My wife placed an afternoon’s worth of cooking on the kitchen table, and with the uneven rhythm of popcorn escaping from an over filled fist, all six of the children began falling into their seats. Teasing, laughter, and delicious smells tumbled around the room. I grinned at my third born, who was standing beside me.
“Do you know what this is?” I asked her, indicating the glorious and raucous domesticity.
“It’s God making a pass at us.” she grinned back
She was right.
We borrowed the phrase from The Color Purple. I like it because it raises eyebrows…and the kids find it all the more memorable for that. They understand it as a shorthand way of acknowledging God’s flirtatious presence in our house. And with such a metaphor, the older they get, the better they understand.
I’ve taught my children that every thing was meant to be grace to us. Every thing was designed to channel God’s love to us. Every aspect of creation is sacramental.
That seems to be the more ancient view, but it’s certainly not the only one. While the famously conservative Orthodox refuse to place a concrete number around the set of sacramentality, the western church has dogmatically limited the sacraments to seven, and her equally innovative evangelical children restrict the number to two (if that).
The ancient Orthodox pedigree certainly reinforces my conviction, but that’s not how I first came to embrace it. To my mind the belief that “all creation is sacramental” was the natural sum of two other realizations. First, grace is not something given; grace is God himself. To receive grace is to receive the favor, the life of God. Secondly, God isn’t out there; he’s right here.
If a sacrament is an action or creature (like water, bread, and wine) that brings God’s grace to us, and if grace is God himself, and if he fills all things, and is the environment in which we live and move and have our being, then isn’t it clear that every thing is charged with the grace of God- every thing is potential sacrament for those with eyes to see and tongues to taste?
Sunsets, warm baths, soft breasts, and the laughter of children are all prodigal instances of God’s love made visible and concrete.
In the kingdom, that’s just how stuff behaves; it brings us into closer union and communion with God. This in no way disparages the dignity of the church’s two cardinal mysteries: Baptism and Eucharist, nor does it dilute the solemnity of its other sacramental rites.
To my mind it’s much like the effort put into the protection of every other standard. For example, “The kilogram” – a plum sized cylinder of platinum-iridium alloy- resides under great security in a building near Paris. It is the international standard for weight measurement. The elaborate protective measures and distinction bestowed on it are for the purpose of every functioning scale in the world. The artifact is there to remind what every kilogram ought to be. It evaluates every claim of “kilogramness.” It makes weighing possible by objectively proclaiming what measurable weight is.
Bathroom scales don’t render “The Kilogram” unnecessary; the opposite is true.
In the same way Baptism and the Eucharist clearly proclaim the end and potential of every atom of matter. Because of this, they are protected. In order to ensure that the message will not be forgotten, they are set aside. Likewise, the priest’s ordination isn’t primarily to distinguish between those who are and who are not authorized to serve in God’s house, but to remind everyone what their baptism has ordained them to.
There’s more I’d like to say, but a house full of God’s-love-made-family is calling me away. There’s no doubt my God could do better than me, but for some reason he’s pouring his attention my way. It’s overwhelming, really; and flattering to distraction.