Rules for Eating

Matt Baldwin, a close buddy of mine, has had a truly transformative year.   In one of his more recent blog posts, he recognized his own need to set up dietary rules that were specific to him.  What is useful is how he goes through a process of reflection, adjustment and recalibration.  In a way, it’s a practice that contemplative and spiritual.  This year, I’m going to do the same.  The fundamental insight I’ve gained from him is that it is about movement and improvement.

I have some good habits already:  I’m not much of a sugar junkie.  I gave up sodas, candy bars and ice cream years ago, as well as most white food.   I’m good about cooking and avoiding processed food, although I do sneak a Zone Bar occasionally.    I have three major issues:  I’m a heavy drinker; I eat starchy foods, especially rice and potatoes; and I eat very fast.  Add a habit of wings twice a week, chicken vindaloo with two cups of rice, and you’ve got a Padre Mambo with a spare tire as a partner.

I’ve read numerous books on dieting, understanding that this is really about a lifestyle change and not merely about making temporary changes.  Most fundamentally, there must always be a practice of discipline.  I doubt it is possible to stay healthy in this culture without being attentive and diligent.  There are, simply put, too many factors, interests and institutions who have an interest in people eating fatty, salty and sweet foods.

So I’ve read the literature.  I’ve especially been influenced by Mehmet Oz, Joel Furhman, David Kessler, John Gabriel, Susan Roberts, Brian Wansink and Various paleo authors.    Here is my list that will guide me, I hope, until Easter, when I will recalibrate and see what’s successful and what’s not.

I’ve formerly been successful at losing weight.  Two times had to do with women.  One didn’t drink; we ran a few times a week together.  During this time I would have either eggs or oatmeal in the morning; a salad with tuna for my afternoon snack; and a Cambridge shake for dinner.   It was a South Beach Diet variation, low carbs.  I stopped drinking beer.  In August of 2003 I weighed 145.   We never dated, alas.  The work was for naught.

I met someone else, during which I gained 42 pounds, reaching a morning weight of 187 in October, 2006.  My roommate at the time only ate white food, and would buy large packages of potato chips and french onion dip, both of which were comfort foods for me.  We’d make popcorn and pour 1/2 cup of butter on it.  We ate lots of pasta.  We would treat ourselves to ice cream.  Then my girlfriend and I broke up, and I changed – or restored – my eating habits.

I followed one primary rule, which helped me lose 25 lobs.  I learned to feel when I was becoming full.  I tried to eat slowly, and would only eat half what I ate.  I would eat nuts before I went out, and was attentive about drinking water.  When I had wings, I shared them.  I also stopped drinking beer and eating rice, but these were secondary.   I kept a very basic food diary.

My goal is to get to my ideal weight, which may be anywhere from 130 to 150 lbs.  I have a thin frame. I’d like to reduce my waistline to 36, which would be close to losing about 40 lbs for me – which would bring me to 142, from 182.  It’s possible.

I’m also participating in Crossfit Stamford, which is an inspiration for me.  I’ve spent this week mainly in prayer and consideration, recovery from writing for my thesis, and mental preparation for this change, and am ready to hit Crossfit on a every day basis,  starting on the 11th.

So here are my new rules.

  • One pint of beer on Sundays and Thursdays.   The rest of the week no more than 2 glasses of wine an evening.  Mondays and Saturdays dry.
  • Share all calorie dense food (say, wings).
  • Pay attention and eat slowly, at a table.
  • Eat on smaller plates.
  • Half of all plates should be vegetables.
  • Drink Water.
  • Eat at least one salad a day.
  • Say wonderful things about myself and how in control I am.
  • No less than seven hours of good sleep every night.

I will be adjusting these, testing them occasionally.  I think they are a good beginning.  I don’t exclude anything, but that may come when I start the Paleo challenge on January 23rd.  Several of my friends are teasing me about this, but we’ll see.

Lent also begins on February 17th, so as Paleo ends I’ll also be completely giving up alcohol and refined sugars (including grains) until Easter.    It will be a big shift for me, in part because I’m a heavy drinker, and have used it as a reward for a long day.   Your encouragement will be essential as I begin this journey to greater health and power.

On the Manifestation

The Epiphany is also called the “manifestation.” the light, represented by Jesus, was shown to the world: the wise men, or the kings. The light, who is represented by Christ, was thus disseminated.

