By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” — Genesis 1:1
World in Chaos
Our world today is in chaos, not only economically and politically, but also morally and spiritually. In the home front, a devastating typhoon that concluded year 2012 with notes of despair and hopelessness, ravaging Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental, claiming thousands of lives, destroying millions worth of properties, and rendering countless people homeless could be traced to human greed and injustice. In their attempts to rake huge profits for themselves at the expense of the people and the environment, powerful and politically well-placed owners of logging and mining concessions have turned the areas vulnerable to flashfloods.
Just across the Pacific, in New Haven, Connecticut, a presumably mentally deranged young person massacred 6 adults and 20 children in one of the most gruesome killings of children in the US in 2012, reminiscent of King Herod’s massacre of the innocent in Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago on the occasion of Christ’s birth. There were 16 massacres of this kind in the US in the whole year of 2012. Also, few weeks before the end of the year, Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters exchanged missiles right in the place where the Prince of Peace was supposed to have been born.
Our present world, indeed, is in chaos. Perhaps, this was one of the reasons why lay evangelist Harold Camping predicted twice that the world would come to an end in 2012 – first on May 31, then on October 31. But nothing happened except that his own purse became bulky even more since the occasions were used to raise funds. Followers of the Mayan cult also thought that the world would come to an end on December 21, but like all other previous predictions they only ended up in frustration and despair.
Now, looking back to the year 587 BCE, the Babylonians invaded the Southern Kingdom of Judah, destroyed the City of Jerusalem, and carried away the leaders in exile to Babylon. As the Book of Lamentations declares, the Israelites consequently lost everything they were proud of – their City, their Temple, their nation, and their freedom (cf. Lamentations 5). They were uprooted from their homeland, and now they were not quite sure what their future would be.
It was in this context of chaos and disorder, despair and hopelessness that the priests and Levites who were exiled together with the people tried to rekindle faith and hope by preserving their traditions and writing stories. One of these beautiful stories they wrote was the story of creation in Genesis 1. It was actually an old, old creation story handed down from one generation to another orally, but when this was written down it was meant to address the particular situation of chaos and hopelessness in the period of the exile.
God of New Beginnings
The story starts with the affirmation, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… there was chaos… and God said ‘Let there be light’… and there was light” (Gen. 1:1-2). It is an affirmation that whatever happens in life God is the ruler yet. God is sovereign over all. God has the creative power to restore order from a chaotic situation, and to bring light into a world of darkness. In God, there is always a new beginning; there is always hope for a new life, for a new creation. The Priestly Writers believed that the Israelites would not remain in exile. There would come a time when God will restore their nation.
Moreover, the story also ends with the affirmation: “And God saw everything that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). There is goodness in God’s creation. It is not God’s will that creation’s goodness would be destroyed. The goodness of God’s creation has been destroyed by human disobedience and jealousy, injustice and pride as shown by the four stories of sins in the Book of Genesis (cf. Gen. 3-11). The prophets believed that the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed not because God willed it to be, but because the people of Judah sinned against God (cf. Jer. 7; Lamentations 5). Their nation’s destruction was a consequence of their own sins.
But the good news is that God is a God of new beginnings. In the words of the UCCP Statement of Faith: “God is at work to make new beings in Christ and the whole world God’s Kingdom.” In the apocalyptic writings, the world that would come to an end is not the physical world that God created full of goodness, but what would come to an end is the kind of world that human beings created – the world of oppression and injustice – the world of the Roman Empire.
To believe in the God of new beginnings, therefore, is to participate in God’s work of restoring order and goodness in our own world of chaos and disorder. To believe in the God who created the heavens and the earth is to participate not in destroying God’s good creation, but in putting an end to our world of oppression and injustice, and to work for the coming of a new world of justice and peace.
Happy New Year! # nordis.net