“We have lost everything that money can buy…” So we may ask what have we left, not only after the ravages of the ongoing natural disasters, but the lasting results of our throwing away the customs of civility and care for the neighbour that used to facilitate our living together.
The attempts to make sense of what we have woken up to have largely focused on a reframing of God as a vengeful corrector of wrongs – almost exclusively construed as sexual transgressions – who is punishing the transgressors by water and wind. The obvious creation images of the Spirit hovering over the primeval chaos and drawing forth form and order are overlooked and only chaos is noted.
Another line of explanation is an appeal to the “end times” imagery of the scriptures. Wars, earthquakes and other upheavals indicate that the end is nigh, even though the text of Matthew 24 is explicit … “this is something that must happen, but the end will not be yet”.
The attractiveness of these ‘explanations’ of the disasters and upsets that we cannot master is that they free us from any responsibility for what has happened and any duty of reparation. We can take refuge in our righteousness and use our convenient interpretation of selective texts of Scripture and frantically pray to our Trini god not to treat us like the rest of the other people.
This means that we do not have to take responsibility for the damage our lifestyle has inflicted on the Earth, our common home, so we do not have to make any changes to our rampant consumption and destructiveness because we have a right to be comfortable.
Of course, we will help our neighbours with the things that money can buy, we are a generous people, but there are limits. Matthew 24 offers a more radical interpretation of the upheavals in which we are involved – “All this is only the beginning of birthpangs.”
At various points in the journey of the Israelites and of the early Christian community the prophets, speaking in the name of God, affirm that God is doing ‘a new thing’ creating a ‘new heavens and a new earth’. “See, I am doing a new thing, even now it breaks forth. Can you not see it?”
As with us today, those declarations were usually made in a time of exile, when all the familiar signs of the presence and nearness of an all-powerful God were missing. We are in such a situation today – falling church attendance, loss of a sense of mission on the part of those we look to for leadership, threats from other communities and we cannot see what God is doing or where He is leading us.
At this point of our faith development, we are invited to cry out with the psalmist asking God to explain Himself to us, even as we remind Him and ourselves that we know that He is faithful and has never abandoned us. We are challenged to let go of the comforting categories of an earlier faith so that God, ever Ancient and ever New can lead us along the dark valley into His own wondrous light.
With thoughts such as these, let us accompany one another along the Way that opens up before us.