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Friday, August 21, 2015

Today’s Reading | Genesis 6:11–22

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth.

And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.”

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. (NRSV)

Mass extinction. How cheery.

Evidence tells us of five mass extinctions in the history of our planet. The last was around 250 million years ago, when 96 percent of all marine life and 70 percent of all land life died. Human civilization is full of accounts of mass deaths in natural disasters, and this account from Genesis is probably the most widely known today. People talk about it. Lots of talk. “It happened because it’s in the Bible!” “It’s physically impossible!” “God will save us, and the evildoers will perish!” “It’s mass murder!” This story still challenges us.

God tells Noah that a flood is coming and that to protect his family and save the world, he has to do something. And God is very specific about what Noah has to do, and it’s not talk. It’s not “debate,” or “preach.” It’s “listen,” and “get to work.”

Scientists are telling us that we are in the midst of the planet’s sixth mass extinction, right now. We may be looking at a loss of up to 50 percent of all species by the middle of this century. Scientists tell us that the waters are rising; that sea levels will rise to a level that will swamp the coastal regions of the world, where 66 percent of all the people live. And a United States senator carries a snowball to the podium, as if it proved all the data was a lie. Talking, not listening.

The floods are coming. Living things are dying at a mass rate. And we humans dither and bicker and rationalize while we make things worse and not better. The message from Genesis is pretty clear: the ones who listened, lived. If we want to save anything, if we truly value life on earth, it’s time to put work ahead of talk.

Lord, we are obstinate in our deafness, intractable in our selfishness, arrogantly secure in our ability to withstand nature. In spite of what we see, in Japan, in Indonesia, in New Orleans, we think we’re above it all. Please grant us the mercy of having leaders who listen, who act, who set aside their rhetoric in favor of action. Grant us the will to work. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator for Fine Arts

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