Bringing Order to Chaos
“When God was about to create heaven and earth, the earth was a chaos, unformed, and on the chaotic waters’ face there was darkness. Then God’s spirit glided over the face of the waters, and God said, ‘Let there be light!’ – and there was light. And when God saw how good the light was, God divided the light from the darkness; God then called the light Day, and called the darkness Night, and there was evening and there was morning, [the] first day.” -Genesis 1:1-5, New Jewish Publication Society Translation
“The Rabbis said that God, the Master Architect, had a master plan of creation. This plan was the Torah, which provided that God’s world would exist not merely for the sake of existing but for all purposes bound up with the creation of humanity.” -W. Gunther Plaut’s essays on Genesis 1 in The Torah: A Modern Commentary
How did you decide to open this email? Because I know you have at least twenty other emails to get to – and some of those are under deadline. Or you could be using these valuable minutes to get your thoughts in order for your next meeting, or just to sit still and breathe for a moment. Yet here you are, reading this Chapel newsletter. Why?
Maybe you didn’t think so deeply about opening one more email – but there are other decisions that we approach with much more consideration: How to parent. How and what to teach. Whether to start a new job or a new relationship.
When we make those kinds of decisions, we engage in a more intentional process before we make the call. We look at the reality of the situation: I have x amount of time; curriculum standards dictate y; I need to earn a paycheck; my kid needs food to survive, and that’s technically my responsibility.
We also ask deeper questions about our values. I have developed this pedagogy; these parts of my work are my higher priority; I want to live in a world where people treat each other like this. For people of faith, this is also where questions of God’s will come in.
And if our first round doesn’t produce an answer, we can go to an even deeper level – continuing to ask questions about the values and desires that motivate us until a decision becomes more clear.
We have a million choices in every moment, which can feel chaotic or overwhelming. Looking to the realities of our situation and our own values helps us bring order to the chaos of choice.
I wonder if God’s law might play a similar role in our lives.
Christians tend to look at God’s law almost like an enemy. It’s something that we are saved from, according to sermons and our Sunday school teachers and simplified readings of Martin Luther, all bolstered by St. Paul’s deep theological work with “law” and “gospel” in his New Testament letters.
And yet the Jewish people – through whom we Christians have inherited our faith – openly rejoice in God’s law. This ancient tradition lives in the scriptures that we share, such as in Psalm 19:
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making the wise simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart…
Genesis 1 tells us that God created the world by turning chaos into order: dividing light and dark, water and land – turning that original chaos and darkness into a home where life could thrive.
One role that God’s law plays in our life is very similar: to help us order the chaos in our lives. It helps us divide the better choices from the worse.
Those of us who keep the season of Lent are now being drawn into a time of reflection and repentance. As a community we intentionally look at our lives in the light of God’s law and open ourselves to re-evaluate our priorities and our way of living. We open ourselves to be transformed. And in this case, God’s law is not something from which we need to be saved – it is a gift that helps us make meaning in our lives. As we live in the grace of God, so even the laws that convict us become a grace to us.
Oh, how I love your law!
It is my meditation all day long…
How sweet are your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. (Psalm 119:97, 103-105 NRSV)
March 1, 2023
- Katherine Museus
- Fruit of the Spirit
- Ash Wednesday Stories
- Good Soil
- War in Israel
- God Who Sees
- God’s Ridiculous Ways
- Lives Rooted in Rest.
- “In Thy Light” May Be More About Love than Knowledge
- Be assured: You are forgiven
- Being called to sacrifice
- Creation + God’s Law
- Does this world matter to God?
- Fire on the Mountain
- Lessons from Our Lady of Guadalupe
- Little things
- Pulled in two directions
- Questions to ask at the end of the year
- Reflecting on the contrast
- What Do You Want?
- When our loved ones die