Some may think we are to be like the kings. We bring gifts, show this little baby some magnanimity, and praise the light. It’s like walking down a lane without any flashlight, until you get to the beacon that got you safely there. Maybe you stick around for a while happy that the light exists. You look up at it, like a moth of sorts, just hanging out, perhaps opening your back pack and eating one of the sandwiches you’ve stored for the journey.

But then you’ve got to keep on going. The light still shows you the way, but that’s not what you’re there for.

I think that for many faithful people, the most important part is the light itself. When people assert their religious faith most fervently, they are busy praising the flashlight, the beacon, or whatever tool it is that makes them see. “I believe in Jesus Christ” is like holding up the flashlight and saying, “hey! I’ve got it!”

But that’s only going half way. What good is a flashlight if you aren’t looking around? Maybe asserting one’s faith isn’t as important as just knowing what you see – or how you see.

The story we tell is a way of seeing. One way of seeing: I believe that when we are most vulnerable, is when we might have the greatest opportunity. When we are magnanimous, we will have the greatest reward. In the midst of scarcity, is an opportunity to return to the sources of true abundance.

There are many ways of looking at the world. It’s full of rivalry, envy, fear and loneliness. There is no hope worth having in the world, and we are all doomed to die alone.

But there is another way of seeing. The manifestation that affirms that whatever life we have is worth living, that even in our bare-knuckled, hardscrabble moments of alienation and misery, down the road just a little bit farther, is Easter.

We may not see it now, but at least we’ve got a flashlight. Our job is to keep moving.

Learning to Communicate

Once, when I was living in Korea, I was greeting a well known CEO of a large corporation. I had only been speaking basic Korean for about a month and said “thank you,” bowing in the manner I had been taught.

The man looked at me for a moment and smiled. A fellow priest patted me on the back and laughed. As we departed, he said, “let’s practice ‘thank you.'” We practiced a couple times. I had replaced the “m” with an “n” by accident.

I had really said, “you’re stupid.”

Cats and dogs communicate, but they have very different gestures. When cats have their tail down, they are hunting; Dogs are happy. When Dogs are on their back, they submit; when cats do, they’re attacking. When a cat is saying “kill the furry rodent” a dog is sensing “aww, the cat likes me!” The war between cats and dogs is primarily a problem of misinterpretation.

One time I thought I preached an inclusive, gentle welcoming sermon that was happy and generous. Later, I was told it was patronizing – I had chastised the congregation.

It was like being in Korea again.

Sometimes we don’t say what we mean to say. Sometimes we do, but we need to say it differently. Sometimes we don’t hear what other people are saying; and sometimes we hear the wrong thing. Sometimes our actions and words say different things.

But if we were always worried about misinterpretation, we probably couldn’t say much at all. Charity – aka love – is, perhaps, the root of all translation.

How do we manage everyday misinterpretation and misunderstanding?

1) Trust in each other’s best motives.

2) Welcome feedback. With trust, we can improve and raise our attention with one another.

3) Remain connected. This is how the church works: how we help each other. The promise of the gospel: our relationships matter, and with tenacity and love, we save one another. Being connected does not mean being fused, or thinking identically. All it means is continuing a conversation.

4) Speak with integrity. This does not mean we have to speak perfectly. State what you mean as best you can. And if there is misinterpretation, allow for charity.

5) Sometimes working together is the way of building a new language. It is only through continuing to participate together that we actively build a new community.

None of this is easy: I submit, the culture makes it hard. But with a bit of grace, and will, the work of translation isn’t so bad. Perhaps then: comprehension. And more than that: liberation.

David and Bathsheba

Over the last several weeks we’ve been discussing the David story in Samuel. A king, a bit impetuous, handsome, a celebrity. There’s illicit sex, pointless violence, hard-fought redemption. It is a story that still resonates.

In the Hebrew bible, the heroes make mistakes; they break the rules; they ignore tradition; even the anointed are punished and the righteous are wrong.

David’s seduction of Bathsheba and murder of her husband, if anything, demonstrates that being divinely approved does not insulate one from doing wrong. David, so inebriated by his own power, succumbing to his immediate whims, is blind to the violence and misery he causes. Instead of examining himself, he believes that only other men are capable of evil. After being a soldier for so long, it was always the other country.

Nathan – his prophet – tells him a parable, effectively holding up a mirror, shocking him out of his narcissism; warning him of the consequences. David is shocked by what he sees.

