energy and matter exploding everywhere. Collecting into billions of galaxies with billions of stars creating billions of planets. Creating creating creating.

And it was good.

10 billion years later, Matter from our star collects into rocks, water, and air. Spinning and spinning and spinning. Our earth was created.

And it was good.

Another billion years past – With enough energy and enough of the right elements, matter collected into amino acids, folding into proteins and emerging as prokaryotes. Single celled organisms. Replicating and replicating and evolving.

And it was good.

Another 1 Billion years past and the cells that start working together. Creating eukaryotic cells or multi cell organisms.. Replicating and replicating. Forming plant life. Forming fungus, forming reptiles, forming dinosaurs, forming mammals. Forming into us.

And it was good.

Perhaps Humans have been the peak of creation, perhaps not. Let us not forget the other billions of galaxies, and solar systems and planets, and the life that may be out there.

Creation keeps happening. Even though matter cannot be created or destroyed, things keep emerging from it. The creator keeps creating and that creation is good.

Right? It’s good?


Creation will not last forever. Science tells us that it is a process that will come to an end. As the universe slowly spreads out and comes to a cooling stop – 100 trillion years from now.

How tragic.

Some may say that makes life meaningless. All of that… for what? A meaningless creation doesn’t feel like a very “good” creation.

Meaninglessness is not a very “good” feeling to sit with. Its easy to feel this, even though we will be long gone when our universe cools.

It feels especially meaningless, when we see all of the suffering in the world. From illnesses to wars. Why should we have to put up with all of this?

Meaninglessness is painful.

Some respond to this pain with apathy. Who cares? Who cares about the world. Those in it. The solar system. The galaxy. It doesn’t matter. Everyone you someday will die, and not even our planet will survive. Why care?

Some respond by trying to fill that void of meaninglessness with stuff. With Things.

Now that I have a basement, when someone offers me a thing, I can take it down the stairs, down into the void where it can rest for eternity. A basement that seemingly will never fill up. So I can go on imagining that the next thing might just fill that void. Thank you capitalism.

Some respond to this meaninglessness, this void, by trying to control others, because this meaninglessness feels so out of our control. If everything can simply be in order or if everyone would just do what I tell them, perhaps I wouldn’t feel this void.

Some fill the void it by burying their heads into books. Some fill it with sex. Some fill it with adventures. Some fill it with the fantasy of a complex and unique inner life. Some numb with drugs and alcohol. Some live staring at this void anxiously.

In front of me today, we lot of blank spaces. Emptiness. Voids. After Carrie and I assembled this this past week, I kept looking at it and it made me feel weird. The emptiness is kinda scary. Its creepy. Carrie said it like something out of the twilight zone – which I don’t know what that is but it sounds creepy.

When we look at these blank spaces, we notice a bit of that void. That void that exists in us. That bothers us. The meaninglessness that irritates us. Wouldn’t we feel much more relaxed if it was filled?

So what do we do, church? What do we do with the meaninglessness?

“Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless”

Writes the author of Ecclesiastes.

Paul holds death and life.

Today we are going to look towards the apostle Paul to help us out. Because on one hand, we have our divine creator who has called this beautiful existence into being. And on the other hand, we have so much suffering and meaninglessness all around us. How do we hold sincere faith and meaning in this tension.

Paul writes, “For God, “who said let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”

It was God the creator, who said let there be light. Who is the ongoing creative process of creation. Who said “let light shine out of darkness.” Let light shine out of the void. Shine out of the meaninglessness. Shine out of us.

Us. Humanity, who, Paul considered to be like clay jars in this passage. Clay jars are not strong vessels. (pick up clay) No they are…(drop it). Fragile.

This divine-creative-spark is not kept safely in a locked vault. Not in a titanium spaceship. Not safely behind guns and bombs. This light from God is kept in us, in creation, in breakable jars made of clay.

Jars of clay that Paul writes are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

This divine-creative-spark is held precariously, in us, fragile clay jars. Who’s lives are precarious. We suffer. We mourn. We experience pain. Paul writes, comes gently like Christ, who the powerful killed.

Paul writes next,

“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work for us, but life is at work for you.”

Facing the brutality of life, we have seen darkness. Our fragile bodies know the meaningless torture and death of Jesus. And from this weak position, emerges this creative light of God.

We Co-Create Meaning with God

This is our human experience. We experience death. We experience life.

We know that creation will come to an end – that the Sun will envelop the earth in a billion years. And we know that creation and beauty are emerging here and now, in this space.

We experience the void of meaninglessness, We experience moments of deep meaning and connection.

Cancer diagnosis. Good health.

The death of Christ. The life of Christ.

How do we make sense of it? How can we create meaning in a world of suffering and a world of beauty at the same time.

Creativity, life, light, the spark, emerges out of the depth of pain, meaninglessness, suffering. The light comes out of the Darkness, as Paul writes.

Poet Christian Wiman writes in his book, “My Bright Abyss” that “God’s absence calls forth God’s presence.” He was writing about his experience with Cancer, and the feeling of the absence of God.

Like a blank canvas calling for us to create on it.

And in your darkness, meaning can emerge in you.

You are a fragile clay pot, with the spark of the divine creator in you.

We take all of this pain and meaninglessness, and the light and the good with us when we create.

When we paint. When we garden or tend to plants. When we bake. When we type or write. When we make music. When we take photos. When we craft. When we form material. When we maintain things. When we make peace. When we teach others. When we pray.

We are making meaning in our world filled with pain and meaninglessness.

Creativity does not mean that you have to be good at the traditional arts.

Creativity is an openness as a fragile suffering human to work with that spark that the creator has put in all of life, and to make meaning together. And this is done best in the community.

When we sing together of the suffering and the joys of living, we create meaning.

When we make funeral meals together, we create meaning.

When we serve our community, we create meaning.

When we share the artwork we have done, we create meaning

When we tell the stories of our loved ones at funerals, we create meaning.

When we make bread, or bouquets and take them to a neighbor, we create meaning.

We co-create meaning with our creator, that spark within us.

These mean-making activities do not solve the problem. They do not stop death. They do not stop the eventual cooling of our universe. We are just fragile clay pots afterall, but we have the spark of the creator in us.

But for a brief moment, through us, the creator creates, calling light from the darkness, and it is very good. May we be open to the creator creating life with us, through us and around us, amidst the pain and suffering in creation.