Note: The text of a theological reflection that I shared with my parish community of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, South Carolina, during tonight’s livestreamed service of Compline.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters (Genesis 1.1-2)
Our Hebrew forebears conceptualized primeval creation not as order or orderly, but as chaos; symbolized by darkness and deep waters. As the Genesis creation-story continues, God, through the Spirit, establishes order over the chaos; reflected in increasing differentiation – light and darkness, Day and Night, Sky, Earth and Seas, vegetation, sun and moon and stars, living creatures of air and sea and land, and humankind.
Humans were made last, for we are the only creatures fashioned in God’s image, thus, the height of creation. However, it also is true, it seems to me (as an experiencer and observer of human nature) that we least could endure chaos. We would not last long in an existence “without form and void” of order.
However, chaos didn’t and doesn’t disappear. It’s always there. Always here.
As that is true, manifold are the ways that we humans strive to maintain form and order. We build metaphorical dikes to keep chaos at bay, for example, our relationships of family and friends, our social and religious communities, our jobs, our daily schedules, our good habits to maintain health (exercise and rest, diet, times of prayer and reflection), and our values, our attitudes about the way things are and should be.
Then a crisis comes or crises come, crashing into our dikes, causing them to crumble. Our current viral pandemic and renewed racial pandemonium have led to quarantined and physically-distant living, altered routines, loss of jobs, loss of lives, rising anxiety and anger, deepening despair, protests and violence in the streets, and renewed proof that the love and justice that we thought and prayed would prevail cannot (at least, not yet) banish hatred and inequality.
In and through all this, we have been plunged anew into the deep, ever-present waters of chaos. What to do?
I dare not speak for anyone else or, as I’m wont to say, I speak always and only for myself. I am a Christian. I am a follower of Jesus, who, in his crucifixion, did not avoid, but rather walked into (not upon!) the deepest waters of chaos and, forsaken by his friends, even by God, drowned. There and only there did Jesus, in his resurrection, experience God’s everlasting, invincible power.
Therefore, my security from chaos doesn’t rest, can’t rest on anything I do. Not my relationships, job or routines, healthy habits, even my values. For everything I do, anything I can do is transitory and chaos always is there, ready to reappear. And always the greatest chaos, the greatest formlessness and disorder is death, which, one day, for me, will come.
Therefore, my security, in this life and in the next life, rests in my faith in the God whom Jesus reveals. The God who, in creation, establishing form and order, proves to be greater than chaos, and who, in the resurrection of Jesus, proves that death is never the last word. Life is.
© 6/5/2020 PRA