There was an interesting programme on Radio 4 the other day. As usual, because I was driving in my car, I heard neither the beginning nor the end of the programme, only a tantalising portion somewhere in the middle. The programme was about the significance of chaos. The theory being put forward was that chaos is good, that most of the major advances of human progress have followed times of upheaval. Alongside this was the suggestion that with too much peace and prosperity human beings just become fat and lazy. Interesting! Whatever the theory, I am still worried about Trump, Putin, Brexit, Isis et al and am rather fond of the peace and prosperity we, as a nation, have enjoyed for several decades now.
It is noticeable, however, as we read the Bible and particularly the Old Testament, that there is a cyclical pattern to the prosperity of the nation of Israel. Upheaval is followed by a time of relative peace, the nation drifts away from its God given calling and values, it meets with disaster, has to call out to God in repentance and then is restored to some kind of normality once again.
To a lesser extent we see this also in the New Testament. After 3 years of following Jesus I guess the disciples had settled into some kind of normality, Peter was the de facto leader of the group, Judas was the treasurer, others, no doubt, had recognised roles, soon they would have their own building as a headquarters, their own bank account, constitution, membership rules and eventually a website! Bingo, they would have become an institution!
But that didn’t happen, the cross happened, everything they had hoped for disappeared overnight. Suddenly everything was uncertain, tenuous. It was chaos, their lives had been turned upside down. Perhaps they remembered Jesus’ words, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” And they were worried that this would be their future. So, the fishermen amongst them went back to fishing on Lake Galilee. Their instinct was to get back to some kind of normality. But Jesus had other ideas, he meets with them, rallies them, perhaps reminds them of their calling to be fishers of men, and before long, post Pentecost, that is what they become. From the chaos of the cross issues a Gospel of life that energised disciples take to the four corners of the Roman Empire and beyond.
We yearn for peace and stability, of course we do. But sometimes the most fruitful times of our lives follow times of disruption and upheaval. We need to trust, as the disciples eventually did, that our God is more than able to keep us safe through such times and, more than that, will help us to grow and become the people we could never be if all we knew were unclouded skies, easy living and fulfilled dreams.
“May the peace of God disturb you always.” Anthony de Mello"