Mark wrote the sparest, and probably the earliest, Gospel that we have. In many ways it is also the bleakest. Throughout its sixteen chapters the disciples of Jesus become more and more confused about who he is. Conflict with religious authorities begins to build early on, and by end of the thirteenth chapter a sense of inevitable doom has descended on everyone. This story is not going to end well.

Movement toward that end accelerates in the fourteenth chapter, where the passion reading begins on Sunday. The scene is quickly set: it is major festival time of Passover and Unleavened Bread, and the chief priests and scribes are out to kill Jesus. An woman anoints Jesus for his burial – a woman who will always be remembered, we’re told, yet ironically her name is omitted by Mark. Jesus’ response to her costly action sends Judas over the edge, and he leaves to plot with the priests and scribes.

Jesus and his disciples hold the Passover meal at a pre-arranged location. Mark provides details that immediately connect us to our own Eucharists two thousand years later. When Jesus predicts his abandonment the disciples object. Hot-headed Peter sets himself up for a very, very big fall.

They all go out to Gethsemane. In a very human gesture, Jesus throws himself on the ground and prays that he will be spared what he knows is coming. Three times he finds Peter, James and John asleep; three times he wakes them up. Finally Judas arrives with armed companions. He gives his rabbi a kiss and they seize Jesus.

Everyone flees. Everyone. In case anyone would doubt how complete that abandonment was, Mark inserts a mysterious vignette of a young man who escapes by leaving his clothes behind and running away naked. Some have said that this is Mark inserting himself into the story, a practice Alfred Hitchcock later did in his movies, but that’s an unsupported guess. It’s best to see the young man simply as reinforcing the atmosphere of abandonment.

Soon Peter denies three times that he ever knew Jesus. It’s a memorable sequence – first a private denial to a single slave girl, then again to the girl amidst bystanders, and finally to the whole group of bystanders. In the end Peter swears as the cock crows a second time. Peter is utterly crushed that he has done what he said he would never do, and leaves weeping.

The scene swiftly moves through Jesus’ trial and condemnation to mockery and crucifixion. Mark carefully gives an explicit time frame. At 9 am Jesus is nailed to the cross; at noon darkness comes over the whole land; at 3 pm he cries out and dies. In Mark’s telling of the story, Jesus speaks only once from the cross. He utters the cry of dereliction from the beginning of Psalm 22, as though abandoned even by God himself.

Is there no light in this darkness? Is the cry of abandonment the final word? For all of the major characters of the story, yes. But there are hints that it will not remain so. Simon of Cyrene was compelled to help carry the cross; he is mentioned as the father of Alexander and Rufus, so all three must have been familiar to Mark’s hearers. The pagan Roman centurion acknowledges that this was the Son of God. Joseph of Arimathea took a great risk to ask for and bury the body. And near the end Mark finally reveals for the first time that Jesus had women disciples. Unlike the men, they stuck around, though at a distance. They witnessed the death and burial. In a few days they will witness the empty tomb.

The abandonment of Jesus is disastrous. Yet it is not quite total. Mark’s story of the cross, like the rest of his Gospel, is a paradox. The Messiah came, but no one knew him. He called disciples, and the longer they were with him the less they understood. Jesus cried out in desolation on the cross, yet he was not totally alone. Mark’s Gospel is bleak, but it is not without hope. It is a lot like the body of Jesus, hidden in the tomb. There is death, and the loss and sorrow that come with it. But there is also hope, enough hope to get us through to what lies ahead. Let us wait with those faithful women, and see what that third day brings.

[Palm Sunday: The Passion According to Mark (14:1-15:47).]

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Grumble, Grumble

In one of our Wednesday evening Lenten programs I introduced the Rule of St. Benedict, who was the founder of Western monasticism. The Latin word for rule is regula, and Benedict wrote his rule to regulate the life of the community that had gathered around him. It’s remarkable that Benedict’s Rule has lasted over fifteen hundred years, used not only by cloistered monks but also by many people as a guide for their daily lives. The Book of Common Prayer is based on the Benedictine tradition of regular times for prayer amidst all of the day’s activities.

