Before there was anything, there was God, a few angels, and a huge swirling glob of rocks and water with no place to go. The angels asked God, “Why don’t you clean up this mess?” So God collected rocks from the huge swirling glob and put them together in clumps and said, “Some of these clumps will be rocks and planets, and some will be stars, and some of these rocks will be … just rocks.”
Then God collected water from the huge swirling glob and put it together in pools of water and said, “Some of these pools will be oceans, and some will become clouds, and some of this water will be … just water.” Then the angels said, “Well, God, it’s neater now, but is it finished?” And God answered … “NOPE!”
On some of the rocks God placed growing things, and creeping things, and things that only God knows what they are, and when God had done all this, the angels asked God, “Is the world finished now?” And God answered … “NOPE!”
God made some people from some of the water and dust and said to them, “I am tired now. Please finish up the world for me … really it’s almost done.” But the people said, “We can’t finish the world alone! You have the plans, and we are too little!”
“You are big enough,” God answered them. “But I agree to this: If you keep trying to finish the world, I will be your partner.”
The people asked, “What’s a partner?” and God answered, “A partner is someone you work with on a big thing that neither of you can do alone. If you have a partner, it means that you can never give up, because your partner is depending on you. On the days you think I am not doing enough and on the days I think you are not doing enough, even on those days we are still partners and we must not stop trying to finish the world. That’s the deal.” And they all agreed to that deal.
Then the angels asked God, “Is the world finished yet?” And God answered, “I don’t know. Go ask my partners.”
This story by Marc Gellman reminds us that we are partners of God, active partners whose faith in God is empty without Godly works, without our participation in the divine task of building up the world in love, justice, and hope. “… faith by itself, without works, is dead …” writes the author of James and I believe we all would agree.
Years ago, I was on the planning committee to put together a new biennial national gathering of the UCC that would be focused on faith not the parliamentary business of the Church. We called this gathering Faithworks – one word that boldly proclaimed that these two things were ultimately inseparable.
We live in a time when people quote scripture to justify inaction and injustice, but such things are abhorrent to God and hostile to our Faithworks Christianity. We cannot abstract faith from practice; we cannot call ourselves Christian if we are not actively working and living for others like Jesus did as he lived and worked on this earth.
If I had to choose one person in the last seventy-five years whose life best illustrated this lesson, the one I would choose would be Agnes Bojaxhiu. Some of you know a little bit about the life of Agnes Bojaxhiu who, when she became a nun, changed her name to Teresa. She was sent to teach at St. Mary’s High School in Entally, Calcutta, after she took her vows. Teresa would become headmistress of this school which catered to middle-class Bengali girls. In 1946, as she was traveling by train to Darjeeling, Teresa was told by Jesus: “I want you to serve Me among the poorest of the poor.”
She ended up working in the slums of Calcutta, serving at the Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor. In the next few years, an astounding number of young girls wished to work with Mother Teresa. It soon became obvious that they needed to start a new religious congregation. She called it the Missionaries of Charity and, to the three traditional vows – poverty, chastity, and obedience – she added a fourth: “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”
There’s a wonderful reflection that she wrote:
“I believe God loves the world through us –
through you and through me.
We use Mother Teresa’s name;
it is only a name, but we are really
co-workers and carriers of His love.
Today God loves the world through us.
Especially in times like these
when people are trying to
make God ‘was,’ it is you and I,
by our love, by the purity of our lives,
by our compassion,
who prove to the world that God ‘is.’”
What wonderful words! What make them truly beautiful is the way in which they were lived out in Mother Teresa’s life, in her Faithworks, as a partner and co-worker with God. I hope and pray they are lived out in our lives too, we who are God’s partners.
Your friend and fellow partner,
Rev. Steve Savides