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Michelangelo, Creation of Adam. Sistine Chapel, Vatican. - hands detail

Here’s to us!

There’s an image that’s been salvaging my heart from faithlessness to faith again and again these past months.  It’s a small and relatively hidden mural on 104 Street, close to where it intersects with 104 Avenue.  It’s an artist’s playful rendition of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel portrayal of the creation of Adam.

The mural zooms in on the forearms and hands of God and Adam. The spirited muralist has placed a cup in each hand, and the two hands are approaching one another for a toast.  It’s a thrilling proclamation of the gospel to my heart. It communicates to me God’s utter affirmation of humanity. He approaches humanity with a glass, offering a toast.

That’s all he’s doing. That’s all he’s ever been doing. It’s all he’s ever wanted. That’s all the cross was about.

The mural is a portrayal to my heart of the mystery of the Incarnation, of God’s desire for incarnation.

God desired to have this toast with humanity so much that the status quo of human and divine interchange wasn’t enough. God remaining on the one side toasting humanity on the other wasn’t enough. God’s toast with humanity needed to go further.

And one day, he took it so far that, upon clinking glasses with humanity, God became Adam, became humanity. God got inside humanity. God the Son—on behalf of all humanity and with all humanity — clinks glasses with God the Father (the Spirit buzzing between them).

The message that comes to me from this gospel image is God’s utter affirmation of humanity. He loves it all so much he wants to get inside of every last bit of it. No single speck or corner of human existence and human activity is a speck or corner beneath God’s desire to get fully into it, fully involved with it, pouring into it the entirety of his self, in an utter, full, ecstatic affirmation: “I love this! I love you.”

On that short walk between here and that mural on 104 street, there’s so much of humanity that God wants to get utterly involved with, tangled up with, that he wants to pour the entirety of his self into. God wants to make every tent his home. He wants to stay in every shelter.

Any of the Edmonton Oilers’ fans walking briskly to Rogers Place to watch the next hockey game, or any one of the young techies dropping by one of the fancy bars, or any one of the yuppies on any one of the floors of the CN Tower or the Marriott Hotel or the Edmonton Tower — into any of them, God wants to pour his utter self, his entire existence.

He wants to affirm all that is human in all of it, to redeem all in it that is broken, to claim every cry of every heart in any of these cubicles or tents or sports bars or rinks or arenas or shelters. He wants to recover the wandering heart of every busker, beggar, addict, dealer, pimp, prostitute, ice-carver, bottle-picker, and Madonna House staff member between here and that mural.

God sees all of them as utterly worthy of his full involvement, focus, love. Just one staff member at Marian Centre Edmonton is worthy of all his involvement and love. Just one corner of this building is worthy of all his attention, care, love — just one furnace room, work bench, mop closet, kitchen counter.

Just one glass of orange juice, one cup of coffee, one piece of firewood. It is worth it for him to pour his entire self into, to squander his entire existence upon, to have a toast with, to devote his life to just one brother who drops in, just one volunteer. It’s worth it for him to render all his love to that one. It’s worth it for him to give to that one his very flesh and his entire life’s blood.

Part of my takeaway: wherever we are or whatever we’re doing, all that matters is that there is within us some semblance of the cry, “Lord, let me clink glasses with the one to whom you send me, in whatever task you choose.” That’s how he gets inside it all, tangled up with it all. That’s how he shows his love for it all, his love for us all.

That’s what our lives are about. Getting tangled up with his beloved children.

We offer the toast he’s offering us.

Restoration April 2024

Image: Michelangelo, Creation of Adam. Sistine Chapel, Vatican. – hands detail