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You may never guess it, but being a pastor (at least the way I do it) is a constant stream of writing something, building something or creating something, whether it is a story, program, concept or actual physical outcome.
Some of those tasks are ones that you could probably take a pretty good guess at: the creation of a weekly worship service, a weekly sermon or even this weekly column. Others are bigger and longer planned events like our Free Comic Book Weekend the weekend of Sept. 21-23 or our Oktoberfest on Oct. 13 And then there are those seemingly endless personal projects like the now three-plus-year-old renovation of the house I grew up in.
All of those have one thing in common: at some end time, there will exist something that did not exist before; and, if done right, the average observer will find a certain amount of appreciation, maybe even excitement or inspiration, from the effort. And behind all of it, someone will usually comment on how creative the result turned out! But what most don’t realize is that the nature of that seemingly clean and creative outcome only stems from a very chaotic and messy beginning that really takes its model from the first Creator himself.
I’ve had this thought several times the past few weeks in a few various tasks. On the one hand, in the process of creating my very column for this paper or any of those weekly worship materials of bulletins or sermons, the very beginning is a seeming swirl of sticky notes, handwritten napkins, torn-out articles and a wide variety of “stuff” that has piqued my curiosity the past week or details that I want to get right that I have to sift through and put in some kind of order.
Or to put it in more concrete terms, as I close in on my house renovations, I am faced with a herculean task. For as we have cleaned our rooms in my parents’ old house, their stuff was squeezed out into the double-car garage, which also had acted as the repository for our own stuff as well as two adult children’s memorabilia.
Now remains the final task — to organize the garage. Stuff needs to be gone through. But there is too much stuff! So I have had to be creative and install a storage system that hangs from the ceiling.
There are various racks and piles that are starting to take shape as to what is in each mystery box. But after three years of shuffling, the very first task is to get rid of all the excess debris: empty boxes, loose papers, leaves and dirt that have blown in. And the starting tools of the trade are the very high-tech broom and dustpan (both of which are remnants from times long past).
Because you see, just like God in the first chapter of Genesis, the first act of creation is simply to bring order to the chaos. In the terms of physics, it is to try to slow the tide of entropy enough to instill order to disorder long enough to create that sense of awe and wonder from the casual observer!
Now, to a certain degree, one can claim that the process has an end. When the sermon is delivered, that one is done. When you read the last word of this column, it’s in the books. But, the reality is that the remains of last week’s chaos just get moved to next week, and some of those sticky notes just start to turn yellow, not quite relevant enough to be used right now, but not quite trite enough to hit the waste can.
And as for garages and such, I’ve found that once that elusive order is obtained, it usually only lasts as long as it takes for the very first person to enter the space next and start messing it up again.
That too is a little like our first Creator — the whole cosmos was chaotic, without form and void, so God used a little gravitational dustpan to pull together the scattered stardust to make a universe. And once he got the earth looking like he really wanted it, that’s when he invited Adam and Eve to take a look at his Garage of Eden, and, well ... you know the story, all those tools he had right where he could find them, now he has no idea where his 7/16 socket has gone, and he needs that to finish putting up the last of those ceiling racks...
Oops! Sorry! I think the dogs must have disrupted some of my post-a-notes and mixed up my garage pile with God’s Garden of Eden pile. Sometimes it’s hard to keep things straight. But by the look on my dog’s face, I think I may know what happened to my 7/16 socket!
Apples...sockets...all down the same way. Creation is always a process of one step forward and two steps back. Or is it the other way around? God only knows!
Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 27 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” will appear regularly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at WilsonTimes.com.