Monday 18th September In the Beginning Was Relationship
Acts 17: 24-28 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.”
Photo Credit: Nicolas Weldingh / unsplash.com
I was sitting by the water, minding my own business, watching the fish and taking a short break in the afternoon sunshine. A short distance away roadworks were happening. ‘Is there a country without roadworks?’ I wondered. Probably not.
A large yellow digger bumped up the road to collect some gravel, when the driver saw me he lost all interest in his work.
“Bula!” He shouted, giving the traditional Fijian greeting.
“Bula!” I yelled back.
Bula means something like ‘good health’, it seems like a good thing to say.
“Are you enjoying sitting in the sunshine?”
“Yes… I am.”
This seemed inadequate, but was, apparently, an excellent response.
Below my feet zebra fish flitted among the seaweed, a little way away a bus from the city centre disgorged a couple of passengers, a blast of reggae music reached me as the vehicle roared away.
A fisherman casting a handline into the sea was joined for a few minutes by an interested child, curious to see what was being caught. The answer was: more or less nothing. The man pulled in his line before whirling it around his head and optimistically casting out yet again.
“In the beginning was relationship! Relationality is in our blood.” So writes the Samoan theologian Upolu Vaai in the first chapter of ‘Relational Hermeneutics’. It is not just ‘important’ to understand yourself as in relationship with the world around you, in the Pacific it is vital.
This sense of ‘being in relationship’ extends up and down, it shapes the way that people from Oceania understand God, not as a separate, classical, entity, but as enmeshed, inseparable from the world we’re in – our ‘itulagi’ or lifeworld. This is not pantheism as some mistakenly suppose, but panentheism: God in all things and beyond all things – both-and, not either-or.
Prayer May we learn to be still and peer through the weeds, and to see beyond our expectations and to listen beyond our prejudices and come to know You at work at all times in all places with all that lives and all that can respond to Your leading. Amen
Dr Simon Cross is a 3rd year student at Westminster College training for the Ministry of Word and Sacraments. He is a member of Grimsby URC in North East Lincolnshire.