[5/25/22: I wrote this piece on “Searching for God in the Chaos” on Monday. Today, I hope you can find peace in the presence of God in the midst of the latest chaos and darkness. We are called to be the light in the darkness. Let not our anger snuff out our light. God still hovers over the deep. – Angela]
I think a lot of us have an issue with the way the Bible is used by many as a weapon to deny hope to a world in chaos and pain. But the whole point of the Bible is that God hovers over the chaos and brings forth new life. In fact, that’s the opening line: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
We can too easily miss this point because we get hung up on technicalities (like, how or when exactly did God do this?) that were not the issue for the people who passed on this poetic opening to the Story. The men who first wrote down those words were inspired by God to offer hope to a people whose world had collapsed.
Since the Creation story is missing important context that early hearers would have had, maybe the beginning is not the best place to start with the Bible for us today. It seems to me that the Bible is better understood when we begin at 586/7 BC – not with Creation or Abraham or the Exodus, but with 2 Kings 25, when Israel went into captivity. (Here’s a (short) Wikipedia article covering the events.) Every part of the biblical narrative that takes place before this time was at least edited, if not wholly re-written, in the years after.
The stories as we have them today were told from the perspective of the people living in exile in Babylon. Imagine that you’re on that march from Jerusalem, after about ten years of brutal war. Your home, your people, your temple have been completely destroyed. You are being taken into captivity and you don’t know what will happen there. On the journey, the storytellers in your tribe remind you over and over again:
“…the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
In the face of that inconceivable chaos – Jerusalem gone, the temple a pile of rubble – these words remind you that God will do a new thing.
Our world today is in chaos, too. Nothing seems important anymore, and it feels like everyone is just going through the motions. We are under siege. The institutions (temples) we built for the industrial age appear on the brink of irreparable collapse and ruin.
Younger generations aren’t saving for the future because they don’t believe in the future.
Hopelessness is rampant.
The Church, the people vested by the Advocate with the story of hope, has too frequently become the Accuser. This is not true for all churches, nor all Christians, but the public image of Christianity has nevertheless been besmirched.
The earth can feel formless and empty, darkness appears over the surface of the deep. But the Spirit of God is still hovering over the waters. And God says, “Let there be light,” and there is light – WE are the light.
Is that light of hope, of love, of mercy, of resurrection – the light of Christ – shining through you?
The light of Christ doesn’t run on batteries. Jesus said that we are branches, and branches have to stay connected to the vine to live. The vine is Jesus himself and we stay connected through the practice of spiritual disciplines, which takes effort on our part. That effort allows the light from heaven to shine into this dark and chaotic world through us. Are you working at being the light?