The theologian James Alison notes that religion can build a fortress from which we judge others and protect ourselves; or it can be a source of inward reflection and self-understanding. It can teach us to judge others; or it can be a way of changing our own behavior. David was king, chosen by the Israelite God who broke the code of law, believing he had every right to.

But then he is challenged by the prophet, who embodies the conscience. “You are the man!”

A journalist once reflected that the most pious individuals are most at risk to cut moral corners. The morally rigorous justify their severity towards others, but keeping their own shortcomings in private. Those who believe that they speak the Word of God are often those who have the most to hide.

And yet, if we are willing to reflect inward, to see in ourselves our bare humanity, we will find an opening for the transcendent to break in, offer enough clarity to understand who we are, and grant us enough resilience to handle the vicissitudes of our life with confidence. It is thus only with humility and great trepidation may we judge the moral consciences of others, and make the mistake that we are different than our fellow human beings.

On Being Separated From Humanity

Over the last three week’s we’ve been exposed to some fairly severe tragedies: the murder of three women by an angry, lonely, depraved man; the drunk mother who drove the wrong way on the Taconic, killing eight.

For most of us, these are clear examples of right and wrong, concrete representations of injustice and horror. I’ve heard the word “evil” spoken even by individuals who believe that everyone is, in their hearts, good. “How could she do such a thing?” I’ve heard over and over; “That man will burn in hell.”

Anger, surprise, frustration – all rational responses. The rage and selfishness of these two individuals seem beyond our comprehension. How did the man get to that stage of anger? How could that woman have been so selfish?

And our moral outrage is justified. It is our way of honoring the humanity of those whose lives were cut mercilessly short.

Last week the scriptures stated that Jesus is the “bread of life.” This poetic description of Christ is an alteration: instead of Jesus being violently sacrificed for the sake of peace, we’re invited into a different way of gathering people into a community.

What happened in the community of hearers was a complete change in their relationship with one another. As Jesus was inviting them, through love, into a relationship with a different, non-violent, non-judgmental, loving spirit, they were invited into gracious, encouraging, joyful and hopeful relationships with each other. The bread of life was the glue that helped them endure each other’s quirks, frailties and challenges: because being in relationship with other people is hard work. Jesus is saying – stay connected. And you don’t need to kill people to do it.

George Sodini and Diane Schuler were both extremely isolated. To some extent, they were free to make the decisions they made; although theologically, Augustine would argue they were “slaves to sin.” Sodini was enslaved by his anger; Schuler was enslaved by drink.

The church’s perspective is not much different than the popular view, in some ways. We mourn the dead. We hate what is evil. We pray for justice. We trust that witnessing tragedy evokes some transformation toward what is beautiful and good in others.

These two individuals, who were closed from society and their own deep own emotional needs, stand in stark contrast to the fundamental task of the church. We exist to keep people connected; to remind people that they can learn to hold their anger, rage and sorrow without violence, while trusting in a community of faithful believers, if they so choose. A friend of mine, sober for 22 months said to me, that by giving up the hooch, she gained close new friends. Although not everyone needs to be abstinent, the truth is that it is often our connections that save us, and we find many ways to cut people off.

We say there is no justice sacrificing others at the altar of our own self-righteousness, frustration or hatred. There is no eternal redemption or peace at the bottom of a bottle. They are temporary, ephemeral satisfactions at best. And at worst they destroy lives, and break our hearts.

As the innocent die, the cross again represents. As well as we must confront the implicit, if paradoxical, challenge to those of us witnessing: it didn’t need to be that way.

On Repentance and Raising Money

A friend of St. Barts once came in to the church to discuss raising money. He suggested an ambitious plan, and we began talking about what people seek and need in their congregations.

He grew up in the parish (mid 40’s), but wandered before finding his own path. He said that he wished that the church had given stronger instruction about how to live and be transformed in a way to find peace and wholeness in the light of God’s presence. His comments were provocative and intriguing. He was talking about repentance.

He was not talking about repentance in the fashion of a street-corner preacher yelling in the public square. You jerk. Don’t you know that God despises your carnal thoughts and contemptible fashion sense? Most of us think that when we are asked to “repent” we’re asked first to feel bad and then obey what someone else, who is more perfect and uptight, tells us is good for us. And for a lot of Christians this means mainly rules about sex, tax cuts, and swearing.

This sort of repentance may be useful for some people. It can be exactly what they need to hear: stop drugging yourself, holding others accountable for your own actions, and get on the straight and narrow. Repentance in this sense means making verbal proclamations about what one believes and then changing what one does. You agree to what I, your priest and spiritual father, tell you and you are magically altered into a different, more holy, better person.

