When God Falls Off the Ceiling

When God Falls Off the Ceiling


The Rev. Dr. Brenda Pelc-Faszcza is the pastor of The First Congregational Church of Canton Center, CT, and a lecturer at Yale Divinity School. 

Scripture: Exodus 17:1-7 (NRSV)

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

Reflection: When God Falls Off the Ceiling 


In his 2020 book Saving God from Religion, UCC pastor, teacher and writer Robin Meyers tells about a dream he had that Michelangelo’s famous painting of God and Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the one with God’s and Adam’s outstretched hands not quite touching, came crashing down.

“In a pile on the floor, in a thousand pieces, was all that remained of the most famous fresco in the world. I looked up to the ceiling and saw a dark gash where the painting had been.  Adam’s reclining body remained, but his hand now stretched toward nothing. The plaster where Michelangelo’s image of God and his heavenly host had been fixed for five hundred years had broken loose and fallen to the floor. God had fallen off the ceiling.” * 

Meyers goes on to use this as a metaphor for what he calls “the God crisis” that the church has on its hands. That is, in our modern age, the God who once seemed to dwell so securely high above us appears, for many, to have fallen from that lofty perch, such that we are asking anew, like Moses’ people, “Where is God?  Among us or not?” and testing the answers we get, or don’t get. High up and far away no longer seem like satisfying or meaningful descriptions of God’s location, in a world daily testing its ground-journey for meaning. 

“What we can no longer deny,” Meyers writes, “is that organized religion has a God crisis on its hands. Traditional theism, the idea that God is a kind of super-person who dwells outside the world as we know it and occasionally intervenes to answer prayers or impose the divine will has run its course and been rejected by millions…. We need new ways to be in relationship to the sacred and to one another.”* 

This is a large constructive task for the current church, at the very heart of our purpose as faith community. 

In the church I serve, the Calls to Worship in our Sunday liturgies often end with the words “God is in the midst of us, and we are in the midst of God.”  We say them to remind ourselves, especially when we have gotten testy about the adversities of our own wildernesses, that the God we seek is already right there, right here, where we are.  That it’s generally not so much a matter of looking far up and away, trying to spot something sacred way beyond us, but of looking out and around, right here at ground level, to recognize it. “Because,” as Meyers concludes about the imagery of his dream, where God had fallen off the ceiling, “God has always been down here.” * 

Which is, I’d say, the primary thing we learn from Jesus. 

*Meyers, Robin, Saving God from Religion: A Minister’s Search for Faith 
In a Skeptical Age, Convergent, 2020.  Quotes are from the Prologue.  


God of everything everywhere, may we come to know you down here, where you have always been.   Amen. 

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at cochranem@sneucc.org.

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the family and friends of The Rev. Dr. Sharon Ledbetter who passed away February 19, 2023. Sharon served in Keene, NH, Southbury, CT, and was called as Pastor of the First Congregational Church in Lebanon, CT, where she served for 25 years before retiring. 
  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war.
  • For those grieving or suffering due to the ~7,000 gun violence deaths that happened in the US since the start of the new year.
  • For those suffering due to the Turkey–Syria earthquake where ~47,000 people are known to have lost their lives, with thousands more injured, in a first earthquake, and who then suffered a second quake.
  • For those affected by the various storms, fires, landslides, and tornadoes throughout the country.

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

This Week in History:

March 7, 1965 (58 years ago): In Selma, Alabama, a 600-person civil rights demonstration ends in violence when marchers are attacked and beaten by white state troopers and sheriff’s deputies. The day's events became known as "Bloody Sunday."  [History

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

Brenda M. Pelc-Faszcza

interim pastor of First Congregational Church in Canton Center

March 02, 2023
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