God Sets Down the Melody
and We Offer it Back To God
see also Co-Creativity: God Needs Us and We Need God
BY GEORGE HERMANSON
Believe it or not, most mainline Christians have had a mystical or religious experience. But in order to make sense of these transcendent experiences, we need a new way to understand God — one that makes sense in our world. In our quest for religious authenticity, a relational view of God gives us an understanding of divine power and compassion. This view is called “panentheism.”
Panentheists experience God as both subject and mystery — the personal and the eternal. God is in the world and the world is in God, and God is more than the world. God is the necessary and eternal source for the world; it is God’s creative act that makes nothing into something, that brings order out of chaos. God depends on the world because the nature of God’s actual experience depends on the interaction with all living reality. As author and theologian Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki put it, “God is the supremely related one.”
God is at home in this unfinished creation. God loves to work with the independence in the created order. God offers novelty, and we use our freedom to react. The world is at play, able to mess up and to go forward. The future unfolds through God offering possibilities, aims and beauty to each moment. We, in turn, respond and add to the offering. God responds again.
God’s power is relational and persuasive, not coercive. What we say and do has an effect on how God will respond. God gives but also receives; acts but also is acted upon; has a vision but is open to change and transformation. There is a call and response built into our relational world, and the world develops through it.
Imagine a jazz group. God sets down the melody. It is passed on to the others in the group, and they get the feel for it. Each listens closely to what the others are saying. Each, in turn, adds originality, colour and difference, tweaking the piece to offer it back to God. God now has to work with what was created by the subjective experiences of the players. God has to feel the offering to give it more feeling. The piece is transformed, to arrive at some satisfaction, which then becomes the ground for the next moments of improvisation. God with us. Alive. Creating. Transforming. Visioning. Maturing. It is within our experience of the world that we vividly experience the presence of God.
Rev. George Hermanson is the director of the Madawaska Institute for Culture and Religion near Burnstown, Ontario, Canada: http://www.georgehermanson.com. Dr. Hermanson is a United Church of Canada Minister who received his doctorate at Claremont School of Theology in California, BA at UBC and Masters in Ethics and Theology at Chicago Theological Seminary. With Peter Woods he has developed Jazz liturgies.