I wish I had that sort of magic wand some days, although I’d probably have to use it on myself.

But there is another way of understanding “repentance.” In fact, my friend used the word “transfiguration.” They fit neatly together. Repentance in the Greek is “metanoia” which is derived from the word for mind, thought and understanding. In some places scripture repentance is a conversion, and in others it suggests remorse.

I think that Episcopalians are wary of the part that emphasizes the total depravity of human consciousness that a few medieval theologians suggested. Rather, we rightly acknowledge that our conversion to the spirit is about joy and empowerment. It means sometimes saying “stop” or “no” so that we can better understand what the divine “Yes” means. It’s hard news sometimes.

I wonder if repentance means understanding two things that are very difficult in this day. The first is that we do have limits, and that limits are good. I encounter this fact when I get a bottle of wine at a local store: too many and I become disempowered. The human mind can often only handle a limited number of choices. It makes us more free when we do this to ourselves.

The second is that the good life is a committed life. It may be running, it may be music, it may be self-discipline, and it may be supporting a community of friends, but without commitment, life doesn’t happen. It just floats on by. It passes quickly. As the wisdom writer puts it, we become unmoored, like vapors.

And to be committed to each other often means a “changing of the mind” – a repentance. Especially in a day when it is the thoughtless God of convenience, inattention and immediate gratification that commands our lives so utterly. To make that conversion is hard work, and most of us will make it in fits and starts. It does require tenacity, self-examination, and vigilance (it sounds, perhaps, like dieting), but in a community of loving souls, all things are possible.

There are rewards. Saying no to some things means saying yes to others. I have spilled miso soup on my computer, which means that when I come home I am computerless, and yes generally it is a drag.

But for that reason, the other evening I had the unexpected opportunity to spend an evening in quiet meditation on my porch, with a cigar, just considering God, the world, and its utter beauty. I was given the opportunity to say “no” to the allures of the internet, and to say yes to the world.

Not that I will always be so wise to make that choice. But I slept better that night.

A Wedding

Went to Peak’s Island this weekend. It’s an Island off the coast of Portland Maine, so you need to take a ferry. It’s about 5 hours from White Plains. It’s a vacation spot, with plenty of places for people to rent during the summer, and its easy to get fresh lobster for cheap.

The bride is the first person from any youth group to get hitched. She’s on the younger side – most of her friends are still single. I wasn’t making a play on them, in spite of the intriguing redhead who did improv comedy. Her husbands friends were all young and handsome. One was medicating himself through a divorce, flirting his way through the evening. He would ask me for permission to swear.

Although I love the family, I was a bit reticent to make the journey. I was exhausted. Taking a trip alone just heightens the awareness of solitude, and gives me considerable time to consider the bachelor life. But I had other incentives to visit: there was a Luce Scholars seminar in Cambridge, and a friend in West Roxbury I could visit. And upon my return I’d surprise another friend by attending his mass.

I celebrated the wedding with a colleague who is a “youth missioner.” I can’t imagine such a job. And it’s not because I hate kids. I love them. But I wasn’t a very good teen-ager. I didn’t have the cool, although I could negotiate the different cliques with some ease. Wes knows kids. He shepherds and directs. And he is very exuberant. “Wow!” he chants. “You are so cool. God absolutely loves you because you rock.” When he talks to kids he becomes animated and exuberant.

After the rehearsal, KP and DC, the bride and groom, offered communion to the family and friends. We used a very basic form of prayer over the bread and wine. It was a simple wine glass, a cabernet, and some pita bread.

I offered the remaining wine to the redhead, who’d already consumed. “Am I allowed to?” she asked. “Why?” I said it should get finished. She looked at me and smiled, shrugging her shoulder, looking at me as if I had told her something in Glaswegian. She kind of understood, but wasn’t sure if I was offering her a trinket, a prize, or my phone number.

So then I did what a priest normally does. I finished it myself. “Well, it just needs to be finished,” I said, looking away, and lifting the glass to my lips. It was a bit dry.


Too often, in Westchester, we live close to the margins. And not just the poor.

There are all kinds of margins. Money is an easy one to identify. It is easy feel that we need more. We spend easily, money dripping through our fingers like water. And many don’t even notice it. But we know if we don’t have financial room, and it is tight and constraining.

Some are more so than others: they are only one hospital bill or one child away from poverty: one accident away from financial disaster, or jobless. Those are difficult margins – we don’t have any room or space.