Benedict quotes the Bible a great deal. In some places his Rule almost seems like a string of Bible verses. Second only to scripture are references to murmuring and grumbling. Benedict must have heard a lot of it. He knew that grumbling was detrimental to the spiritual lives of both individuals and the community. In modern terms, it’s the equivalent of church members complaining in the parking lot about a meeting they just left. Such complaints have to be brought out into the open where they can be addressed or parish life will suffer.

Grumbling has a long history in faith communities, going back to the Israelites under Moses. As they wandered in the desert, they soon forgot their slavery in Egypt and longed for the food they had left. So God gave them manna and quails to eat. Before long they got tired of that, too, and started grumbling again. In the book of Exodus we’re told that eventually God got tired of hearing them whine, so he punished them by sending poisonous snakes. After a few snakebites the Israelites repented and asked for forgiveness. At that point God told Moses to create a bronze serpent for them to look upon and be healed. It’s all very bizarre, from God’s form of punishment to God’s instructions to make what looks like an idol that heals through sympathetic magic.

I’m not about to explain away the story – that would be a challenge – but it shows how destructive murmuring and grumbling can be. Remarkably, Jesus is able to transform this strange tale by applying it to himself. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so would Jesus be lifted up (on a cross) to become a source of healing and eternal life. The Greek word meaning a physical “lifting up” was also used metaphorically to mean “exalted.” In John’s Gospel both meanings are present. Jesus speaks of his upcoming death as the hour when he will be exalted.

On the cross, Jesus does more than heal those who are sick. He heals everyone. He clearly extends a universal invitation to salvation – which, like all invitations, can either be accepted or rejected. Jesus desires that everyone will accept the free gift that he offers, the gift of eternal life. But he also knows that not everyone will take it. Some will prefer to find fault. They’ll grumble and complain. They will prefer slavery to freedom, darkness to light.

In our culture, language about judgment and condemnation tends to receive two kinds of reception. A minority embraces it and vocally announces in the name of Christ just who God will condemn. The majority reject that kind of condemnation (and often Christianity with it). They say everyone will be saved, no matter what their belief; there are many roads up the mountain of salvation, and all are equally valid.

Jesus embraces neither. He makes it very clear that it is God who judges and we are not to second-guess God. And yes, there are many roads, but they don’t all go up the same mountain. Jesus Christ is the fullest self-revelation of God, the light of God that shines in the darkness. Given the choice, some will prefer darkness. Some will prefer to grumble and complain rather than commit. To commit is to accept responsibility for one’s actions. Complaining can make it someone else’s fault.

St. Benedict was on the right track. He knew that we have to take responsibility for ourselves and for our community as well. Christian churches are not religious stores where one shops for what suits one best. They are communities built on relationships of mutual responsibility and accountability, rooted in faith in Jesus Christ. There can be disagreement, even conflict, as we talk passionately about our beliefs and how we understand God. But murmuring and whining? Those are poisonous serpents, and they aren’t sent by God. We don’t need Moses to heal them; we have Jesus Christ, lifted high on the cross, where everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

[Lent 4: Numbers 21:4-9; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21.]

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Shame and Reconciliation

Last fall one of our neighbors was charged in federal court with embezzlement of over two million dollars from a local employer. It was a shock to everyone in the neighborhood. We don’t know the family very well, but often we would see children playing outside with a crazy but joyful dog. After the indictment all of that changed. The children weren’t out as much, and the dog barked anxiously whenever someone walked by. I think about them now every time I see them waiting for the school bus. If their father is found guilty, he will rightly deserve his punishment. But what about the rest of the family? They are innocent, yet they will suffer, too, from the shame and the loss of income.

The same could be said of other children who are subject to situations out of their control. Every divorce involving young children, even if it is amicable, changes their lives forever. Every marriage where spouses fight without reconciliation leaves a mark on their kids. There are many things we do as adults that can have an effect on the people dependent on us. That’s how I understand the sins of the parents falling on their children. I really do believe that most parents want what is best for their kids; it is our own limitations as humans that can prevent that from happening.

But God? The idea that God punishes children to the third and fourth generation for the sins of their parents, as we hear in the reading from Exodus, makes me protest. I suppose it’s softened a bit by God’s showing love to the thousandth generation of those who love him. Still. I have heard Christians use that passage from Exodus as a pretext to judge and condemn children for the sins of their parents. I’m sure my neighbor’s kids have experienced that.

