[On the weekend of February 21 and 22, Sylvia Keesmaat and I had the great honour of participating in the TrueCity Conference in Hamilton: “A Tale of Two Kingdoms”. We opened and closed the conference with short meditations on the themes. You can access the audio of both presentations here. But we thought that we would also post the texts of these targumic/poetic offerings here at Empire Remixed. This my opening piece and tomorrow we’ll post Sylvia’s evocative closing poem. For those who have read Beyond Homelessness you will recognize the first half of this piece from the first interlude in that book. The piece then takes a different direction.]
It all began with joy.
In the beginning was joy,
pure, holy, ecstatic, life-giving, celebratory joy!
I mean, it’s true that God spoke the world into being,
it is true that the Creator said, “let there be”
and the creation, in its very being,
was a response to that word.
But this wasn’t just any word,
this wasn’t just any speech,
not even by God’s standards.
We had heard the Holy One speak before;
awesome, beautiful, sovereign and loving.
And this speech, this “let there be” had all of that
In fact this creational speech,
this creating, calling, blessing, ordering,
engendering word of God,
was maybe more like a song, then a speech.
A song that can call the whole universe into being
and set it to dancing.
That’s it … or at least it’s close to getting it.
God, the cosmic song and dance artist
performing and dancing in such a way
that creation just couldn’t help but come into being;
creation just couldn’t help joining in the singing
and dancing with the Creator.
And what a dance it was.
We had seen holy joy before,
but this … this was holy ecstasy.
The Creator was almost beside himself in joy,
as each new dimension of creation emerged,
as each new kind of creature appeared.
As each movement of this cosmic art piece came to a conclusion
the Creator would dance around and say,
“My, isn’t this good.”
His song would collapse into a divine giggle
as he would say, “This is delightful.”
And the joy of earth was matched by the joy of heaven.
We were so caught up in the sheer generative joy of it all,
so taken by the wonderful array of creatures,
all in their place,
all so fitting
in their blessed conviviality,
that we didn’t immediately get the big picture.
And then it became clear,
then we saw;
God had made a home.
This was a place of dwelling,
a place of belonging,
a place of homecoming.
Yes, home for all the creatures he had called into being,
but even more,
this was a home for God!
A world for inhabitation;
created for communion,
created for dwelling,
created for homemaking,
a home for God!
a royal building,
with sure foundations,
with a well-placed cornerstone.
A house of God,
full of Love,
full of the Spirit.
A house of God,
a house of hospitality,
a house for filling.
A house of God,
a house for tending,
a house for gardening.
But who would till the ground?
Who would tend the house?
Who would fill this house and make it fruitful?
And then … in the sixth movement,
on the second half of the sixth day
… well the Holy One outdid himself
and pretty much undid us.
The Creator’s homemaking song reached such a moment of unparalleled
joy, creativity and love,
that he created a creature
with whom none of the host of heaven could compare.
God created humankind in his own image;
his overflowing joy
and overwhelming love
called forth a creature
who was as close to being like God as any creature could be
and yet still be a creature;
a creature of the soil,
yet a creature in the very image of the
And we gasped!
Caught up in the wonder of it all
we could scarcely breathe as we stood in a rejoicing awe
… that here, in humankind,
God had made a creature to bear his image,
to tend and keep this world of wonders
that his song had created.
A creature who could mirror the Creator’s love and his joy
to the rest of the world,
to us in the heavenly court,
and even to God himself.
And now we could see that God’s song had reached a crescendo
in this creature and that God’s joy was complete.
In the extravagance of love,
in an unspeakable generosity,
God had created a home,
a world of homemaking,
a world of care and affection.
And with a sense of deep satisfaction that none of us could ever fully grasp,
the Creator said a final time,
“Oh, this is very, very good … most delightful.”
And with the Creator we rested in that satisfied joy.
Yes it was good, very, very good …
but it didn’t stay that way.
You know the story and it is, for me, tedious to repeat it at any length.
You know that joy was turned to grief,
you know that this song,
this creational dance of faithfulness and truth
dissolved into a morass of disobedience and lies,
you know that this world of blessed homemaking
fell into a cursed home-breaking.
You know that this creation of peace and love
mutated into a site of violence and hate,
and death overpowered life,
and blessing gave way to curse,
and home became homelessness …
you know all that.
You know that “in this cold commodity culture,
where you lay your money down,
it’s hard to even notice
that all this earth is hallowed ground.”
(Bruce Cockburn, “The Gift”)
You know that the gift of creation has devolved into raw materials;
that the eloquence of all creatures has been rendered mute;
that the goodness of all creatures has been reduced to their economic utility;
that intimacy has given way to enmity;
that generosity has been replaced by acquisitiveness;
that the wisdom of creation is distorted by the foolishness of humans;
that faithful stewardship has been surrendered to disobedient mastery.
Called to ‘till and keep’
the earth creature chose to kill and destroy.
Called to a dominion in the image of the blessing, creating, joyful God,
the earth creature exercised a violent, sullen mastery.
Called to cultivate, to form a culture of delight,
the earth creature built a city of violence.
Called to join in the song of all creation,
the earth creature drowned out all voices but its own.
Called to be fruitful and multiply,
the earth creature multiplied devastation.
Called to name creation in love and respect,
the earth creature names in order to consume.
Called to open creation to new possibilities,
the earth creature reduced this world to his own appetite.
And appetite really was the issue.
You are what you eat,
and much depends on dinner.
So it is that a profound culinary indiscretion,
an eating of that one thing that was forbidden,
a consuming of that which was to be left alone,
a trading in the truth of God for the lies of one’s own appetite,
that the earth creature made its declaration of independence,
declared its autonomy
and the beautiful, yet fragile, ecology of grace,
“Way out on the rim of the galaxy
the gifts of the Lord lie torn
into whose hands the gifts were given
have made it a curse for so many to be born.”
(Bruce Cockburn, “Broken Wheel”)
And because of such broken stewardship
the land mourns,
the mountains weep,
all of creation groans.
While all of that glory is shining around
the earth creatures, those called to image the Creator,
are all caught taking a dive.
And all the beasts of the hills around shout,
“Such a waste!
Don’t you know that from the first to the last
we’re all one in the gift of grace!”
(Bruce Cockburn, “In the Falling Dark”)
By now, you know all of this, don’t you? You know that something has gone terribly wrong.
You know that the peaceable kingdom of God’s creation
has been torn asunder.
You know that you have replaced the image of God
for graven images, don’t you?
You know that this creation, this temple of praise
is now populated by idols, right?
You know that your imaginations have been taken
captive by idolatry.
You know that you’re all hooked on avarice,
and you can’t get off of it.
And you know (don’t you? – please tell me that you know)
that it is going to take a lot of doing to see this undoing through,
that you need to return to your God,
that you need to return to your calling,
that you need to return to creation,
that you need to return to humble stewardship,
that you need to return to joyful cultivation,
that you need to return … home.