Another margin is time. Westchester is busy. It’s easy to get caught up in the number of tasks we just have to do. We run from picking up the kids to karate to shopping. And as we get more harried, we seek convenience, and then we seem to have less time.

So how do we find just a little bit of space? To have a little cash – just enough not to worry; to have enough time to let the mind be fallow and restful? To allow for some focusing? Well, there is changing the entire system. But aside from that?

It might mean taking a quick break; going on a much needed retreat; insisting on a 1/2 hour walk without an ipod. It might mean taking a morning to try something creative. But resist scheduling; give yourself time to cook, to read, to do what gives you joy. It is in those spaces we become human.

It might mean examining more clearly how we spend our lives. Note the use of the word “spend” as if our lives are themselves commodities, that our time is equal to money. Money can be, however, simply a measurement rather than an indicator of moral worth. I have found that when I journal and monitor my spending and eating and my time, I can make choices that are more joyful. I realize how much I have already.

It takes building a resistance to conveniences, to rushing, to spending, to restoring a sense of what is lovely and beautiful. It often requires saying “enough” or “no” to another task.

It is alright not to rush, to have space. And the antidote is a healthy amount of gratitude. That’s the reason it is beneficial to give to each other, give to our communities, give to ourselves. Through giving, we find we have more space to move, a greater ability to discern what matters, sloughing off the clutter that drives us crazy. Through collaborating and sharing ourselves, we’ll find it inconvenient, but more rewarding, and a lot less costly.

For if we’re always trying to have more, aren’t we distracted from what we have which has previously given us sustenance and joy?


Over the years I’ve tried numerous diets. I’m a bit of a hedonist, a gourmand, of the self-styled kind, and think food and drink are pleasures that we are supposed to enjoy. Jesus was called a “glutton and a drunkard” and the wisdom writers commend carnal pleasures as reliable.

Still, the New Testament prudes do make points about “self control.” When David Frum compares Obama’s abstemiousness to Rush’s indulgences, I understand what the NT writers want to exemplify.

My friend Matt and I used to discuss diets in Divinity School. He was a fan of the Zone Diet, but I always glazed over at the math it required. In principle, long-term changes in lifestyle do require discipline and attention to detail. I’m not sure if counting is what I want to do. Is there a way to make losing weight as convenient as putting it on?

The challenge is to make self-control easy, or at least easier. It seems difficult to make the will work on too many fronts at once. It took me years to stop buying candy or a haagen-daz ice cream bar, or two martinis as Cipriani while waiting for the train at Grand Central. But the last time I lost 30 lbs (of which I still have about 12 lbs off), was because I did a few things which Mehmet Oz and Dr. Fuhrman agree. I tried to create a handful of rules I could do all at once

I don’t do all of these things now, but when I did, I felt great!

First, I never missed a 1/2 hour walk or some other kind of activity. It might have meant walking to church, biking to the gym, or even biking to downtown white plains for a meeting. This was in addition to going to the gym and doing some kind of interval training. The morning walk was non-negotiable. Eventually, three days a week, I made it into a walk-run thing.

I always had nuts around. Before lunch and dinner I’d usually eat a handful. This helped with my appetite control.

I could eat two bites of anything I wanted. So I shared french fries when I went out, and instead of eating 10 wings alone, I’d invite my brother out and we’d share.

I learned to deliberately waste food or select appetizers when I went out to eat.

The other hard rule I had: one huge salad every day. And when I was obsessed, I had only three meals I ate. Morning – oatmeal or granola. Afternoon, a veggie soup and a half peanut butter on crazy wholesome heavy bread. Evening, just salad with some salsa and tuna. If I got really hungry, I had miso soup.

This meant no beer or Indian Food: my personal variation of the South Beach Diet. I never went extreme – I always had some carbs – but I have been able to generally give up candy and french fries. But I’ve recently been consuming a lot of beer, and when I get stressed, Indian food is what I eat. It gives me pleasure.

Overall, I feel good about what I eat. I don’t drink soda. I’ve not had fast food since the last time I took a road trip. Even the potato chips I ate last night were home made. I prefer to make the food I eat, and have pretty much eliminated anything that has more than four syllables from my diet. Still, last night, late, I made a bowl of pasta and made a asian style sauce with bok-choi and kale. It was a lot of calories. Good nutrition, but still calories.

But here are the books I’ve found helpful:

You on a Diet: This has the bet science, and some of the best tools. It focuses less on weight, and more on the waist.

