The universe is full of matter – stars, planets, moons, rocks, and such. All these particles of matter have gravity which causes them to be pulled toward each other. Since all these objects are attracted to each other, the universe should be collapsing in on itself.
But it’s not.
In the late 1600s Isaac Newton was confronted with this problem but came up with the idea that the universe was so delicately balanced that it kept itself in place with a divine, ‘perfect equilibrium’. However, astronomers would later observe that was not true because stars and planets weren’t maintaining stable positions relative to each other. In other words, the universe wasn’t as orderly or static as it appeared, or as Newton assumed.
When Edwin Hubble looked through his huge telescope in 1923 he made a discovery that was so astounding that Albert Einstein trekked across the ocean to look at the data. They agreed that the evidence showed something stunning – the universe was actually expanding!
In fact, it’s expanding faster than the speed of light, and is doing so in unpredictable chaos. Yet somehow the chaos organizes itself in order to continue moving foreword.
A chaotic universe that organizes in order to expand.
We had barely started pandemic-life when we began stressing about all the accompanying lifestyle changes and we began to ask the question, “When will life get back to normal?”
Answer: never. Because really, what IS normal?
> A portion of our population hates masks, distancing, and vaccinations because those things are not normal, while the rest of the population is looking to masks, distancing, and vaccinations to return us to normal.
> There are currently calls to open schools so children can return to normal. At school they can learn, develop socially, be fed properly, and be kept safer than if they stay at home. Wait … what kind of normal is that?
> This week we heard a lengthy bluster from mega-pastor John McArthur, refusing to let government departments restrict the church’s Sunday gatherings. McArthur was trying to make a case that sitting, singing, wearing suits, and hosting potlucks in crowded buildings is necessary and normal for christians. That’s an awfully small box of normal.
But what was normal for us five years ago could never be normal five years later – virus or no virus. Normal is no more reliable than the next event in our lives. What was normal when I was born in August of 1955 (birthday coming, gifts encouraged, money preferred) shares almost nothing normal with August of 2020, 1792, 1111, or 202.
Normal has all kinds of expressions depending on culture, geography, politics, religion, etc. Normal’s lifespan is dictated by every day chaos: weather, money, temptations, having a baby, missing the bus, a doctor’s appointment, death, all affect normal.
In fact, normal is continually interrupted by chaos.
In this reading, Isaiah reminds people that the past – even if it’s good – is exactly that … the past. But God is continually creating new horizons for them.
This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
– Isaiah 43:16-21, NIV
What an unexpected idea to be found in such an ancient book! The very One who causes historically memorable events also says, Forget what has already been done; don’t get stuck in the past.
But aren’t religious people all about keeping things the way they used to be? Yes, some are, but God is not.
Consider the broad scrawl of the bible. Its characters are always being thrown into change and chaos: the Hebrew nation meanders through repeated upheavals; history finds its crucible in the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God; the last book reveals a chaotic scenario climaxed by God coming down to live with his creation. The stories of scripture look nothing like ‘stuck’ or ‘normal’.
Don’t pretend that God resides in normal. God is always doing ‘a new thing’ but we have to perceive it. We have to see it, accept it, step into it.
Time moves foreword. The universe expands. The creator creates. Chaos is God’s formula to unleash his purposes.
Turns out, that’s normal.