Harrowing Of Hell
June 30, 2024

God in Front of Us: Love as Co-creation

The Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.

To watch the sermon click here.

“If I live in love, then I am always investing myself in the future of another” (Ilia Delio The-Not-Yet-God, p. 258).

That’s a quote from an author I’ve been reading lately. Her name is Ilia Delio, and she is a Franciscan nun (my speech to text spells this “none,” not “nun” which must mean my computer knows I live in Seattle). Anyway, Sister Delio is the founder of The Center for Christogenesis at Georgetown University, and an endowed chair of Theology at Villanova University. 

If any of you have money burning a hole in your pocket, let me know, maybe we can entice her to come teach and preach here at Epiphany. To my mind, she is one of the more interesting theologians out there today, because of the way she unites Christianity, and particularly trinitarian theology, with evolution and quantum mechanics. She also thinks deeply about how humanity may thrive in this coming age of artificial intelligence.

One of her emphases is to move Christian thought from that of a God in the sky theology, where we come to church Sunday morning, sit in the pews and pretend we’re living in the 12th c. or 13th c where God is reaching into the world every now and then to poke us in a particular direction, or if necessary, to shoot a storm across our bow either personally or atmospherically to get our attention or to punish us… and then not tell us why. Sister Delio thinks that God is bizzarro, and so do I.

What Sister Delio wants us to see is that God’s creation is in process (code for evolving), creation is in the process of perpetually becoming what it could ideally be, through our co-creative, entangled engagement with God. There is quantum entanglement going on, which is the scientific”ish” way of saying perpetual relational totality (PRT)…perpetual relational totality-is also the definition of RELATA. I’ll preach more about that at some future point.

Back to Sister Delio who writes: “The ‘God in the sky’ story is of a perfect God out there somewhere – a God unaffected by earth’s dysfunction – and here lives fallen humanity in need of saving. This is a story of division and dislocation, dependence and dysfunction.”

Delio continues: “It is time to tell a new story, of the relational whole, a story of a living God in relationship with a living earth; which is a story of a God who is, as yet, incomplete, a not-yet God, an evolving God; who co-creates with us, and we too are, in the same way, as yet, also incomplete.”

She continues: “When we fall in love with the world, this love draws God and us into a unitive life. God is born {or shall I say God becomes evident}, and we become God and God become us, as communal relational totality (CRT). Us and God are completed in the union of love revealed in space and time, revealed in this material world that is yearning to become the world God imagines it could be” (Ilia Delio The-Not-Yet-God, para, p. 257).

And what is birthed into this new world is you. It is the “you” that reveals within “you” the person of Jesus. You can be like Jesus. In fact, you were made to be like Jesus. Jesus came into the world to show us, that we can be like him. He came to tell us that we could be like him.  And then he left (ascended) to make space so, we could fill the void he left behind by acting like him.

If you doubt me, then let’s ask Jesus. And I quote: “I have set an example that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15)

And I quote: “A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone, when fully trained, will become like the teacher” (Luke 6:40).

And I quote: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12).

And I quote: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teachings, and my father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).

Look around. This is the home of God. Jesus isn’t out there; Jesus is right in here, sitting in the pews. Jesus has always been a co-creative partner with humanity. The incarnation is the very definition of this. Jesus in the world with us. His name makes the point, Emmanuel, “God with us.”

But it seems we have found it easier to pretend that God is far away, and Jesus is superman, who we beg to save us. That is an old story told when the world didn’t understand weather, or how the earth was made.

Co-creative collaboration with God requires us to own our power by employing words like Sister Delio gave us: “If I live in love, then I am always investing myself in the future of another.”

This is exactly what Jesus is doing in the Gospel today. He is investing in the future of two women. It is a co-creative investment in their future, that happens in two distinctive ways: one as communal imperative, and the other by individual agency.

For the young girl it was the community’s imperative to care for her. They were the ones who called Jesus to come and heal her. They were the ones who believed in his power, and co-created with him by inviting him into that space to do what he was so good at doing. If there had been no invitation there would have been no resuscitation. They were all invested in the future of this child.

Investing in children is a communal imperative, it is a communal responsibility, it is a communal duty, to work with God as partners who care for all children. Jesus brought that young girl back to life, and she went on to live her life. We never found out her name. Had she died maybe we would have.

Sometimes it takes the death of a child to write their name upon our hearts compelling us to better care for all children. Like the name Amarr Murphy-Paine, who was shot dead outside of Garfield High School the other day.

As co-creators with God, investing in the future of all children it seems, at the very least, we should create safe environments in which they can thrive. Some say that is doing a better job teaching third graders to read. Others say we need to get guns off the streets. Probably both.

The more cynical or hard-hearted might say those battles are lost causes. But I’ll tell you one person who wouldn’t say that. Her name is Veronica. Maybe you didn’t know that was the name of the woman battling the chronic hemorrhage for 12 years. Tradition tells us her name was Veronica.

Veronica decided to co-create with God to change her life. She reached out to Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit was healed. Everyone said hers was a lost cause. They had taken all of her money, and they had abandoned her.

But she believed that through her encounter with the living God the world could be different. Her future could be different. She co-created with Jesus to change her life, and it was changed–and changed to a greater extent that she anticipated because not only was her hemorrhage healed, but she became the kind of person willing to invest in anyone’s future no matter how bleak that future might have seemed.

 It turns out that on the day Jesus was carrying his cross, bloody and beaten and broken through the streets of Jerusalem on the way to Golgotha, Veronica was there. That is what the tradition tells us.

And seeing the lost cause of a broken man stumbling down the street towards his death, she knelt down and wiped his face with a handkerchief. She invested in his future even though he seemed to have no future at all. By her love the face of our Lord was imprinted upon what is today known as the shroud of Turin. It is an emblem of love, given in perpetuity, as a symbol of what it means to live in love, by always investing in the future of another.

Love invested changes lives. Love invested changes the world. Love wins. Love never ends. The bad thing is never the last thing as long as we never stop investing as co-creators with God in someone else’s future. 

We’ll end here with that, and I’ll leave you where we started, to contemplate Sister Ilia Delio’s injunction: “If we live in love, then we are always investing ourselves in the future of someone else.”