From Disorder to Order
October 7, 2018
Rev. Fritz Nelson
Text: James 5:13-20; 3:16-17
I know we just read the end of James, but I’m still stuck in the middle – back in chapter 3 to be exact, chapter 3 verse 16 to be even more precise:
“For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling very disordered recently. Some of it’s the political climate. Some of it is personal stuff. Some of it is the sense I’m running in 20 different directions working on 30 different projects all while juggling 40 balls and seeming to drop 100. Sometimes life feels very centered, very focused. This isn’t one of them.
“But the wisdom from above,” James goes on in verse 17, “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” In short everything I’m not feeling right now, a divine order bringing completeness and purpose to our lives and our world.
Disorder. Order. Add to the mix non-order. These three – disorder, order, non-order – are, according to John Walton, our conversation partner for the upcoming Genesis course – the three spiritual states of creation. I discovered Dr. Walton as part of my preparation for the course. He’s written more books on the Old Testament than you or I could ever read. Genesis so fascinates him he’s written three books, some 700 pages, on the first eleven chapters of Genesis alone. And, according to him, the whole thing not just Genesis 1 – 11, but Genesis – Revelation – is about order, disorder and non-order.
Non-order – the state of the world before God spoke it into being.
Order – the result of God’s creative endeavor.
Disorder – the result of humanity striving to put themselves in the center of God’s creation.
Order – the gift of Jesus Christ who, because he is both fully human and fully God, is able to return order into a disordered creation.
We live in disorder. We yearn for order. How do we get there?
“Are any among you suffering?” James asks. “They should pray.
“Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.
“Are any sick? They should call for the elders and have them pray over them
“Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so you might be healed.”
As we’ve experienced over the last several weeks, James took pen to paper because his young churches had left behind the order given to them by Jesus Christ and become disordered. They’d placed the rich above the poor. They’d given themselves over to anger and harsh words, conflicts and disputes. They still claimed to believe the gospel but they’d stopped living it. Instead of centering their lives on God, they were asking God to center his creation on them. They needed to reorder their lives to become once again the people God had called them to be. And the most effective tool for life reordering is prayer.
I know this. You probably know this. Yet when things get crazy I find it becomes really hard to pray. Its certainly hard to pray as I was taught as a kid – get up in the morning and set aside formal time to be with God. An almost impossible task when you get up late and need 100% focus to get everyone out the door, on time, with the right lunches, signatures, books and more.
But we can still pray. Even within the crazy there are cracks in the day when we can pause, take a deep breath, and seek to experience order within the disorder by re-centering ourselves on God. Here are some ideas. One or two might work for you.
Pray before meals. Even a super quick silent prayer reminds us all we have comes from God, not from our own hand.
Pray in the drive through lane. You’re barely moving, you’re not doing anything else, and its really hard to crash – for your food, yes. But also for the day that has been and the day that will be.
Pray in those moments between sleep and awake. My friend Lois names her grandchildren and great grandchildren as she falls asleep each night. I do “be with” prayers – listing those who are on my mind, in my heart.
A church elder I know (not in either of our churches) kept a copy of The Daily Bread in the bathroom. Esteemed theologian and writer Madeline L’Engle (who wrote A Wrinkle in Time) always did her morning prayers on the toilet.
Take a walk, or even just step outside. Walking, in and of itself, is an act of prayer. So is breathing. Both, when done intentionally, create holy space, space God uses to reorder the disorder, to bring healing and calm to the chaos of our lives.
By praying in the cracks we can help bring order to our disorder. But we still must be intentional. Instead of pulling out your phone in the supermarket line, just stand, breathe and be aware of your breath. Instead of rushing to the next thing, stop for a moment and be aware of who you are, the world surrounding you, and God’s presence with you.
Last Friday, late in the afternoon, I was up at Lamppost Farm, just north of Columbiana. It had been another crazy, disordered day. Everything rushed. Nothing working quite right. Lamppost had their fall festival yesterday and I had signs for a labyrinth prayer walk being sponsored by THE HUB. Signs installed, I began to rush back to the car when the beauty of the farm hit me. I stopped. I let myself feel the sun peaking out from behind the cloud along with spitting rain. I looke for a rainbow. I allowed myself to actually walk the labyrinth we’d painted on the grass the night before. I arrived at the center of the labyrinth and looked out across the hills of Mahoning county and let God replace my disorder with divine order. I gave myself the gift of praying in the crack. I let myself be healed.