Yesterday morning, during our sermon, we talked about Creation and Chaos. The current spate of hurricanes and earthquakes and violence leave us wondering if God is really in control. It makes me think of the All Saints Day disaster in Lisbon in 1755, when several earthquakes provoked a tsunami that was followed by a fire. Thousands died as churches collapsed; the death total is estimated to be between 30 and 60 thousand. Voltaire expressed the thoughts of many:
“Are you then sure, the power which would create
The universe and fix the laws of fate,
Could not have found for man a proper place,
But earthquakes must destroy the human race?”
“Lisbon Earthquake Poem” (1755)
How can we believe in a God who will let disasters rock his creation and cause such suffering?
We looked at Genesis 1, as God brings order out of chaos. We then discussed the fall, how sin let chaos back into this ordered creation. Darkness fights against the light; death assaults life time and again. Romans 8 tells us:
“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19–21)
Decay… chaos. The creation is frustrated from being what it was meant to be. It suffers decay because of the effects of sin. Climate change shouldn’t surprise us… it’s a natural expression of the decay of a fallen universe. But this will be reversed one day, and all of creation longs for that day. Even mankind longs for that day, though we don’t always recognize that longing. There is a great day coming:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”” (Revelation 21:1–5)
Chaos will be vanquished, expelled once again. No decay, no decline, no corruption.
That’s my anchor when times get troubling. Rabbi Simcha Bunim once said that every person should have two pockets and keep a piece of paper in each of those pockets. On one paper should be the words: “For my sake was the world created.” On the other paper should be the words: “I am but dust and ashes.” We need that balance in our daily lives, that remembrance of our place in creation. When we feel overwhelmed, we should remember that God placed us in a place above the rest of creation. When we think too much of ourselves, we must remember that we are dust and ashes.
One day, the dust and ashes will give way to the full image of God. We will have incorruptible bodies, resurrection bodies. And we will live in a world where chaos will never be found again.