Forming Faith Blog

Order out of Chaos (September 12, 2021)

In the beginning was a dark, formless, watery void. Out of chaos, God created order, a world at peace. God calls us to also bring peace to our chaotic world.

A black and white picture of the ocean during a storm. God created order out of the dark, watery chaos.

This coming Sunday, September 12, 2021, marks the beginning of Year 4 of the Narrative Lectionary. It is also, not coincidentally, the beginning of the program year for many churches throughout the United States (maybe Canada?). So, it is only logical that this first Bible reading is from the creation story in Genesis 1.

When we look at this story, people often focus on the goodness of creation, as our NL faith formation products do. Given that the word “good” is repeated seven times in this chapter, it’s a good thing to do. 😉 However, looking around at the world today, I’m reminded more of the chaos of the formless void of watery darkness at the very beginning (Genesis 1:2).

Chaos and Order

Our creation stories in the Bible don’t focus as much on the initial state of the universe before creation as many other mythologies do. So, I’m going to jump a bit far afield here. I was first introduced to the prominence of order and chaos in Egyptian mythology by Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles book series. Like his more famous Percy Jackson books, Riordan brings ancient mythology into the modern world. In this trilogy, the mythology of focus is Egyptian. This story explains that the main conflict in our world according to Egyptian mythology is order and justice (Ma’at) versus chaos and injustice (Isfet). In fact, it is the Egyptian leader’s (Pharaoh) job to promote Ma’at and keep Isfet at bay.

Formless Void

Returning to our creation story, our God—YHWH—starts with the “formless void and darkness” which is pictured as “the deep” and “waters.” It was explained to me in seminary (I believe by the wonderful Dr. Craig Koester) that the ancient Israelites feared the sea with its dangerous and uncontrollable nature, as well as the night with its own unknowable dangers. This is why, in the new creation, there is no sea (Revelation 21:1) and there is no night (Revelation 21:25). So, I don’t think it’s a stretch to see the formless, watery void in darkness as unknowable, uncontrollable chaos.

Order from Chaos

It is interesting to note that, in this Genesis 1 story, God does not create the waters (or the darkness, but that seems less significant, as darkness is only the absence of light). Instead, God imposes order on it. God creates light and separates it from the darkness. God creates the dome of the sky and separates surface-water from cloud-water. God gathers the water into the seas and creates land. God creates order out of chaos, and we are given the promise that this chaos will be removed from the new creation.

Chaos Today

That’s all well and good, but what about our modern context? It is not hard to see that God’s order is God’s kingdom, a reality governed by justice. The opposite of order is chaos, and the opposite of justice is injustice. This sort of chaos and injustice is easy to see in our recent news out of Afghanistan and our remembrance of 9/11. Heck, the uncontrollable dangers of water (too much in Louisiana and too little in the American West), the chaotic movement of the earth (earthquakes in Haiti), and the fear and injustice in our current pandemic represent chaos, too.

Our Work

Thus, when we work to bring justice and shalom, the kingdom of God, in contexts of chaos, we are continuing God’s work of bringing order out of chaos. God loves us with an undeserved, unconditional, and unending love. This is the hallmark of God’s order (which is different than control). God calls us to bring this love, justice, and peace to others. We can do this in service projects and fellowship time, in-person and online. This is the work of children, youth, adults, and seniors. This is the work of the church.

Free Resource

Each week during the main Narrative Lectionary year, I pull a single activity from one of our Narrative Lectionary faith formation products. But today I’d like to make sure you know that almost all our products* have full sample lessons for this first Sunday (9/12/2021) that you can use!

Living the Word (Narrative Lectionary Resources)

Sample Lessons:

  1. God’s Story @ Home—Home-based family curriculum
  2. Kids (PK-2nd)—Lower-elementary school classroom curriculum
  3. Kids (3rd-6th)—Upper-elementary school classroom curriculum
  4. Youth (6th-12th)—Confirmation, middle school, and high school curriculum
  5. Cross+Gen Worship—Intergenerational, interactive liturgies
  6. Cross+Gen Education—Intergenerational classroom curriculum
  7. Sharing God’s Story @ Home—Weekly devotional resource (bulletin insert)
  8. Contexts & Connections—Background notes and ideas for leaders
  9. Small Groups—Discussion guides for small groups
  10. *Singing God’s Story—Original children’s music (also included with the Cross+Gen Worship product!) [This sample isn’t specifically for 9/12/2021]

In God’s love,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

New this year, I will be including more voices in this blog! Starting next week, you will be able to hear from experienced faith formation practitioners as they reflect on each Narrative Lectionary reading from the perspective of faith formation.

2021-2022 Faith Formation Resources

Our Narrative Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary products for the upcoming 2021-2022 program year are now available for download. Find out more!

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