This message was shared on Sunday June 11th for our Sunday Gathering.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”
This is how this ancient poem commences, with the words of the Sacred beginning to build the world with words.
For a big portion of my life I was made to feel as if this glorious Genesis story was one that required my devotion. It was distorted by a narrow view and reduced to phony explanations of science and history and time. I was told it explained how the world began. It is an epic tale where God brings something out of nothing.
But the richer exploration comes when we can explore this beautiful poetry with a different lens: Does it intend to tell us something about how God works among us and with us and through us?
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner wrote, “According to the Hebrew Bible, God made the world with words. God just spoke and the world became reality. (The Aramaic for “I create as I speak” is avarak’davara, or in magician’s language, abracadrabra.) Not only are words the instruments of creation, in Judaism they are primary reality itself.
Our fears can reduce God to what our little minds can comprehend, as if God is limited by all the same things we are, or as if the Sacred desires the same outcomes we do. But if we create as we speak, maybe Genesis is not so much about God’s power, but about ours.
Maybe as spiritual seekers and dreamers and investors in hope, we must see ourselves as powerful artists, we must claim our role as creators.
Because we accept that words are the instruments of creation, if they are the building blocks for what becomes, then the magic of life is in part understanding and claiming their power: abracadrabra, I create as I speak.
In her little book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott writes, “This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.”
As people of faith and conscience, we are all artists and we create as we speak. We are called to build castles that cannot be washed away. We are asked by the Universe to seize what is possible. Words can inspire us and renew us and words can shape what we value individually and collectively. Words assign intention and can structure new pathways. In Greek Philosophy, Logos, the word, is that which gives order, form and meaning.
Our words create realities.
In the Christian tradition, we have this poem from the Gospel of John- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Words are the instruments of creation, building blocks for what becomes. Words plant the seeds for what will grow. This means we all have incredible power to create particular environments of radical welcome with the words we use to create the space and it also means words can quickly shift the energy of an entire nation.
When those of us with political power say that the world is a mess and that the world is an angry place, what if that becomes more so?
When those of us with spiritual power say that the world is beautiful and that the world is a loving place, what if that becomes more so?
To be clear, I am not saying that when terrible things happen in our lives or in the lives of those we love or in our world, it is because we haven’t spoken the right words. Or that God has brought us pain to teach us something because we haven’t uttered the right words.
Rather what I mean, is that I believe we have more power than we understand… We are mere human beings yes, but our words are one of the most important, essential, powerful, instruments of creation.
Words speak life to movements: Let my people go. Blessed are the peacemakers. We the people. I have a dream. Black Lives Matter.
We might not always see the fruits in our short lifetimes on this earth, but I believe that maybe this creation story in Genesis wants to tell us this: We create as we speak, so maybe Genesis is not so much about God’s power but about ours. God made the world with words…so, can we. Our words are powerful in ways might never understand. The words we pray and write and say, out loud- the words we put into the world, somehow, in some way, these build pathways and possibilities… or block them.
While we are not God, I believe we are Her agents, summoned to be instruments of the Holy One, engaged in the work of building up, instead of tearing down.
The fact that are words are powerful means that as a faith community striving to be radically inclusive, the words we bring into this sacred space have the power to deflate weary souls or renew them. The words we say here when we are gathered in the name of our Greater Love are significant. Our words in all their forms have tremendous influence…for what is given order, form and meaning, for what takes shape.
We have a wonderful opportunity then to claim our role as creators, as instruments and to live the truth that this creation story in Genesis wants to tell us: God made the world with words…so, can we.
What world are we building here together? What castles will take shape with what we say? Andrew Bennett, in a Ted Talk called The magic of Words gives a simple distinction: Are my individual words creative or limiting?
Do the words we pray and write and say, out loud- do the words we put into the world, the words that we sing and say and share today, create or limit? Do they build or block?
Maybe that is the foundation of the concept of covenant. It is words that offer the possibilities for a certain way of being in community together. It is words that give meaning for how we are together and what we are striving to create.
We are being so bold as to call this experimental collaboration, an urban sanctuary, not because we are fully living this already, but because we are striving for it. It is a prayer more than a description. Please God guide us to be and become a true urban sanctuary.
I believe deeply in abracadabra, we create as we speak.
The words we pray and write and say, out loud- the words we put into the world, somehow, in some way, these build pathways and possibilities. God made the world with words…so, can we.
Let there be… Let there be light. Let there be love. Let there be truth. Let there be welcome. Let there be…
 The Book of Words: Talking Spiritual Life, Living Spiritual Talk By Lawrence Kushner