Fortunately, that description of God was not the last word in the Old Testament. Later prophets very explicitly said that the person who sins is the one who is judged by God. First Jeremiah and then Ezekiel made it very plain that we are individually responsible for what we do. Sins are not inherited.

So what should we make of that passage in Exodus? What about the verses surrounding it, which we call the Ten Commandments? Have they been superseded and are no longer operative? According to our prayer book catechism, we learn two things from the Ten Commandments: our duty to God and our duty to our neighbors. The first four commandments tell us to love, obey, and respect God, to put nothing in God’s place, and to set aside regular times for worship and prayer. The other six tell us how to love our neighbors as ourselves. Because we do not fully obey them, we see more clearly our sin and our need for redemption, for reconciliation to God and to one another.

Jesus knew that love of God and neighbor are intertwined. The Temple of his time made money from required sacrifices by selling animals on site at a high price. The religious authorities would not accept payment in Roman money, so money-changing was another lucrative operation. An economics of exploitation had taken over what was supposed a house of prayer, so Jesus took matters into his own hands, literally, and drove them all out.

What Jesus did was act like the Old Testament prophets who acted out their prophecies. Hosea married a prostitute to show how Israel had prostituted itself by following other gods. Jeremiah buried his underwear until it rotted, to show how rotten the leaders of Jerusalem had become. By comparison, driving out money-changers seems pretty sane.

Jesus consistently called people back to God, but he did it in a way that was both personal and communal. He said “Follow me” but sent his disciples out two by two. He transformed people through a personal encounter and then brought them into a community of disciples.

And he neither judged nor shamed anyone. That was remarkable in his time and ours. We do not have a culture of shame, as is common in the Middle East, but we certainly have a culture of judgment. Just look at our leaders. Our political discourse has sunk to the level of accusation and recrimination so that every failure is blamed on someone else. If those in leadership roles don’t accept responsibility for their actions, why should we?

So I suppose it’s not surprising that those children down the street from me are judged because of their parent. Bad blood, people will say, they won’t amount to much if their father is an embezzler. Better not trust them. Is that the way of Jesus? Is that the way of reconciliation? It’s what we hear in Exodus. But the judgment of Exodus is not the last word in the Bible. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are called to a greater hope, a hope of reconciliation with God and one another. As Christians, let us bring that hope to all who suffer, and especially to those who suffer for the sins of another.
[Lent 3: Exodus 20:1-17; John 2:13-22.]

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Get Behind Me, Satan

For the last few years our bishop has recommended a book for Lent, moderated an online discussion of it, and invited the author to come to the diocese during the Easter season. This year he chose The Agile Church by Dwight Zscheile.

One of the many points Zscheile makes is that we expect churchgoers to become biblically literate from the short snippets they receive each week. The Revised Common Lectionary does a good job of continuous readings, but it still assumes that people attend church every week and remember what happened the previous Sunday. Both of those are shaky assumptions. Because much of the Bible is narrative, its overall sense is greatly diminished when reduced to self-standing “pericopes.”

Sunday’s Gospel reading is a stellar example. It has a fine Lenten theme, taking up one’s cross. Without context, however, much of the force of the interaction between Jesus and Peter is lost. In previous verses Peter had gotten things right, for once. Jesus had asked his disciples what people said of him, and got a variety of answers. “But who do you say that I am?” he prodded. Peter shot right back, “the Messiah.” That’s the right answer, of course. In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter is praised. In Mark, Jesus “sternly ordered” everyone to be quiet about it, as though he were annoyed.

Jesus then proceeded to tell them just what the trajectory for this Messiah would be. Pain. Suffering. Death. This was not good, Peter thought, so he pulled Jesus aside to let him know how anxious he was making everyone. Then Jesus let him have it. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said to Peter. Calling a human being Satan was unprecedented. Peter must have been staggered. He thought he was doing a good thing, and his reward was being called the personification of evil.

If he had been a reflective person, Peter might have realized that he brought it on himself. He didn’t listen very well. He was so caught up in his own way of thinking that he didn’t really hear Jesus. For Peter and the others, the Messiah was supposed to be a political as well as a spiritual savior. He wasn’t supposed to be rejected by the religious authorities, much less be put to death. Peter missed the essential conclusion: “and after three days rise again.” He thought that the end of the journey was death, when in reality it was life, new life, a risen life with the Lord.

