On Creativity

Rev. Aaron Payson

The Soul Matters theme for the month of June is creativity, a word which comes to us from the Latin word “Creatus”, meaning to make, bring forth, produce, procreate, beget, or cause.  A word related to another Latin word “crescere”, meaning to arise, be born, increase and grow.  So, to be creative is to both bring forth and grow.  It is an act that is by its very nature the antithesis of efforts to diminish, destroy or eradicate.

This time of year is an interesting time for ministers to contemplate creativity.  As things begin to wind down in the prospect of summer rest, May is often the time when we begin to count the number of sermons left before vacation. (The answer is seven in case you were wondering.) And it is also the time when many of us hit the veritable wall when we stare at a blank screen or piece of paper and wonder out loud if there is anything else to say. 

In these moments I remember my father’s advice when I called him as I was preparing my very first sermon some 34 years ago.  I was panicking.  I had a mental block and could not for the life of me figure out anything to say.  Truth was, I was also petrified of making a fool of myself. 

So, what did my sage and experienced father say?  He chuckled “Good!” now, you can begin to write.  Taken aback I whined a bit more and he said, “Sermon writing isn’t about trying to figure out what you need to say as much as it is about thinking about the people you are speaking to and asking, ‘What do they need to hear?’”

That moment changed my experience of sermon writing forever.  My meditation was turned on its head.  Sermon writing became a discipline of remembering those whom I am honored to serve, and asking what form that service needed to take on any given day, including Sunday.

I think about this when I contemplate the idea of creativity.  Admittedly there are many times when I feel things well-up inside of me that almost demand to be communicated.  More times than not, if I am attentive, I realize that the origin of this demand to be spoken is my response to some issue or another in the lives of those I love, on occasion, even me.  

At its best, the creative enterprise is a call to respond to that which inspires us to grow.  And each time I pause to remember the origins of my most creative moments I recall the blessings bestowed upon me by those who have trusted me to accompany them through life’s trials, tribulations, and triumphs.  It is in this spirit that I hear the words of my colleague, Marcus Liefert whose rendition of the Sermon on the Mount gives me joy.

Oh you who are makers;
Makers of beauty,
Of paintings and pottery and sculpture,
Blessed is the making.
You who make with hands and hearts and minds,
Who make out of breath and bones and blood human lives,
Blessed are the makers.

Blessed are those who make us laugh,
Who make jokes and faces and toys.

Blessed are those who make messes,
Who make trouble and friends, and when needed, make up.

Blessed are those who make do,
Who make it last, make it work, make beds and make time for others.

Blessed are those who make love,
Who make out and make more and make mistakes.

Blessed are those who make coffee and tea,
Who make conversation, who make meaning in the face of tragedy;
who make merriment and awaken joy.

Blessed are those who make peace
For they shall inherit the earth.