• lenten journal: gospel weather

    by  • February 26, 2013 • Uncategorized • 1 Comment

    After a second day of rain here in Durham, something struck me I had never thought of before: the Gospel writers don’t say much about the weather. I even spent some time doing a little research. Other than the “windstorm” that swept across the Sea of Galilee (Luke 8) and a storm on Paul’s journey (Acts 27, 28), there’s no mention of rain or snow or anything. Daylight and dark — that’s about it.

    Perhaps it struck me today because I am aware of how much I am affected by the weather. The slow cold afternoon rain on a day like today when I am by myself sends me in search of poetry in hopes, perhaps, of planting seeds of ideas that will burst forth one spring afternoon before long. It also makes me wonder about the passages where Jesus and his disciples are sitting around talking and he rattles off four or five parables. Perhaps it was a rainy afternoon like this one, which meant walking around the countryside was pretty much off the schedule and they found a dry spot to hang out until it all blew over. In narratives of most any kind, from novels to memoirs to movies, the weather is part of what shapes the picture.

    On this rainy afternoon, the lack of weather in the gospel accounts reminds me of how much we don’t know — about Jesus, about life, about one another. Now I hear a favorite hymn of my childhood as the soundtrack, alongside of the rain:

    tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear
    things I would ask him to tell me if he were here . . .

    The story of any relationship that matters is one of taking the time to fill in the details. Part of that is telling the old stories, once before the time that we were together, and telling them as vividly as possible. And the weather matters. Even Fleetwood Mac knows that.) I am struck, therefore, that the gospel writers who lived in a world much less protected from the elements than ours seemed so unaffected.

    Of course, they were living in a semi-arid climate that might not have changed much from day to day. The seasons in Zambia, where I lived as a boy, had less to do with temperature than with rainfall. We spoke simply of the rainy season and the dry season. One day during the latter, my father was driving us to school when the radio announcer said, “And now for today’s weather report.” His words were followed by the rustling of papers in front of the open mic. Then he said, “I cannot find today’s; I will just read yesterday’s.”  I get that. Yet it seems if the rain were infrequent, wouldn’t they have mentioned the afternoons when it fell on the just and unjust, on Jesus and the rest?

    When we lived in Boston, the weather forecast in the winter could carry its own redundancy. The more chipper of the three competing forecasters could be counted on to offer a five day forecast with a glimmer of hope: Day Five was always going to be sunnier and warmer; by the time said day arrived, it was often neither.

    I don’t have a big theological take away here other than to remind myself how much I don’t know, how much the gospel portraits of Jesus are more sketchbook than finished works. We have a handful of scenes and a small volume of stories and very little weather. And a whole lot of love. We don’t know much, and what we do know is Jesus called us to take care of one another, rain or shine. Even so, I wish it rained more in the gospels because the rain is, for me, a tangible metaphor of grace — as we said in a song long ago:

    mercy as the rain

    mercy as the rain
    falling down again
    falling like tears
    healing the years
    mercy will come like rain

    mercy as the rain
    falling down again
    breaking the doubt
    waking the heart
    mercy will come like rain

    for every life dry as dust
    blown to the edges where dreams are lost
    for every last one of us
    sorrow and love flowing down

    mercy as the rain
    falling down again
    falling like tears
    healing the years
    mercy will come like rain



    Blogging since December 2005


    One Response to lenten journal: gospel weather

    1. February 26, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      Mercy has come, hasnt it, come already.
      Jesus said his kingdom is now, all the now from his birth until 2013.
      Maybe when we are ‘ walking in the light of God ‘ we are walking in the sunlight of God,
      rain or no rain. I John says we are walking in love, too.
      Here in NZ at the end of Summer, most of our small country is in drought, not usual for us.
      Diificult, because most of our exports are from grass fed animal products.
      Invercargill City, at the bottom of the world where I live, is mercifully still green.
      The longrange forecast for Autmn and Winter is for rain——I will have to call to mind more than once the words I have written here !

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