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Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

The Rainy Day Marriage of Creation and Redemption

Poet laureate Gary Young has said, "I'm never smater than when I'm writing a poem."

Who would have thunk that you could be baptized by a rain storm and saved every day?  That’s Anabaptist alright- but I like it!

Garrison Keillor read the following poem by Gary Young yesterday on The Writer’s Almanac, and I thought it was really beautiful- not just for its imagery, but for how it weaves the act of redemption into the very fabric of creation.

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This is no small feat.  It is an age-old temptation within the discipline of Christian theology to set up competing categories and then attach a value to them- like creation versus redemption, with the implication that creation is bad and redemption is good.  Of course this is a gross simplification, but the point is that theologians across the centuries have struggled to articulate a theology that holds these two things in creative tension, without elevating one (usually redemption, in the Reformed circles I run in) at the expense of the other.

My sense is this kind of prioritizing of redemption over creation also happens in the comments our politicians and public figures make, too.  Take Rick Santorum commenting the other day that he is “praying for” controversial gay radio host Dan Savage.  If Santorum really is praying for Dan Savage, (as opposed to cynically throwing a bone to people of faith) I applaud him.  (That Santorum felt it his duty to announce this publicly may be a different story.)  Santorum went on to say that Savage “obviously had some serious issues.” The implication?  That because Santorum had been redeemed, Santorum- in contrast to Savage, who had not been redeemed, at least according to Santorum’s standards- did not have issues.  Redemption over and against creation, with the result being a belittling of creation.

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All of this to say in a long-winded sort of way…I’m grateful to Gary Young for showing in the form of a poem how creation and redemption can stay married as two equally important partners in the mission of God.

In the heat of late afternoon…

by Gary Young

In the heat of late afternoon, lightning streaks from a nearly
cloudless sky to the top of the far mesa. At dusk, the whole south
end of the valley blazes as the clouds turn incandescent with
some distant strike. There is a constant congress here between
the earth and the sky. This afternoon a thunderstorm crossed the
valley. One moment the ground was dry, and the next there were
torrents running down the hillsides and arroyos. A quarter-mile off
I could see a downpour bouncing off the sage and the fine clay
soil. I could see the rain approach, and then it hit, drenching me,
and moved on. Ten minutes later I was dry. The rain comes from
heaven, and we are cleansed by it. Suddenly the meaning of baptism
is clear to me: you can begin again, and we are saved every day.

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