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JUNE 25, 2006: TWELFTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Readings: 

Job 38:1, 8-11
II Corinthians 5:14-17
Mark 4:35-41

As a child I learned the difference between creating something and making something. If I'm making a bird house, for instance, I'll need some wood and tools to complete the job. If, on the other hand, I'm creating a bird house, I need nothing. I simply snap my fingers and the house appears.

The main problem with our make/create distinction is that it's non-biblical. Our sacred authors define creation not as bringing something out of nothing, but as bringing order out of chaos. Chaos is a given in life. Beginnings are always chaotic. Order comes from God. Today's first and third readings give us classic examples of the biblical creation process.

Notice first how God describes the creation process to Job. "Yahweh addressed Job out of the storm, 'Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb . . . when I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door and said . . . here shall your proud waves be stilled?'"

Trying to demonstrate Jesus' divinity, Mark has him do something parallel to Yahweh's creative actions in Job. "He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Quiet! Be still!' The wind ceased and there was great calm . . . . They were filled with great awe and said to one another, 'Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?'" Mark's readers know the answer: If he brings order out of chaos, Jesus must be Yahweh! Only Yahweh can put order into nature on such a large scale.

Paul operates from the same definition of creation as Mark and Job, but he takes it to a new level. "Whoever is in Christ," he writes, "is a new creation." For the Christian, creation isn't something which happens only at the beginning of time or during a storm on the Sea of Galilee. It takes place whenever someone imitates Jesus and steps into the chaos of giving oneself for another.

Like us, the Apostle believes nothing is more chaotic than death - the great unknown all of us will experience. It's the chaos which Jesus endured for us. "He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised."

Perhaps the key line is Paul's statement to the Corinthians, "From now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we regard him so no longer . . . the old things have passed away; behold new things have come."

Those who make the entire, expanding universe their theological field - quantum theologians - often remind us that nothing significant comes forth in the universe without being preceded by great upheaval and chaos. Because it's a "law of nature," these theologians conclude that we only live peaceful lives if we bring about nothing new or good in those lives.

Christians believe the risen, creating Jesus is constantly coming to life among us. The life-giving order he engenders in our lives continually forces us to relate to others, no matter the chaos such relationships cause.

Very early in our lives, we learned to avoid chaos. The late Woody Hayes, for instance, rarely permitted his Ohio State quarterbacks to throw passes. "Three things can happen when you pass," the coach reasoned, "and two of them are bad!"

Some of us feel the same way about giving ourselves to others. Lots of bad things can happen when we do so. Yet the great thing about the new way of looking at reality which Jesus offers is that even when things don't go as we wish, when we practice such generosity, a new creation always comes out of the chaos. Hayes' philosophy might have served him well on the football field, but when we employ it in our life of faith, it simply guarantees we'll never be the creation God wants us to be.