22 September 2015

Genesis 19:15-29

“Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.” (vv. 24-25)

Psalm: Psalm 94:14-13


In the book 'Meeting Jesus in Mark' by Marcus J Borg (London, SPCK, 2011), he explains stories in Scripture as "memories with meaning". It is painful and challenging to consider what memory this passage in Genesis is recalling, and what meaning is being given to it. Perhaps this is what the writers of Genesis are doing here. There is some ancient memory of a calamity, and an attempt to inquire as to what it might mean. We know all too well of both natural and human-made disaster, of the random suffering, inexplicable injustice and pain that constitute the regular diet of newspapers and broadcasts. However, we are less likely to reflect upon such memories as having anything to do with God - it feels unbearable to bring God into the pain in any way. But maybe that is where God chooses to be? What if God is God? What if God is Sovereign of all? What if God is ultimately responsible for the world? If so it means that God is responsible for ISIS, mass shootings, plane crashes, child abuse, rape and murder! To be responsible isn't, of course, the same as, 'to blame'. But maybe God chooses to accept the consequences of the way the world is made. The writers of Genesis give meaning to this ancient memory of disaster in the language of justice and grace; the destruction of so many people, innocent or not, is simply part of the moral fabric of the universe and a holy God. I doubt we would make sense of such memory in a similar manner now. However as the sulphur and fire rain down, we might still want to ask 'But where is God in all this?'. More often than not such answers are almost too quiet to hear - but yet God silently takes responsibility (Isaiah 53:7) and whether we want to or not God has chosen to be 'in the pain'.

To Ponder

  • Reflect in the presence of the crucified God today's stories or yesterday's memories. Where can you hear the quiet voice, the still presence, the ever-present God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.