Editorialby Everett J. Thomas
What you see as chaos, I see as a fractal.
—Papa (God) in The Shack
God died on Good Friday. There could be no more chaos in the universe than in those hours between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. But what the disciples experienced as chaos during those hours—and what we experience as chaos today—God sees differently.
The chaos for the disciples began when a colleague, Judas Iscariot, betrayed Jesus with a kiss. It continued later that night as Peter, now the leader of the disciples, three times denied that he knew Jesus.
I imagine the disciples gathering in shock and gloom the evening of the crucifixion—just 24 hours after their Lord asked them to pray with him in the Garden of Gesthamane.
The chaos continued with a wildly improbable tale from Mary on Sunday morning: The stone that covered Jesus’ tomb was rolled away, and his body was missing. Among the clearest evidences of this chaos is the account of the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. In the Luke 24 telling of this event, two of the disciples were so blinded by the chaos in their lives that they did not even recognize Jesus as he walked and talked with them.
Several weeks ago, during a conversation with Jim Schrag, Mennonite Church USA’s executive director, I asked him how our church looked to him as he neared the end of his tenure and retirement. He did not describe our situation as chaotic but described this period of uncertainty as a time to wait on God’s Spirit to bring forth a new thing.
The conversation reminded me of a favorite Hebrew word in Genesis 1: The King James Version describes God’s Spirit as “brooding” over the “face of the deep” before creation. Just as a mother hen broods over the eggs in her nest, I imagine a loving God broods over what would have been chaos—a “formless void”—before there was day and night, before heaven was separated from the earth, before there were green plants and animals, before Adam (literally “earth”) and before Eve (literally “life”).
The uncertainties of our world today—economic recession, interminable wars, divisions among earnest and well-meaning people of faith—can leave us feeling hopeless. But God is still brooding over what looks like chaos. What is birthed from God’s nurturing presence cannot be predicted or managed.
In The Shack, William Young has God (“Papa”) explaining to the desperately sad Mack that what afflicts him is not chaos but a fractal—a geometric pattern that is repeated on ever smaller scales to produce irregular shapes and surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry. Fractals are used especially in computer modeling of irregular patterns and structures in nature.
What would it mean for us to relinquish our need to control and to predict the future of the church—and believe what happens is not chaos? What would it mean to yield our prescriptions for our adult children and trust that God will work some new thing in their lives far better than what we might have imagined? What would it mean to believe that what looks like chaos is exactly the place God is producing “irregular shapes and surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry.”
During Holy Week this year, we can immerse ourselves in the uncertainty of those hours between noon on Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning. If in our unsettledness we trust God to create a new thing in us, we, too, can rise on Easter Sunday morning with renewed hope and joy.
“Almighty God,” Phyllis Tickle prays in The Divine Hours, “you know my necessities before I ask and my ignorance in asking: Have compassion on my weakness and mercifully give me those things which … for my blindness I cannot ask.”
What seems chaos is a gift when we wait for God to use it in our lives. Jesus’ resurrection emerged from the chaos of the crucifixion.
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News stories, digests and Meno Acontecer
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- Former Bluffton president Neufeld dies at 83
- Indy church breaks ground for church addition
- AARM changes name to Resource Partners
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- Community shapes us
- Easter chaos
- MLK and the struggle for a better world
- The mystery of resurrection
- The Corinthian Plan
- The Corinthian Plan II
- The Corinthian Plan III
- Keith Harder responds to The Corinthian Plan letters
- Intentional communities
- Payback for Paraguayan Mennonites
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- Why end The Shack debate?
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