Wednesday, October 13, 2021

When a flood of waters covers us


One of the Bible readings set for this Sunday is from Job chapter 38.

‘Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? ...
‘Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
so that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go
and say to you, “Here we are”?
Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,
or given understanding to the mind?
Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
when the dust runs into a mass
and the clods cling together?’

Job 38:1, 34-38

I love the way in which the words ‘when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together’ roll around the mouth. The image, of course, conjures up the human beings, the creatures made from clods of earth, dust animated by wind.

And in the years ahead, we shall, increasingly, be channelled together by water:

by more, and more severe, floods;

and more, and more severe, droughts.

The question remains, will we fight to protect our patch of land from those forced from their homes, or will we cooperate? Do we have the will to cling together, rather than pull apart?

There’s an ancient story in Genesis concerning a Great Flood that covered the whole of modern-day Iraq from the Persian Gulf to the mountains of Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, and Jordan to the west. In the story, many lives perished. Yahweh, king of the gods, was saddened by the inability of humans to live in harmony. The gods (elohim, a plural term, for what we sometimes call angels and demons) took opportunity to wipe Yahweh’s creatures from the face of the earth, perhaps to win Yahweh’s favour (compare Jesus’ friends James and John wanting to call down fire from heaven on communities that did not welcome Jesus) but Yahweh secured a future for all life, in partnership with his friend Noah.

It is a mythic story, one that makes foundational meaning beyond its origins. I would argue that its primary meaning is found in the overthrowing of the neo-Babylonian empire and the new beginning that follows. But what foundational meaning might it offer, for building a future in our time of both metaphorical and literal floods?

If we run together into a mass, are we obliterated, or renewed?


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