When was the last time you were creative? When was the last time you felt like every cell in your body was glowing with excitement? When was the last time you got a crazy idea to do something…and then had the courage to follow through with it? For a lot of us, I suspect, it’s been a while since the Spirit of creativity blew through our lives.
When we were kids, it was easy to be creative. A well placed blanket over a couple of kitchen chairs became an impenetrable fortress. A camping trip with our family became a wild, exotic adventure. Give us crayons, glue, and a stack of paper and we could be entertained for hours. Let us loose at the beach and wave jumping, boogie boarding, sand castle making and sea shell hunts kept us busy until our sunscreen wore off. It’s easy to be creative as a kid. It’s easy to let our imagination run wild and take us where it may.
Then, somewhere along the line, our creativity got squashed like a bug. This often happens during our teenage years. We begin listening to the voices of others who tell us we aren’t really that talented at art, or sports, or music, or whatever creative endeavor we’re involved in. This puts a damper on our creativity. During our teenage years we also start comparing ourselves to those who are “experts” in their field. We see the finished products of professional artists, athletes and musicians, and we begin to doubt our own talents and creative abilities.
In school our creativity gets tested, graded, criticized and critiqued. All of this is supposed to help us figure out what we’re “good at,” what we’re going to be when we grow up. But it’s a creativity killer nonetheless. Just because a teacher tells us we’re good at doing something doesn’t mean it’s the thing that feeds our soul and makes us come alive with creativity.
Case in point….me! Every aptitude test I ever took in school pronounced that I was destined to do something with math and science. They were my strongest subjects in high school. It was clear I had the brain power to pull it off. Then it came time for college I jumped full force into…take a guess…math and science. I graduated with a BS in Chemistry with a Math minor. I even took a summer job as a graduate research assistant in the department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
According to the experts, I should have excelled at this work. It should have lit a creative fire inside of me that would propel me to make a great contribution to society at large. But, guess what happened? One day as I was sitting in the lab analyzing some data, the thought occurred to me that if I did this work for the rest of my life I was going to LOSE MY MIND! I was pretty good at it, but I had no passion for it. It gave me no joy whatsoever.
Meanwhile, I was active in my church as a worship leader, youth group advisor, and Sunday School teacher. I loved everything about it. Teaching that crazy 7th grade Sunday school class no one else wanted to teach made me feel alive. Assisting at communion, reading the scriptures, and participating in the richness of Lutheran worship filled my soul and kept my creative fires burning brightly. Long story short, I left chemistry behind and enrolled in seminary. I’ve never looked back since.
The interesting thing about the chemistry, however, is that it came back into my life two years ago when I enrolled in the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. The skills I learned way back when are now being used in a new and creative way that makes me feel alive. I love working with plants and making things such as tinctures, fermented beverages, healing salves, and other products. The whole process is Spirit-led for me. It begins with nurturing plants in my medicinal herb garden, and ends with making products that nurture the lives of my family and friends.
This kind of chemistry NEVER occurred to me way back when. However, the Holy Spirit knew what I was going to do with the skills I was learning. When the time was right those skills became wind and flame in the hands of a budding herbalist. It is the new language that I speak these days. I have no doubt I will continue this creative work for the rest of my life.
The reason why I share this story with you this morning is that I suspect that some of you might have made a similar journey. Some of you might have pursued a career path that you were good at but did not feel your soul. Now, your creative fire is a smoldering ember. Some of you might have listened to those people who said you weren’t good at something but now you find yourself wondering if they really knew what they were talking about.
Whatever the case may be, if you cannot remember the last time you were creative, today is your lucky day! If you cannot remember the last time you felt like every cell in your body was glowing with excitement, today is your lucky day. If you cannot remember the last time you got a crazy idea to do something…but didn’t have the courage to follow through with it…[Say it with me] today is your lucky day!
Friends in Christ, it’s Pentecost. It’s the day when we tell the story of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of creativity, who doesn’t arrive on a gentle breeze with the soft glow of candle flames. It descends on the gathered disciples with the “rush of a violent wind” and “divided tongues as of fire.” In plain English, the Holy Spirit tore through the house like a bonfire in a hurricane.
Does that sound like the neat, respectable Lutheran version of the Holy Spirit we may have learned about as kids? Hardly. Does that sound like the persona of God who knows her proper place in the Trinity, and speaks to us in a still, small voice? Not a chance!
This is a Spirit of immense power and creativity. It’s a Spirit that enabled the disciples to speak in new languages they had never studied in school. It’s a Spirit that was so wild and unpredictable that some who witnessed the sight through the disciples were drunk. When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon those first disciples it set the place on fire with creative and prophetic energy. Even Peter, who is not always the brightest bulb in the pack, remarked that this miraculous occurrence was a fulfillment of the words of the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old women shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” [NRSV]
To put this in a little planer English, my paraphrase of Joel’s prophecy is as follows: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will be moved to speak for me. Your elders will envision a bright, new future. Even those who are oppressed and enslaved, will be filled with my Spirit and speak my words.”
There’s no doubt about it that first Pentecost was a transformative experience. It was a day when those first disciples embodied the kind of creativity we had when we were kids. It flowed freely and powerfully. It refused to be diminished by the voices of naysayers. It enabled those touched by this renegade Spirit to dream impossible dreams and see visions of new possibilities that had never been envisioned before.
This Holy Spirit, this bonfire in a hurricane, is available to us today. It is more than a still, small voice. It is a creative power that can make every cell of our being glow with excitement. If we haven’t done anything lately that made us glow with creative energy, today is our lucky day! Today is the day for all of us to reclaim our creative power. It’s a power we once possessed when we were kids. But at some point in our lives we set it aside in the name of being “mature adults.”
Well, friends in Christ, I encourage us to lay aside our need to be a grown-up every once in a while. I encourage us to find some activity that makes us feel completely and totally alive. For some, this might involve a commitment to leaving our electronic devices behind and immersing ourselves in the restorative power of nature. For others, it might involve a trip to the craft store where we give ourselves permission to roam the aisles and see what grabs our attention. For some, it might mean learning how to bake bread or grow herbs and vegetables. For others it might mean finally making a road trip to the destination we’ve always dreamed of seeing but never took the time to do it.
I believe that part of what it means to be created in the image of God, is that we need to create as well. We need to be involved in some kind of activity that is a joyous reflection of God’s creative work in us. When people see us light up like a bonfire in a whirlwind, they will want to know what’s up with that! They will be curious as to where this creative power comes from. This will give us the opportunity to share our story of how the Holy Spirit works and moves in our lives. Hopefully, they will be inspired to tap into this same creative Spirit as well.
Matthew Fox, in his book Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet, echoes the importance of creativity in our lives. He writes, “Creativity and imagination are not frosting on a cake: They’re integral to our sustainability. They are survival mechanisms. They are of the essence of who we are. They constitute our deepest empowerment.”
I believe we were created to be creative people. And if we can’t remember the last time we were creative, today is our lucky day! If we miss our opportunity today, then tomorrow is our lucky day! The Holy Spirit of creativity is constantly blowing through our lives with passion and power. We simply need to learn how to harness it. The easiest way to do this is to invite the little kid that still lives inside of us to come out and play!
Today is the day, Friends in Christ. Happy Pentecost and may the Holy Spirit light a bonfire of creativity in our hearts and in our lives! AMEN.
Copyright ©2018 by David Eck