Hope in the Age of Darkness: Gifts of the Incarnation
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Dissolution. The powerful word in two of its forms are found in the Greek version of this text. Each word means “dissolution” or even “destruction.” It is this notion that, even when we experience a moment in the mind of God as a millennia in our own minds, the coming of God in this world is of such power that all elements and everything we know will be reduced to some basic state.
The science during the life of Jesus was what we commonly refer to as alchemy. It is this notion that all elements within our universe can be dissolved or distilled into some basic, pure state. Since gold was considered a “pure metal,” I was taught that alchemy (especially as later practiced in medieval Europe) was the effort to convert various other metals into gold.
Alchemy includes the physical sciences, but it also connects mathematics and philosophy, which were seen as inseparable from the physical sciences.
Our oversimplification of alchemy devalues some important aspects of this early science. First, what was sought after was purity that came from a process of distillation and dissolution. This was the notion that everything in the universe is essentially moored to some greater, more authentic reality. It was based on the desire to drill down to the most authentic reality that exists in all things.
Second, the earliest alchemists did not separate the material from the spiritual world. Along with this pursuit of elemental purity in nature, there was this notion that the most authentic human soul (whose Greek word is the basis for our word “psyche”) could be revealed through spiritual disciplines that resembled the alchemical processes of physical science.
Christian contemplatives and mystics have seen this as a distillation of our souls that come to us through reflection and contemplation. This is what I mean when I talk about Christ being poured out for us (as we celebrate communion), and the call to the Body of Christ to be poured out for the transformation of the world. Peter tells us that this is a slow process, but that ultimately, God will be made known through the Christ who lives in all of us.
So as we read about this God who, in God’s own time, comes to destroy or dissolve everything in our natural world, we read that “the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.” It is not so much a discovery of all the bad things we have done. Contrary, it is the revealing of where God has been at work in the world, distilling us down to our most essential nature … as children of God who are completely dependent upon God … it is our most authentic selves that are finally capable of connecting wholly with God.
Peter tells us that God comes in God’s time to be made known … to be incarnate in the world … to restore it to the state of its original creation where God was made known in everything and where the children of God breathe only the breath of God. It takes forever, yet it happens in just a moment.
God, work in our lives to distill us into the people you have created us to be. May we exude the Christ in all that we do. Amen.