A central message of the Genesis creation story is that order emerges out of chaos. That primordial state of chaos is brooded over by God and in a wild, rushing wind, a word from the divine mouth, the waters of chaos are separated and a dome is created within which all of life exists. Given the wildness of creation, it is remarkable that the ancient Hebrew imagination was capable of making meaning by identifying an emerging order that had the touch of divinity. The wildness of God is not able to be contained within any walls created to contain God, whether the four corners of houses of worship or the contrived constraints of systematic theology. Our ancient, foundational myth assures us that God likes things diverse and wild, calling all things good. This creator also loves the creation enough to grant it the power to be fruitful. Not only that, but the creation is ordered to be fruitful. We, along with all that is, are co-creators with this wild God.
And within this blessing lies the curse. The wildness in this space is not always safe. The chaotic waters have been separated by this sliver of biosphere we inhabit but the travel between the waters below and the waters above can be a taste of that chaos. Rains fall and clouds form as the water moves down and up, and as many of us know firsthand, disorder and destruction can sometimes follow. The scars of the tornado here in my hometown of Brimfield, MA are still quite visible nearly two years later. Even the less visible emotional scars are present, you just have to look more closely. Sometimes the wildness of this creation hurts.
And even though all that is blessed by God pronouncing it good, that doesn’t mean that the free will of humans is incapable of evil. Sadly, it is painfully obvious that evil dwells among us. On Monday, the twisted intention of some human or group of humans brought extraordinary pain not only to this corner of creation in the Boston area, but was felt by all caring people who heard the horrible news. How anyone reaches the point where he or she can perform such a horrific premeditated act as this is, thankfully, hard to fathom. While our ancestors were wise to caution us by placing the story of fratricide right after the creation tale, reminding us of the depths we can sink, it remains the exception not the rule among humans generally. The haunting question, “am I my brother’s keeper?” has been a guiding light in the wildness. Our job in bringing order out of chaos as co-creators with God is, in fact, to be the keepers of our brothers and sisters. So many wonderful scenes of bystanders becoming instant heroes have emerged from Monday’s tragedy. While I won’t encourage revisiting the trauma, you likely don’t need to watch the footage again to recall that the instant following the blasts, some people were immediately moving toward the scene, into the danger, because that is where their neighbor was hurting and in need. That is the echo of voice of God declaring, “this is good!”
This good creation has a powerful ability for healing. It doesn’t happen immediately. I’m looking forward to seeing how much more green appears this year in the tornado’s path. I know I won’t live long enough to see trees again the size of ones that were lost. But I do know that I will see the saplings that will one day be those magnificent trees. It is that sort of hopeful vision that also works wonders on the heartsickness that accompanies trauma. When we commit ourselves to be brave the wildness, committed to the work of brother/sister-keeping then we find the strength to plant seeds and tend gardens. The bonds of compassion between strangers has planted many of those seeds in these first days. On my Facebook feed, I saw many repeating the calming word of Mister Rogers reminding us to look for the helpers. Others reminded us of Dr. King’s call to drive out darkness with light not more darkness. There was also the wonderful solidarity of the Fenway favorite, “Sweet Caroline” being sung in the enemy territory of Yankee stadium. It is heartwarming to see again that the impulsive human response to tragedy is compassion and solidarity. Sure, I’ve also seen some comments about what should happen to the perpetrator(s) but the overwhelming trend has been toward resilience not retribution.
Friends, we must never lose sight of the lessons we learn when we see love in action. This is the great gift of our good creator that we receive through creation itself: life will always find a way, love will always win.
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Brimfield, MA He blogs about the intersection of spirituality and society atCultureDove.blogspot.com and the intersection of spirituality and ornithology at https://birdparables.blogspot.com