Friday, November 26, 2010

"As in those days before the flood..."

Advent 1A

Friday morning there was an interesting juxtaposition of news headlines with a small bit of the Gospel lesson for the First Sunday in Advent. The lesson is Matthew 24: 36-44. As Jesus talks about the need to be ready at all times for the return of the Son of Man, he compares the time when the Son of Man returns to the days of Noah: “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.” 

While Noah built the ark and made the other preparations God told him to make, other people went about their business as if nothing unusual were about to happen. Jesus says they were oblivious to the situation until it was too late, until the flood had come and swept them away.

Friday morning’s New York Times had a front-page story about residents of Norfolk, Virginia, trying to deal with rising seas. Even as residents try to address the specific problems with rising water in their own neighborhoods, many of them also realize that their needs are only a small piece of much bigger problems as the world gets warmer and sea levels rise.

Other recent news stories reported similar concerns in a variety of location: southern Florida, Alexandria, Egypt and the Nile Delta , the Galveston Bay region,  and the Bahamas.  Nebraska’s lack of coastlines doesn’t insulate us from the effects of sea level rise, as the economic consequences and population shifts will be felt everywhere. And the climate changes that are causing the rise in sea levels will have other, more direct effects on Nebraska.

On some level, all of these stories indicate that there seems to be some increase in awareness of what we are facing. But on another, deeper, level, there seems to be as little awareness as Jesus says there was when Noah was building the ark. This week's "Black Friday" shopping glut seemed to contrast the headlines. We will know that we are really beginning to understand what is happening when we act like people who are awake and prepared, when we begin to make significant changes to mitigate climate change and consciously adapt to the changes that are unstoppable.

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