It took much agony for Peter and the other disciples to figure that out. Death on a cross was real to them. They would only suffer such a cruel death if they believed that it would bring new life in Jesus Christ. For me, one of the most potent arguments for the reality of the resurrection is that those early witnesses were willing to suffer death for what they believed.

We think that dying for the faith is long past. But it still happens today. It happened a few weeks ago when Coptic Christians in Egypt were killed. At the Tuesday Eucharist last week we remembered Janani Luwum, a Ugandan archbishop who was killed by the dictator Idi Amin in the 1970s. Later this month we will remember Archbishop Oscar Romero, killed in El Salvador in 1980 while he was celebrating Mass. Christian martyrs still cause an explosion of faith as people see what they are willing to endure.

In this country we do not generally die for being Christian, thanks be to God, which is why the words of Jesus to take up our cross are often interpreted metaphorically rather than literally. Even so, we are like Peter. We think we know what God is going to say. We limit God to our own expectations, our personal understanding of who God is. So we miss the real words. We try to bend God’s hard words into a comfort we already know. We do not want to go through the pain and suffering of change, even though the outcome will be new life.

The Agile Church talks a lot about change. Zscheile details how different our culture is from what the church expects. Often the church’s response is to hunker down and try to do the old ways better, remembering a happier and fuller past. Unfortunately, those ways that no longer speak to many in our culture. It’s a discomforting book, and I’m still processing it. I’m still wondering whether we think we’re following God in one direction, and God has an entirely different journey for us. Will we, like Peter, try to take Jesus aside and tell him he’s got it all wrong? If so, we open ourselves to being rebuked. How much better it would be to accept the pain of change, knowing that a new and better life is on the other side of suffering.
[Lent 2: Mark 8:31-38.]

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It’s curious that on the First Sunday of Lent, two of the readings are about promise. In the first, God makes an everlasting covenant with Noah and all life (“every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth”) that God will never again create a flood that destroys everything. Whenever a rainbow appears in the sky, God will remember the covenant – and it’s implied that we should, too.

The first letter of Peter understands Noah’s surviving the flood as a prefiguring of baptism. Christians also pass through water when they are baptized – and those who are completely submerged, not just dipped, really get a sense of dying and rising again. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. That promise is as unshakable as the one God made with Noah. The Apostle Paul extends that promise to all of creation, as God did with Noah. All creation waits with eager longing, Paul says, for the revealing of the children of God, the redemption of the world.

God’s covenant comes to us through Jesus Christ. In Mark’s Gospel, the baptism of Jesus is simple and unadorned. Jesus shows up, and John baptizes him. As Jesus comes up dripping from the Jordan River, the heavens split open, the Spirit descends, and a voice thunders: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The covenant is renewed. Or is it? The first thing the Spirit does is drive Jesus out into the wilderness for forty days. In Mark we hear only that Jesus is tempted; I’m not about to “harmonize” the Gospels by introducing what Matthew and Luke say about the temptations. Only Mark mentions wild beasts. It’s a realistic touch. The wilderness is where the wild things are, after all. Some commentators have tried to make this a new Eden – wild beasts are tamed by Jesus! But I’ve camped in wildernesses, and they really do feel dangerous, especially in the middle of the night when something is moving around outside the tent. That’s when I hoped an angel was looking after me.

The spareness of Mark’s account leads us quickly to the message of Jesus. Here two things stand out. One is that Jesus does not start preaching until John is arrested. The other is that their messages are identical: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” In other words, the covenant and promise of God not only are still active, they have arrived.

I’ve mentioned before the peculiarity of the perfect verb tense in Greek: the kingdom both has come near and still is near. What happened in the past has ongoing effects. But what kingdom? What good news? What time has been fulfilled?

