We appear to be living in times when ‘Biblical’ events happen –fires, hurricanes, floods (this picture is the River Thames in Abingdon in 2007 when people could not get to their boats moored by the riverbank). The apocalyptic language in this passage from Matthew makes sense to those in great crises. Extreme weather events, such as these, point to the major crisis of our time – climate change. Noah was a man who was obedient to God, but perhaps he was also able to read the signs of the times. He prepared for the flood, whilst other people carried on with their lives regardless.
Kairos, the Greek word for crisis, also means opportunity. In crises, whether personal, societal or global we are called not to bury our heads in the sand, but to continue to practise the faith that has given us hope in the past. Change is not easy. Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild in their book ‘Guard the Chaos’ (DLT, 1995) about finding meaning in change, point out that ‘For the new situation to “live” the old must “die”’. After floods, fires and hurricanes the land takes some time to recover, but new signs of life do appear. We need to accept a necessary death in order that new life may flourish.
Martin Luther is said to have remarked ‘If I knew the world were ending tomorrow, I would plant an apple tree today’. We need to be in a state of readiness and read the signs of the times. We need to hold fast to our faith. Christianity is not just about maintenance but transformation. John of the Cross said that darkness and suffering is bewildering, but his intention was to encourage us to bear it creatively. He said darkness must be lived in faith, and that night is the place for encounter. We need to keep watch and be ready because the Son of Man will come when we do not expect him. Whether that is at the end of our earthly life, at the end of our world or when Christ returns we do not know. But what we do know is that we will encounter the God who comes, as John of the Cross said ‘That everlasting fountain comes concealed in this living bread, to give us life though it be night’.