There is a lot – A LOT – of writing that goes on in the hallowed halls of theological contemplation. But there are times when I think that most of it is sort of a glorified (literally) sales presentation – presenting, mostly it seems, the latest and greatest in asserting and defending positions.
I Think This About That, Therefore Here Is How The Bible Supports My Theory.
It isn’t often that I come across someone just musing. Slowly stirring his finger in a soup of images and stories, lining up people and words so they look like something we’ve never thought of before.
But mostly, I think that people spend so much time imbuing scripture with IMPORTANT meanings (and they are there, to be sure), that they forget to sit back, put their hands behind their heads, and think about it all.
It’s as though the Bible were this magnificent edifice, too complex to really experience, but instead of spending our time wandering around it as much as we can, poking our fingers here and there, in as many places as we can, we stand in the entry way and test out how our voice sounds echoing off the walls. And, yes, once in a while we might climb a staircase or two, but only those that lead to obvious places, like a balcony overlooking the foyer or the palatial restrooms.
Deeper, darker hallways always seem to be shunned for those with large windows (stained, preferably).
What I’m moaning about this time is a relationship that begins at the very beginning of the Bible, and really, ends (if it ends) at the ending.
God orders the formless void. He re-creates the chaos. He offers the dragon a settlement, a home.
We go quite quickly from a universe of nothing but God and chaos to an ideal habitat. The Earth has gone from slaps of mud and rock to a burgeoning green cosmos. A wonder that we lost, in part. But only in part.
Aspects of the garden we took with us and have kept with us.
At first, the only relationship is between God and the dragon.
Out of that comes nature. Mother Nature, if you like. Out of chaos comes babbling brooks and trickling streams and powerful tides.
But all as a response to God. All as an expression of the development of the relationship.
When we left the garden, we took our part of that relationship with us. As the Earth flourished under God’s ordering, so, too, were we able to re-order the Earth to suit our needs. We find we have the ability, as God has, to make the Earth fecund. Or, perhaps, better stated, we find we have the ability to rearrange the Earth’s fecundity to suit our tastes.
So what do we have here?
We have God. We have the Earth. And we have man.
So, it should not surprise us that when That Man came along, when Jesus showed up, that the relationship between God and Earth and Man should continue along in an almost predictable way.
Jesus has the gifts of God, you could say. He has abilities. And, clearly, he’s not all that shy about letting others know about them. He’s going to prove God to the people around him even if it means undertaking some strenuous measures, performing some hopefully powerfully inspiring feats.
I’m going to prove myself to you. I’m going to prove God to the world.
But for some of his miracles, he has to rely on his relationship with the Earth. He has to recall in his hands and in his feet that in order to accomplish what he wants to accomplish, he has to depend on man’s ability to draw forth from the Earth what he wants from it.
And so he does.
He stills the waters. He calms the storm.
He steps into the shoes of God, the Father, and brings order where there is chaos. He gentles the turbulent dragon. He reaches out and interacts with the Earth, itself, and by doing so succeeds.
But the Earth is there. It is the Earth that surrenders to being stilled by this magnificent man. And it is the Earth that hardens its water so that Jesus can use it as a boardwalk.
Just as the Earth gives us what we demand of it so that we can live.
We are in relationship with the Earth, and Jesus was in relationship with the Earth.
In life, and in Christianity, water means a lot. But when Jesus comes into relationship with the Earth, water becomes an expression of God’s power on Earth. Demonstrable power on Earth. Not just an element in an ancient tale that once surrendered to God’s will.
No. Now water has become the element that responds to the needs of Jesus to teach people about the power and love of God.
But it’s there: the relationship. The presence of the Earth, itself, in some of the works of Jesus. Jesus could perform these water miracles because he had the cooperation of the Earth. He had the blessing of the Earth, as it were.
We forget, I think, that we, too, are always in relationship with the Earth. We forget too often to say grace before our meals and to thank both God and Earth for our ability to stay alive.
And we forget to acknowledge all the miracles that we create in cooperation with the Earth, with the Earth’s blessings. All our science, it seems to me, is just an expression of our relationship with the Earth (or other aspects of our universe).
And we forget that, don’t we? That it’s not just about us finding out things. It’s also about the Earth showing us things, revealing her deeper and darker secrets.
As Jesus stilled the water, we also find ways of changing the nature of, well, nature.
And none of this could happen without a relationship, without cooperation.