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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Not Waving but Drowning

The recent exceptional flooding in the UK over a sustained period with water and sometimes electricity deprived to over 340,000 people has shown how crises can bring out both the best and the worst in people. Acts of heroism in rescuing endangered people have contrasted mindless and dangerous vandalism and greed in the poisoning or hijacking of precious water supplies. If this was a "real" emergency with widespread social disorder such sociopaths and looters would be shot on sight. Perhaps some brain dead monkeys haven't just quite realised yet what happens when survival becomes the name of the game. It's only when we skirt disaster like this that the stress fractures and fault lines in our social fabric become clear. Civilisation is a fragile disequilibrium at the best of times. It only needs a nudge and it falls over quite easily; perhaps even more easily when water comes out of tap rather than the local brook and food from the supermarket rather than the back garden.

The people of God over 4000 years have had their own "rude awakenings" so we should be alert to this issue by now. Century after century civilisations have come and gone, repression and violence has waxed and waned. A story is told of one of the fathers on Mount Athos who led a secluded eremitical life in his cell. He rarely received visitors but questioned one day one of his spiritual sons:- "And which empire my child today rules the known world?" That's an extreme example but the point is clear. For Christians human tragedy and glory are known alike and are in many ways unremarkable. We are prepared for both but unsettled by neither. We stand ready to greet Christ in the needy and respond to him in distress. Behold, the Bridegroom comes and we shall be ready ... will we not?

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