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Chaos and good news

In the beginning, the earth was a formless void, shrouded in darkness. A wind from God swept over the face of the waters, and God said, ‘Let there be light.’

These are familiar verses from the story of creation in Genesis. Alternatively, we might say from the continuing story of creation, for it is an ongoing process.

It doesn’t concern one event aeons ago, albeit seminal; rather, it speaks of the way new life continually comes into being in the world.

First, there is chaos, a state of being where nothing makes sense, where there is no definition or order, and no history. Secondly, something emerges from this chaos, perhaps small but nonetheless a spark of new life, and thus history begins. God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was.

New life emerges from chaos. The advent of new life requires chaos.

The story of Pentecost, found in Acts chapter 2, replicates this process. In Acts 2, we read an account of the creation of a new community, the church.

It began with chaos. Pilgrims from around the Mediterranean, who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Pentecost, suddenly heard Jesus’ disciples speaking in their own languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

The pilgrims were thrown into chaos, amazed and perplexed.

Some attempted an interpretation, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

(It is intriguing how chaos is met so often with disparaging remarks!)

Then Peter stood up and spoke, ‘God has declared I will pour out my Spirit on all people.’ He sought to make sense of this strange experience, to bring order and definition to it, to name the advent of something new.

Of note, in both Genesis and Acts, this birthing process was initiated by the Spirit of God. (In the Genesis account, the expression ‘a wind from God’ can be translated as ‘the Spirit of God.’)

Today, the Spirit is agitating again, seeking to bring new life out of chaos.

For this Spirit work to be fruitful, we have to live with chaos. That is exacting, demanding, and unavoidable. How will we support each other to live through it well?

We need to endure it, and, like Peter, we also need to discover fresh words, images, and insights that name it as an opportunity to bring new life to birth.

Yesterday at Bible study, when we studied Acts 2, one of our number shared with us the way that many people, following the Manchester bombing, responded with compassion and concern. A homeless man cradled two victims covered in blood who were dying; taxi drivers offered free lifts home; a Muslim and a Jew prayed together…

Out of chaos, they brought new life. They gave definition and shape to the ever-present possibility of love.

As people of faith, we are called upon to scan the horizon for good news of life emerging from chaos. As people of faith, we seek fresh words to bring it to birth.

This is an important part of discerning and speaking good news.