Peace in the midst of Chaos
One of the things that Fr. Stephen De Young reminds us of in his book, The Religion of the Apostles is that God’s fundamental triumph is over chaos, death being an aspect of chaos. The Church believes and teaches that God created the world out of nothing, Genesis 1:1. However, beginning with Genesis 1:2 and following, throughout the whole bible, the emphasis is on God’s triumph over chaos. And this chaos is presented to us as a deep, watery abyss. Water, out of control water, is where the sea monster dwells that swallowed Jonah. It’s the home of the Leviathan. It’s the sea that the Children of Israel must cross to escape death under Pharaoh and in order to enter the Promised Land. It is the literal meaning of Sheol, the place of death where no one praises God (Isaiah 38:18). And it is the flood that the dragon in the Book of Revelation uses to try to destroy the “Child and His Mother.”
In the Gospels chaos is the sea that tries to swamp the boat carrying Christ and the Disciples, but that Christ commands to be still. And in another place, it is the sea on which the Disciples try to row their boat against the waves, but on which Jesus walks. And not Jesus only! Even Peter walks on the water for a while, until Peter starts paying more attention to the waves than he is to Jesus.
There are many kinds of waves in the chaotic world we live in. Sometimes the waves are pushing to the left. Sometimes the waves push to the right. Really, there is no rhyme or reason to it. In fact, part of what can drive you crazy is how unreasonable life in this world is. Like the waves on the ocean, it all depends which way the wind is blowing. And the wind that influences the political and social realities of this fallen world is the spirit of the age, the spirits of wickedness that dwell in the air (Ephesians 6:12).
Like the Disciples in their boat, we row and row and seem not to get very far because the waves of this age are against us. But then comes Jesus, walking on the waves. And then we have to decide what we are going to pay attention to. Are we going to pay attention to Jesus, or the roaring of the sea? Some of us, like Peter, may have an opportunity to walk, even a little bit, on the sea itself; but most of us, like the rest of the Disciples must just make room for Him in the boat. Is there room for Jesus in your boat?
And what happens when Jesus gets into the boat with the disciples? It says, “and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going” (John 6:21). You see, once Jesus gets into the boat, the waves no longer matter. Once Jesus gets into the boat, we are at the place we are going because we are going no place other than where Jesus is. It all depends on what we are paying attention to.
Nowadays there are so many crazy, illogical issues pressing in on us. We can choose to pay attention to these things and frustrate ourselves to no end over how unreasonable, illogical and unfair the world is becoming. We might even be convinced, as St. Basil the Great was by the rise of heresies in his own day, that we are surely at the end of the world. And we may indeed be. However, end of the world or not; mark of the beast or not; conspiracy of big drug companies or not; the rise of tyranny or not; one thing is certain: our anger, fear and frustration mean that we are not keeping our eyes on Jesus because with Jesus there is peace.
But we must decide what we will pay attention to, the waves of the chaotic sea of our times, or the unchanging Face of Jesus. And if we strive to pay attention to Jesus and to make room for Him in the boat of our life, then perhaps the waves won’t make much difference. With our attention on Jesus, we will “immediately” be at the “land” where we are going.