THE “FORMLESS ONE”

BY:  JAN A. ANTONSSON

JUNE 6, 2015

 

 

“And the earth was without form being waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep abyss.  And the Spirit of God Elohim moved, brooded upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2, exeGeses parallel Bible).

 

My thanks to Fr. Richard Rohr for the term “the Formless one,” which is a description of God not totally familiar to me, but at the same time, an integral part of the creation/incarnation process.  In creation, God breathed His life into Adam.  Later, God took upon Himself human form, in Christ, so we could see His face and behold His power and love and mercy.  Without that face to face encounter, we could never have related to God as Abba, Daddy.  He would have remained the unknowable power that shaped the Universe and set the boundaries for human existence.  That which is unknowable is personally non-relational, out of our reach, and always scary in its mysteriousness.  Think about the Children of Israel cowering at the foot of Mount Sinai, which “was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire.  The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder” (Ex. 19:18-19, NIV).  

 

That was setting the stage for the Ten Commandments God gave Moses.  The special effects did their intended work because “when the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled in fear.  They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die’.”  Moses told the people not to be afraid because God was testing them, “so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning” (Ex. 20:18-20, NIV).

 

This is a perfect description of how most religious organizations conduct their business, i.e., attempting to control the flock with dire consequences for failure to comply with the rules.  Moses apparently was convinced that fear of God would keep the people from sinning, but we all know how that turned out, and my observation is that fear may get you up front to the altar, may extract a pledge of repentance out of you, but when you’re in the trenches and cactus patches of life, it does not give you peace, nor keep you pure and holy.  It fails miserably every time.   

 

Moreover, depending upon another human, be he pastor, priest, or minister to be the intermediary who manages your interactions with God, only leads to more fear, not less.  This is one reason why Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, speaks to me deeply, because as a Catholic Priest, he has served as intermediary between the congregants and God.  He has said in other writings that this approach is no longer enough. He urges us to encounter the Divine up close and personal.  His meditations are not a “how to” be buddies with God, but rather a continued testimony of how wonderful our Father really is, and how rich and rewarding our relationship with Him can be through the indwelling Christ.  On 6/2/15, he wrote,

 

“As hidden as the True Self has been from the False Self, so also has the Risen Christ been hidden from most of history.  Not surprisingly, we cannot see what we were not told to look for nor told to expect.  If we were told to look for the Christ, it was for some divine object outside ourselves instead of realizing that the divine object is also within us.”  End Quote.

 

We all realize that the “Formless One” created Adam in His image and likeness, but as I was recalling that the exeGesis Bible uses the word “brooded” to describe what God was doing in the transformation of the earth from formlessness, to the vibrant creation He presented to Adam and Eve, the thought came that the early Earth and the cosmos were the first manifestations of God taking form.  They were a blank canvas for the finger of God to sculpt and paint the beautiful blue green planet on which we sail around the sun today.

 

The reference for Gen. 1:2, is Deuteronomy 32:9-11, which affirms that the Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob or Israel (Vs. 9).  The beautiful imagery continues: “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions.”  From domestic hens to the majestic eagle, birds brood over their nests, caring for their eggs until they hatch and then protecting and nurturing the tiny hatchlings until they are ready to leave the nest.  What a compelling picture of how God watches over and protects His children, keeping us from harm as He stands between us and disaster.

 

A pair of sparrows have made a nest under the roof of the carport, on the fluorescent light out there.  Mother drove them off because she didn’t want their droppings on the porch steps or her car.  When we bought the house and moved in, Lenny said, “Let them be,” and the privilege of watching them build and defend the nest against all comers, including me, is well worth the inconvenience of watching where I step.  I always tell them when I go outside that I mean them no harm, and they seem to have believed me because their hysterical fluttering and dive bombing antics have diminished.  In one of our recent pouring rain storms, I looked outside at the nest and one of them was sitting on the eggs while the other one was sleeping beside it on the light fixture.  That touched me as so like human behavior, but, in fact, most of creation cares for their young.

 

How inconceivable it would be if our Heavenly Father cared less for us than these little birds care for their own. This is an abiding theme in Richard Rohr’s meditations, as it has been for the great mystics.  But we never grasp that truth if we only hear about God from a man, or (please don’t reach for the stones), the Bible.  We only know it from intimate encounters with God in Christ.

 

Lenny passed from this life nearly two years ago now, and I always knew he was a special gift to me from God, but as I think back, I realize that without the privilege of walking with him, I wouldn’t have known how wonderful our Father really is.  Lenny didn’t teach it so much as he lived in constant communication with God and became for those of us who knew him, the city set on the hill and the light which cannot be hidden.

 

I have been reading the Bible since I could read, and enjoyed the power of God as He delivered His children from harm, but it never became real for me until Christ baptized me in the Spirit, and then I saw and felt and tasted God’s goodness in a way that I never got in church or from the Bible.  No offense meant to either, but if we want to dance with God, we must turn loose of the rails, whatever that means to you.  For me it means anything that stands between me and God.  The Children of Israel wanted Moses to be their go-between. An intermediary was necessary, because they did not have the indwelling Spirit as we do, but once we realize the gift we have been given, Christ in us, the hope of glory, we must turn loose of all that stands between us and Him.   We cannot do that on our own, anymore than we can do anything else to bring ourselves close to God by our self effort, but He in us and through us will do it because He loves us so very much.

 

One more quote from Rohr’s meditation of 6/2 spoke to me: “The Risen Christ represents the final perspective of every True Self: a human-divine self that is looking out at God from within, and yet knowing that it is God-in-you seeing God-who-is-also-beyond-you, and enjoying both yourself and God as good and as united.”  End Quote.

 

Father, we thank You that you are no longer formless to us, because Your light continually shines in our darkness, and brooding over us, you are giving us the light of the knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.  Before the mountains were formed, or the stars flung into the inky blackness of space, You are, everlasting to everlasting, the God and Father of all.  And may we shine like the brightness of the firmament in order to turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. May we join our voices with all the saints on this side and the other side, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.  Amen  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FORMLESS ONE [Jan A. Antonsson] 06-06-15          3

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