It’s August 2012. A year ago on, August 28, we watched and listened as, with devastating, destructive power and incredible roaring noise, the creek “rose.” Plans big and small, weddings, intimate dinners, birthday parties, funerals, were changed in less than an hour. Events that were being looked forward to, and sometimes events that we really didn’t want to happen …all were washed away.
We’ve come a long way since that Sunday a year ago. We haven’t finished yet, not by a long shot, but what we’ve done, we haven’t done alone. The insatiable destruction by water has been met by the spirit of the communities in which we live and move, by the friends we’ve found both at home and from far away, by the bonding built by need and worry, and by heavy lifting made possible by cooperative hard work. In the aftermath of Irene, we all discovered that everyone benefits when we help each other.
But this isn’t a new idea! Back around 935 B.C. a “teacher” wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Our experience in Vermont this past year proves that saying very true. We call it “community,” but the idea that we need one another and are better off when we help one another is an ancient idea! It’s true everywhere, any time. It was true in 935 B.C., and it is true now. In Iowa, farm families who won’t even speak to each other work together at harvest, sharing harvesters and tractors and getting the necessary work done, because they can’t get it done alone. In Vermont, neighbors arrived from Joplin, MO, and from New Orleans, and from New York and Canada. I believe we’ll see the same kind of working together in Colorado as the fires there recede.
Some folks say the Bible has no relevance in our 21st century life – and yet the echo of the words of the “teacher” are proved true by our 2011 experience. Two is better than one. Three is even stronger. We know that when the “creek rises” our neighbors help us survive, and even thrive. Yes, we can plan dinner, the good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, but we can count on our neighbors when the creek rises and every plan changes in a moment.
The Bible is a basic textbook for people who seek God. It is full of wisdom that is as valuable in 2011 as it was when it was written. It often repeats the same lesson over many centuries through many writers.
In the church we know that when things are repeated like that we should pay attention. Sometimes things are accepted there that aren’t accepted anymore; Sometimes things are unfair and unequal. But are they repeated? Are they lessons on how to be God’s people? Or are they lessons on how not to be? How can we know without searching honestly for the way they apply to us? In Christian churches we study the Bible to see how it says things, and how often it says things, and what it says. We hear it read as we gather together every week, and we hear a pastor or a person from the congregation tell us what it means to him or her. In some places of worship there is discussion and a search for depth.
There are other areas of life besides disaster where the Bible is relevant today to our decisions, discussions, hopes, and dreams.
As we all reflect upon last year’s disaster and the beginning of recovery, I invite you to attend a place of worship this week and hear the old, old words that often are very new and relevant. Listen to the wisdom that has survived the ages, and hear how it might apply today.
Rev. Dr. Marcia Dorey is the pastor of the Halifax Union Society.