The God Who Paints Things With Beauty – Trinity Sunday

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. … And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. … God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. …  Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.                                                                         Genesis 1:1-2,31-2:1

Nezahualcoyotl, “The Coyote Who Fasts” (1402 –1472) was a philosopher, warrior, architect, poet, and ruler (tlatoani) of the city-state of Texcoco in pre-Columbian Mexico.  Best remembered for his poetry, he had an experience of an “Unknown, Unknowable Lord of Everywhere” to whom he built an entirely empty temple in which no blood sacrifices of any kind were allowed – not even those of animals.  He wrote about “The God Who Paints Things With Beauty”:

“Truly the gods, which I worship, are idols of stone that do not speak nor feel. … Some very powerful, hidden and unknown god is the creator of the entire universe.  He is the only one who can console me in my affliction and help me in such anguish as my heart feels; I want him to be my helper and protection.”

Nazahualcoyoti died 20 years before the “New World” was discovered.  He grew up in a culture which had very violent traditions embedded in its practice, particularly human sacrifice.  Yet somewhere in his life he had an extraordinary encounter with God, an “unknown and unknowable” Creator God, One “Who Paints Things With Beauty,” One who would not be placated by sacrifice of any kind other than the desire of the heart to know Him. What an extraordinary, astonishing contrast to the belief systems of Central and South America of that time!

I found myself identifying with Nazahualcoyoti.  In high school, I was introduced to evolution, which seemed so logical and sure of itself.  But as years passed, to me one of the difficulties of this science interpretation was how it had no answer for the reality of beauty.  The brilliance of many tropical birds, the amazing hue characteristics of the feather, the remarkable color design of the butterfly, the depth of color shades of flowers and so much more – that all of these would be merely the result of blind indifference was a bit too simplistic.  Not only did the colors exist in beautiful patterns, but these patterns were also recognized as belonging to mates of certain species.

Then there are the translucent glassine “eyes” in the wings of great moths, formed within an excellent representation of an owl’s face.  Such a design not only could not be an accident of pure chance, but the organization into such a pattern requires an observer standing outside the canvas of the moth’s wings.

What Nazahualcoyoti realized was that Someone had to bring all this into being, a “God Who Paints Things With Beauty.”  There was no happenstance to these end products of such exquisite artistry, an artistry which only humans could fully appreciate.  He intuitively understood what Paul meant in Romans 1[:19-20]:

What may be known of God is manifest to them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse

A few years ago, Edith Schaeffer wrote an article in Christianity Today titled “Whose Signature,” which adds another aspect to this discussion:

A number of years ago New York papers were splashed with headlines concerning the exhibition of fury Salvador Dali displayed one fine morning on Fifth Avenue.  A famous Fifth Avenue store had engaged him to design a window.  He overlooked no details, and as far as he was concerned the window which he finished late one night, was ready for his signature.  The next day he found that someone had changed his work.  Dali made a running start and jumped right through the plate glass window in front of startled passersby and window gazers.  He destroyed the display.  A mélange of his work that included someone else’s ideas was not going to have his signature on it.

When God had stepped back from His original creative work, it was very good – something we still marvel over even today.  It all was perfect in beauty and in absolutely peaceful harmony.  But then Creation was changed, vandalized, and spoiled the day when mankind turned its back on the Creator and decided to do things its own way.  Not only has the Lord’s Creation been violated, increasingly there is the push to erase His signature completely from it.

Although the Creator never walked away from Creation, a problem has arisen: mankind was no minor piece in the mosaic of God’s activity in that first week – humans form the keystone in God’s relationship to Creation.  They were meant to be the Universe’s priests, bringing to the Lord its worship, its beauty, its productivity, while also being the embodiment of God’s caretaking, God’s hand of guidance in the development of this new Creation.