Time is the easiest: it’s the promised time when God will come and be present with God’s people, the time toward which all of Israel’s prophets pointed. God came to us in the flesh in Jesus Christ. That past event still reverberates in the present. It’s good news, gospel news. Creation really is very good, good enough that God would become part of it. That fact alone sets Christianity apart from many other religions, which would take us away from our earthly existence. Christianity is earthy. We use real stuff, water and bread and wine, and say that it becomes holy when invaded by God. Our very bodies become holy when invaded by God, hard as that may be to believe on a tired, creaky morning. Creation is good.

The promise is near, yet not fully present. That’s the tension in which we live. There is much we do and experience that is not of God, not of the promise. To the extent that we are complicit in turning away from God, we are called to repentance, to turn back toward God. That’s what Lent is all about. Centuries ago, long before babies were routinely baptized, adults spent forty days preparing for their own baptism at the Great Vigil of Easter. As the rest of the church watched people prepare to receive the promise of Jesus Christ, it became clear that everyone could benefit from a time of reflection on the promise and of renewal of the covenant. So Lent began.

Nowadays we associate Lent with self-denial, giving up something serious or frivolous. I don’t discount that if it brings us closer to God, stripping away the hold our culture has on us. But this year, Mark’s year, I want you to hold God’s promise before you: the everlasting covenant of God with all creation, the seal on your forehead as Christ’s own forever, as a baptized child of God. Do we need to repent? Yes. Do we need to turn back toward God? Of course. But we are always, forever, sealed as children of God, heirs through hope of the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ. Beloved of God, we can walk through these forty days in anticipation that at the end, we will experience the joy of new life in Christ.

[1 Lent: Genesis 9:8-17; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1: 9-15.]

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Jigsaw Puzzle

One of the Christmas gifts I got this year was a jigsaw puzzle. Our son N and his wife A know that I like jigsaw puzzles, so they bought a Michigan-made puzzle with several pictures of Michigan cherries as a reminder of where they live. I hadn’t done a jigsaw puzzle in years, so we dumped it out on the dining room table and started working on it.

If you’ve ever done a jigsaw puzzle, you know that there are always pieces you can’t find. You’ve looked at every one of the 500 pieces for the one with just the right shape and color, and it’s nowhere to be found. I had that experience several times. I even checked the floor to see if it fell, thinking that it couldn’t possibly be lost because we just took the puzzle fresh out of the box. So I worked on other areas, hoping that missing piece would eventually be found.

Sometimes I think that the spiritual life is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. There are a lot of pieces that don’t seem to fit together. So I plod along, putting together a few here and few there, hoping that some order will come out of the chaos. Over time things do come together, but there still seems to be an important piece missing. Then, unexpectedly, I’ll find it, and when it goes into place, the whole puzzle makes sense.

I had that experience once when I was reading the first few verses of Genesis that we heard this morning. It was about ten years ago when I was studying Hebrew. I had already finished a year of it after much sweat and effort; I was ready to quit almost every week but persevered. The two of us who survived that class were invited to take a second year, in which we would translate a chapter of Genesis each week. The very first week I sat down and began at Genesis 1:1.

When I got to the third verse, I was thunderstruck. I knew the translation well – “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” In English it takes eleven words to say; in Hebrew, only six. What astounded me is that in Hebrew, the words which mean “let there be light” and “there was light” were identical. Ancient Hebrew has only consonants, not vowels; meaning is determined by context. And context gave different meanings to the same words. I had stumbled upon the fact that the speech and action of God are identical. When God speaks, something happens.

Immediately this cast light on other parts of Scripture. For instance, one of the Morning Prayer canticles, taken from Isaiah, says this:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as rain and snow fall from the heavens, and return not again, but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth, seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, and prosper in that for which I sent it.

The word of God will not return empty, but will accomplish what God intends. Think about that. What would our lives be like if our words were action, if what everything we said actually took place? For one thing, we would be a lot more careful about what we said. That in itself was a worthwhile insight.

But there was more. The words that God was speaking, the words that became reality, showed the presence of the Word (capital W) right there at the beginning, the Word through whom all things came into being, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. I had already discovered in the previous verse that the word translated “wind of God” could also mean breath or spirit. So here we had, in the first three verses of the first book of the Bible, God as Creator, God as Word, and God as Spirit – the Holy Trinity present at the creation. I had barely begun my study of Genesis, and already I had encountered the living God in just a few words. The puzzle was falling into place.

