Global Partnership

Gill Sakakini
Sunday, February 19, 2017 - 9:30am

Genesis 1- 2:3, Matthew 6: 25-34, Romans 8: 18-25

This morning we are focussing on our global partnership with the people of Katakala, Uganda and are particularly thinking of Rev. Sarah as she represents us with the love of Christ at St Apollo’s Church where she has just preached. In the spirit of the global partnership, let’s declare praise to our God in L’Ugandan, (the dialect based on Swahili spoken in Katakala).

"Makuma waffe yebazibuwe


Hearing the dynamic and familiar story of creation again this morning stops us from being small-minded or too parochial. You might recall the children's’ song “Our God is so big so strong and so mighty… whose words and actions remind us of the scope of the character of God we worship. Reading about the great dome of the sky, for a start, is heady stuff and takes me back to the Sistine Chapel ceiling, where with awe, as well as dizziness and a cricked neck, I leaned back to take in the visual panorama. I suspect that Michelangelo intended that giddy stance when he executed his masterpiece, the Creation of Adam, since any tourist or viewer is obliged to incline their whole being heavenward in some kind of nod to divine creativity.

The lofty descriptions of the creation of the universe in Genesis sweep us upwards allowing a wide-angled view of land masses and vast bodies of water. The writer offers us a lively, colourful, blow-by-blow narration of the coming into being of every kind of plant and every kind of animal in a breathtaking extravaganza of creativity. All of this - he declares to be good. No wonder the subject of creation has inspired artists since the very earliest times.

This story comes by way of an example. In 1940, four teenagers stumbled upon a cave in south-west France. Upon entering, they discovered it to be teeming with visual life: images of horses, stags, cats, humans – as well as abstract signs – lined the cave walls. The Paleolithic cave paintings at Lascaux are now world-famous, and are a visual celebration of the sheer abundance and diversity of living creatures. These creatures are depicted with haunting grace and beauty, and there is something utterly gratuitous about the wealth of images on the walls.

Why, you might ask, when prehistoric man had more pressing things on his mind (like survival, for instance), did he waste time painting creatures, some of which were of no utilitarian value to him whatsoever? Perhaps because this urge to ‘make’, not only tools for purpose, but also for the sheer delight of making (“just because…”), is universal and has its roots in the creation story in Genesis. We are made in God’s image, and the creative impulse we experience is God's own creative pulse in us (R. Bell). This urge to make is the impetus behind an upcoming course called “Imaging the Story” which will start at St Mary’s in April and which will offer the opportunity to explore what it means to make, not from nothing as God does, but from the raw materials of creation that God’s good creation provides.

I was aware of the connection between being made in God’s image and the impulse to create a couple of years ago when Steve, my husband, and I hosted Irene, the head teacher from Katakala. Faced with some linguistic and many cultural differences, we found that it was creativity that forged our friendship. We found such joy in exchanging things we’d made, cooking together, sharing our love of art, though digging deep for novel ways to communicate, and when walking in the garden and identifying common vegetables at the allotment. So, in spite of some differences, we were united as ones who bear God’s image and who respond to his creative pulse. This morning Irene and the community gathered at St Apollo’s church will have opened up the scrap book with Sarah to reveal pictures of your faces, in which they also will see the image of God reflected back to them.

The Creator God reveals himself to be a God who determines to be with his creatures and to share something of his likeness. This is why we are linked to others in our common humanity. He is not like an idea of God as a great Watchmaker, for example, who designs the world like an elaborate mechanism with cogs that he winds up then stands back and watches it work. The problem here is that Watchmakers do not suffer with their cogs – at most they intervene to clean or repair. This God is involved in our suffering which Paul says, in our Epistle, bears no comparison to the glory that is about to be revealed to us. We certainly experience suffering and its devastating effects in many ways: in the realms of the global, personal and family, national, and environmental, and we identify with creation’s groaning as we too long for an end to suffering. Yet we’re bound to pray and to strive, as Matthew urges, for the Kingdom’s coming with all the hope and patience that Paul exhorts us to, because as we stand with others we build God’s kingdom on earth piece by piece. 

Hope and reassurance are at the heart of our gospel passage where Jesus speaks to our human propensity to worry. He shows us how God’s good creation points to his abundant provision and care. The American writer Barbara Brown Taylor suggests that rather than search in other places for God creation itself speaks. She says:

“When people want to know more about God, the son of God tells them to pay attention to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.”

In Old Basing and Lychpit as we look at English flowers and the circling red-kites, or as our far-away friends look at the array of Ugandan flora and fauna, may we all notice how much more our heavenly Father cares for us even than these things. Finally, as we share hospitality with Katakalan friends later over a meal, and as we share in the Eucharist shortly, may we know deep communion, as image bearers, united in his creative love.