But now because of human rebellion, Creation is broken away from its moorings; it is become “subjected to futility, not willingly, ,,, the whole Creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” [Romans 8:20,22] – the confusion and damaged harmony on this grand scale is because the relatively tiny human heart is the key connection between all Creation and its Creator, so when that heart is rootless, wandering in spiritually dry places, then also the Universe now drifts in disorder, deviation, and death.  Tragically, that really is the magnitude of the human influence.
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Humans now attempt to shrug off any attachment to our Creator. We turn our backs to Him and disconnect from the Source of our existence.  The result is meaningless and purposeless lives.  There is no destination or goal to existence –  ignoring, of course, what is feared.  Ecclesiastes describes the fruitlessness of more pleasure, more stuff, more work, more wealth, more power, more knowledge, and more fame – all which can result in more emptiness.

In looking for human meaning, many default to other things which share our physical existence: the animals, using them to define who and what we are, and what we are about, which is what the behavioral and psychological fields often try to do [Romans 1:18-32].  Animals are used to justify our rebellion and selfishnesses in such areas as sex, anger, controlling power, and even murder (abortion).  The philosophy of evolution is merely the attempt to place a false signature on Creation, then use it as the reference point for human activity and motivation.

Uncomfortably, though, this isn’t really enough.  God has included moral values in our makeup, a quality not found in animals, and we are conscious of many important moral conflicts in daily life.  Presently, as we view riots and excesses of rebellion, anarchy’s destructiveness and terrorism’s manipulation of others, something inside us demands that these things just aren’t right, that this is not what humanity is to be about.  We yearn for lawful and just principles to define suitable and proper ways to deal with each other – and then, ironically trample on such codes when they prove inconvenient – case in point, our self-justifications for ignoring speeding laws.

Human rebellion brings a very deep-rooted sense of loneliness.  As Blaise Pascal described [Pensées VII(425)]:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?  This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

We want someone to depend on, who will be there for us, who will welcome us, share himself with us and with whom we can share ourselves.  We yearn for help in the choices we make, in conducting business; in properly treating others, especially meaningful others.  Finally, and very importantly, to help us deal with guilt, which even while ignoring our Creator, it still comes because every single one of us betrays the values which are important to us, and – always in the back of our minds – to God.  Ultimately we want a God Who paints with beauty in our lives.

It is good therefore to be here on this Trinity Sunday.  The foundation for a changed life begins because the Holy Spirit again hovers over the waters, but these are the waters of Holy Baptism.  No less amazing is the New Creation consequently brought forth, clothed in a new relationship with God, not because of anything we have done, but from the perfect righteousness of Jesus.  The Spirit reaches deep into our hearts to bring faith and the conviction of God’s faithfulness in regard to His promises to us.  And He is the One Who ferrets out and calls us to repentance in the areas of spiritual clutter, the places of guilt, the prisons of rebellion, the roadblocks of selfishness.

The Holy Spirit’s work, of course, relies upon all which Jesus has accomplished for the sake of each human, which can heal the brokenness between God and His prime creature.  Especially every week, through His Word and Sacrament, through His People, He brings the reservoir of His accomplishments on the Cross and in the Resurrection; and now ruling in the Ascension, He gives the guarantees of constant activity on our behalf, by our side, and for a confident future.  As the People of God daily humbly come before Him, He addresses the sins and faults He died to destroy, and then lifts these precious members of His Body, the Church, with spiritual healing and the confidence that “Lo, I am with you always.”

This in turn is backed up with the Father’s extraordinary steadfast love which spared no expense, even to giving up His own Son to human life and then to death simply for us and our eternal destination by His side.  Together with Him we rejoice in His work to bring again the beauty He had intended for His Creation, especially to the People upon whom He has placed His Name – those who now carry His signature forever.  Although, except for glimpses, we cannot see such a thing as we muddle through this life, He insists that we should look with His vision as to what is coming, what He eternally designed for us, and what He will delight and rejoice in with us.

To reverse the effects of human rebellion is an unimaginably overwhelming task.  However, all of God Himself has stepped forward to get us out of the far reaching destruction we have made for ourselves, for others, and for Creation as a whole.  Trinity Sunday is powerful reassurance for us that as we are being recreated into the way and life God has intended for us, that we discover all over again that “The God Who Paints Things With Beauty” is still doing what He delights in doing alongside of us.

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