lenten journal: topography


    I had a little time to read this afternoon and began Peter Gomes’ book, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus. The opening quote read:

    The great principle dominating the composition of Scripture is that of the ascent towards discovery. — Henri Daniel-Rops What is the Bible?

    A half hour earlier, I was listening to NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday and a segment on the Chilean earthquake that consisted of an interview with Ross Stein from the U. S. Geological Survey.

    Last week’s powerful earthquake in Chile may have shifted the Earth’s axis and changed the length of a day, according to NASA researchers. The magnitude 8.8 quake of February 27 was powerful enough to alter the position of the planet’s figure axis, an imaginary line around which the mass of the planet rotates, by about 3 inches. That adds up to an Earth day that lasts about 1.26 microseconds less than it did before the earthquake.

    In the interview, Stein talked more about mountains than moments, and how the way in which the Nazca plates are cramming themselves under the South American continent caused the shore line to rise several feet. The discussion then moved to Charles Darwin being in Chile for another large earthquake in almost the same place in 1835. He also saw the shore line rise and realized that the mountains had been born out of a series of earthquakes over many, many years. Stein concluded,

    When you see a mountain, you are looking at past earthquakes.

    The phrase, “ascent to discovery” and the idea that mountains are born gradually from earthquakes – the shifting of the ground underneath our feet significant enough to shorten our days and raise our coastlines – took me here.


    Faith is the mountain range
    Abraham climbed to kill Isaac,
    Moses went up (twice) for tablets;
    where Noah parked the ark, and
    Jesus was tempted to test the angels;
    where the disciples saw Jesus
    transfigured and then killed.

    Grace is the shifting plate
    of promise underneath our feet,
    raising the very ground we walk on,
    changing clocks and certainty;
    we are climbing without ladders,
    through the strata of saints
    who stacked stones and stories.



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