s207g15stgeorge  St George Society sermon 2015  9/5/2015

In the name of God: Life-giver, Pain-bearer, Love-maker.  Amen.

‘blessed are the poor in spirit’  Matt 5:3

I am grateful to .. for saying once that the best midwife is the one you don’t remember!   Our task is to help others in their journey, not be famous.   Blessed are the forgotten midwives!

I have been reflecting on creativity recently because of a widespread desire to define what spirituality is.   There is a great website ‘Spirituality and Wellbeing’ I think started by Dr Richard Egan, Lecturer in the Department of Preventive & Social Medicine, University of Otago (1) investigating this.   Mostly in the western world, people will happily claim a spirituality while emphatically denying that they are religious.   In times past people would ‘be religious’ by going to church and the especially devout would be described as ‘spiritual’.   Now spirituality has been democratised, which is no bad thing.   There is good evidence that a healthy spirituality assists in healing.   Or, to put it the other way around, unhealthy spirituality and unhealthy religion (like disregarding professional advise) can adversely affect outcomes.

But along with this I, like many other people, would deny being creative.   By temperament I am an engineer.   I deal in straight lines not curved.   Don’t ever expect a picture or sculpture out of me!   Role plays are a nightmare for me!   I am in awe of artists, even those who can play the cello.   We have this perception that the artist, the creative one, is the especially gifted person whereas we, mere mortals, can only wonder from whence it comes.

But, if you are following my logic, how can one claim a spirituality without being creative?   Somehow each one of us has a perception of what is true and good, even when we may fail to live up to our own perception.

A while back I was listening to Radio NZ and the program ‘Steam Ahead’, a program looking at creativity, out of The Creative Thinking Project of the University of Auckland. (2)   One of the presenters was Professor Bruce Sheridan, Chair of Cinema Art + Science at Columbia College Chicago.

One of the first myths they dispelled is that any art is created in a vacuum.   In the end each and every artist is a product of the society in which they live and their art is an expression of it.   As Professor Bruce Sheridan commented, just dealing with gravity is an art which we all have mastered.   The businesses which are noted for their creativity, like Steve Jobs with Apple, are characterised by a collaborative creativity.   When my younger son .. was doing his work experience at university, he was fortunate to go to Origen where they were building a new solar-panel factory.   The corporate energy of those engineers engaged in building was amazing!   They were happier than ‘pigs in excrement’ as the phrase sort of goes.

But then I realised that collaborative creativity is what drives the medical profession.   Indeed I wouldn’t be surprised if sometimes some of us here wished that the exponential pace of technological advances would slow down just a little bit!   I suspect that few will buy the new Apple iWatch for its ease of telling the time or reading our e-mails, but for the continual monitoring of our personal health and fitness which it will incorporate.   Tomorrow evening we will hear of the amazing work of our new tenants, the Rose Centre for stroke research.

Each and every day we here at St George’s see the lame being enabled to walk with a new hip or knee, the deaf enabled to hear with a cochlear ear implant, the blind receiving their sight again through cataract and remedial surgery and those condemned to death given the possibility of new life through heart surgery and chemo and radio therapy.   The sacred spaces in the hospital, where lives are changed, are next door in the theatres, in the birthing suite and in the cancer care centre.   And these miracles happen each and every day through the training and dedication of a team of people, from the cleaners to the surgeons.   It would not happen without the generosity of benefactors and the vision and skills of administrators and managers.   How blessed are we to live in this country, to work in this hospital, to be a part of this collaborative team that daily achieves the miraculous!  

Professor Sheridan comments that this realisation enables us to play in a different space.   Instead of protecting our own toys in our own little part of the sand pit (a lovely description of some parts of the church), we can play with others and the enjoyment is magnified.   And he hints that this is more than just creative, it is mystical.   Like teenagers discovering intimacy.

We would all agree that all creativity is corporate.   We are energised by being able to be a part of an organisation where our individual contribution is recognised and appreciated, where we can see other’s lives changed.   The opposite, unemployment, can be soul-destroying.   

Are we not blessed to work in a creative environment where miracles happen?   In some ways it is far better than the church, where only regurgitation of ancient verities formulated before there was even an aspirin, is permitted.   Blessed are the poor, because we know our need of others.   If we have learned nothing during these last few years in Christchurch, we have learned the importance of friends and neighbours.

So for me, we, in the medical profession and the hospital environment are in the forefront of a more inclusive, collaborative, egalitarian and healthy society which has all the hallmarks of love.   Sadly sometimes the church can seem a force for division and repression.

Almost finally, I want to say that I feel blessed to be a part of this divine creativity, I, whose role no-one can quite define.   Actually the one thing I can do, and do entirely willingly, is to say to one and to all: ‘They do good things in this place’.   

Yes, those good things would still happen without the presence of a chaplain or a prayer being said, because the divine is like that and does bless our endeavours without being constantly reminded of what we are trying to do.   But sometimes, without being articulated, the support of a chaplain and the reassurance that divine things happen here is reassuring.   

We are blessed to worship a God who isn’t driven by an enormous inferiority complex, ever demanding to be the centre of attention.   We are blessed by a God who is happy to be poor that we might be rich.


1.  http://spiritualityandwellbeing.co.nz/
2.  http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/20172357