Humans usually physically experience time in only one direction. Most physicists don’t have an explanation for the single-directional arrow of time, but they do seem to agree that entropy plays a big part in the phenomenon. In other words – things fall apart. This universe we inhabit is constructed in such a way that everything is getting further apart and colder, and so we just ride along that wave of expanding spacetime and decreasing energy, never able to turn around and go back to the cozier days of the big bang when everything was closer and warmer.
Of course, since God transcends the universe of time, space, and matter, entropy is not a problem for God. God is the creator, and since God is eternal, that means God is always the creator. Things can be just as new or old to God as God wants. Isaiah reminds us of this in our first reading this morning. He says God is about to do a new thing, and there is no need for us to dwell in the past. The new thing that Isaiah is talking about is the return of exiles to their home. Part of the newness that Isaiah emphasizes is the fact that this new home will not be secured through political pacts and military strength (because those things slowly fell apart and caused them to lose their home the first time – entropy at play); instead, it will be secured through reliance on God alone (who cannot fall apart).
Paul, in our second reading, shows us how his personal life fell apart, because even though it was based on sincere religious respect of God, it was not based on God. Now Paul has based his life on God alone, so it can not fall apart (no entropy in God). The problem with Paul’s former way of life was not the particular religion he practiced; the problem was the fact that the religion was substituted for God. When Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he did not become more or less religious or change religions, he merely changed the orientation of his life from religion to God. Jesus came to give us new lives, not new religions. There is nothing wrong with religion, but there is a wrong way of substituting it for God. With God as the center of and reason for our lives, our religion will help us become the wonderful people we are created to be and live peacefully with all the other wonderful people God creates. Without God as the center of and reason for our lives, our religion will stunt us and cause friction with the people around us.
That is why we have no need to throw away our religious beliefs and practices when we make God the sole focus of our lives. Instead, we need to examine them and use them to help us grow ever more into our fullness in God. We don’t need to dwell in the past, but we do need to learn from it; to bolster the good things and jettison the bad things. In God, we are eternal – our lives are eternally created, sustained, and redeemed. Our past can be redeemed in order to make us who we are now, and our present lives in God can be sustained and nurtured so that we never stop growing in the love, peace, and joy that comes only from God. Things fall apart, but never God. It is up to us to decide what will be the basis of our lives. May we choose God, and in so doing, never fall apart. AMEN