The first Christians had a lot of puzzle pieces to sort out. It took several centuries, really, to nail down just who Jesus was and how the Holy Spirit fit in. We heard one small part of it this morning from the Acts of the Apostles. A missionary had been preaching in Ephesus and some of the people had believed. Apparently this missionary knew only part of the story, however, for when Paul arrived he found out that they had been baptized into John the Baptist’s faith. They had repented of their sins, but they knew neither the Lord Jesus nor the Holy Spirit. When Paul baptized them, all the puzzle pieces fell into place, and suddenly they were filled with the Holy Spirit. I love the aside that comes next: “there were about twelve of them.” The writer knows that we know that this is a special number – twelve tribes of Israel, twelve apostles. These Ephesians, too, are a chosen group.

Just in case we missed the significance of this story, we also heard Mark’s version of the baptism of Jesus. The beginning of Mark’s Gospel is omitted, so some of the drama is missing, but there’s enough to get our attention. First there’s this strange character of John the Baptist, all hair from head to toe, smelling of insect breath. It’s enough to bring everyone out into the wilderness to see the spectacle. Yet strange as he is, John points beyond himself, to one stronger and far more worthy than he.

And then Jesus shows up to be baptized by John. As Jesus steps up out of the water, dripping wet, he sees the heavens split open and the Spirit descend – like a dove, we’re told, the symbol of peace – quickly followed by a voice of great power: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” For a brief moment the world is once more a witness to Creator, Word, and Spirit, appearing together again as they did at creation. It’s a foreshadowing of every baptism, yours and mine and the twelve at Ephesus: being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is to become a beloved child of God.

I finished the Michigan jigsaw puzzle last Sunday. The missing piece appeared as if out of nowhere. I put it in and suddenly the puzzle was complete. I texted a picture of it to N and A, just to prove that it was done. I’m still working on the spiritual puzzle, one that I know will take me the rest of my life. Yet I’m grateful for the times when an important piece falls into place. The stories of our faith only make sense when we can see them in the context of our own stories. To realize that God’s words are God’s actions makes me more careful about what I say. To see the presence of the Trinity at creation means that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit continue to be with us and surround us and sustain us even when much seems formless void and chaos. To watch the heavens split open at the baptism of Jesus means that God is saying, today, to each one of us, “You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.” All are lessons for this journey, the journey toward Christ, toward the time when all the pieces will be in place and the picture will be complete.

[Epiphany 1: Genesis 1:1-5; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11.]Puzzle

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When we first moved to Davenport from the East Coast, I told myself that at least we would be living near the great Mississippi River. At the time I did not realize how great it is. That would come with the record flood in 1993, when relatives anxiously called as they watched the inundation on national television. I remember going down to the river’s edge – otherwise known as 2nd Street – and being thrilled by the sheer volume of water as it raced by.

This year’s flood was not quite so big – the sixth largest – but still impressive. I took this picture of “River Drive” a day or two after the crest. The boat in the background is “on” the river.


Mississippi River Flood

River Drive from Main Street, 07/07/14

Mississippi River floods are more common than they used to be. Last year the river crested three separate times. The Quad City Times recently posted a table that shows floods by decade. The 1960s and the 2000s are tied with seven each. There have been six floods so far this decade, and we are not even halfway through. Of the seven highest floods, four have been within the last fifteen years.

What’s going on? More land is now covered with impermeable concrete. More farms are plowed to the edge, so there’s more runoff. And storms are stronger, dumping a whole lot more rain. The last is undoubtedly due to climate change. A predictable result of a warmer climate is more energy in the system, more ability to evaporate water from the oceans, more rain and bigger storms. So floods will continue to happen.

I’m grateful that neither our house nor the church is in a floodplain. Davenport has been very good about not allowing floodplain development. After the disaster in 1993, there’s now a movable barrier system that mitigates damage while still allowing an open waterfront the rest of the year. When the water is in its banks we can walk along the river’s edge.

And that river walk is still one of the best parts of living in Davenport. It’s what draws people here. When we took our bishop to a baseball game in the riverfront stadium, he was enchanted by the view. “No wonder you never look toward Des Moines,” he said. Yes indeed, bishop. Even when it floods – especially when it floods – there’s nothing like the great Mississippi River.



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