Jim Neudorf
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Genesis 1:1-2  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

The second sentence of this well known text creates a detailed picture of chaos.  Part of the picture is randomness, there is no structure or pattern, everything is formless.  There is an also an emptiness which suggests a meaninglessness.   Blanketing the formlessness and emptiness is darkness.  In the darkness there are no visible reference points for a way out.  And then there is the deep which seems to threaten to engulf.  This text can describe times in our lives when some event happens and suddenly life’s comforting structures and patterns are taken from us, life losses meaning from the emptiness, the sky seems to darken and perhaps, like the psalmist we cry out, “I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.  I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me” (Ps 69:2).  Yet in the chaos God is present.  God is hovering over it all.  Hovering is an interesting word.  To me it suggests a closeness.  Like a hummingbird hovering close to a flower, God is not detached and distantly observing rather God is staying close, very close to the chaos.  This is a counter claim to the way things seem to be:  God is not absent, inactive, uncaring or silent; circumstances are not simple random and meaningless.  Despite the malevolent powers and chaos YHWH is still God and creating.  In fact, creation has only just begun.  When our experience is one of formlessness, emptiness, darkness or the deep the text points out that God’s creation activity is a more foundational experience.   The message is that God can be trusted despite the contemporary evidence.  Disorientation, darkness and the deep does not need to be feared as God is present and creating out of the stuff of chaos.  Theologically, the text has been understood as God creating the world from nothing.  A different reading is that God created the world out of building blocks of chaos: randomness, emptiness, darkness and the deep.  As God begins to work with these building blocks we begin to hear God speak the repeated words, “And God said”.  Then, following these words we hear, “and it was good”. 

 

(I want to acknowledge that most of these ideas are borrowed from a chapel lecture from 2012 by Barbara Mutch at Regent College)