Eat to Live: I hate this book, but it is the most convincing about the relationship between health and nutrition. Essentially it is for New Testament Prudes – vegetarians – who want to wag their fingers at those of us who love bacon. It distills the science from the largest nutrition study in the world: the China study. In sum, eat your plants. Stay away from oils and meat based products. You can have a little meat if you want, but if you do, you’re a loser and going to die. What I learned? Eat a pound of lettuce at every meal. Because the salad is the main meal, not the meat.

The Beck Diet
: This book is about the will, and applies Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to dieting. It’s meant to be in conjunction with other diets. Planning your meals out weeks in advance seems like a pain in the neck, but I suspect that’s the real secret.

and Food Matters: Mark Bittman is applied Michael Pollan. Eat like a vegan until dinner, and then eat as you please. But always eat food your great grandmother would have recognized as food. This is for those of use who want to live well and live right with the planet.

On Noah

In scripture, one idea that returns over and over is that of “covenant.” The myth is like so: God punishes humanity for its sin, sees what he has done, and promises never to punish humanity ever again, and makes a covenant with all life. The symbol of that covenant is the rainbow.

Although I’m sure we all breath a sigh of relief that God has made such a promise to protect all life, I still find the story a little disturbing. I find destroying an entire civilization a bit… a little extreme, perhaps over the top, and – if I may say so – a little psychotic. And then He wants to apologize?

It is as if that we’re being told, “Look God’s peaceful now. He used to be violent. Aren’t we glad he changed?” I am. Although there are times where I wonder if people (or God), really change. Should I be looking over my shoulder to see if God has it in for me? Isn’t God changeless?

So why is it that God gets really angry at his children? He threatens punishment, even though scripture also says he is, most of the time, slow to anger.

Let’s first admit that this anthropomorphic soldier God is useful to a point. It’s not absolutely useful, but it provides a little object for the imagination. We can be thankful that a former soldier God wants to become a peacemaker. I think of the great Indian King Ashoka, who after seeing the rivers of bodies and blood that he was responsible for, gave up all war and built his kingdom for the sake of peace and prosperity for all his people. We don’t need to end the story with God being a man on a chariot. God is fundamentally a peacemaker. It may seem, on our worst days, that God has it in for us. But our trust is that he wants us to thrive.

It might be that we had not learned from the story of Cain and Abel. They had competed for God’s attention. God chose a favorite. And Abel was killed. What does this say? Violence is a consequence of believing that we have to compete for God’s attention.

We don’t. There may be people who prosper more than we do, who seem to have the abundance of God’s blessings; but we are still expected to care for each other. It was a violent society that the scriptures say God wanted to cleanse.

To me our current financial mess (What’s next? Our Pensions?), looks a lot like a world-wide deluge. Might our civilization crumble if credit disappears? Our promises in the future, based upon the immaterial photons of light, the LED screens that represented the great wealth we thought we had, now gone.

The cash we thought was there was a ghost. We built castles with it; we asked it to fund our universities; we even played poker with it and took its money. And now, it has vanished, and the pundits hope that the ghosts will once again return.

But there is one road to salvation – and that is trust. The rainbow that the scriptures tell us that God gave is the Lord saying, “trust me.” If you think trust makes no sense, you would be absolutely right. There are few good reasons to trust: nobody wants to open their books; they won’t take risks to hire; they won’t expand. People do not trust each other’s accounting; they withdraw and withold from each other. They’ve been burned, and they won’t get burned again. And with that the whole economy can come crushing down. They are justified in their suspicion, and with that, the flood begins, and we will all be drowning.

What happened during the flood? A violent world was destroyed, and replaced with a new differentiation of animals, a new tribal system that brought peace and order.

The scriptures, however, give some clues as to what this might mean. In Peter “a few, that is eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you.” We have all been touched by the flood, but through this, we are brought up and out and another stage of peace will come before us.

We are reminded that trusting one another means we are responsible for each other; that we invest in each other; that we empower one another. And it makes little sense – our instinct is to flee, to demand our own needs get satisfied first, to wait for others to save us.

There is a brighter future on the horizon, that will come out of being baptized in the current disaster. We might not see it now. but as the deluge begins, it is our trust in each other, that web of relationships that God has invited us into, that will lift us up and sustain us in these coming days. Peter indicates that even the righteous, the ark itself, was baptized by the flood. But this was just a prelude for what we will see.

Before us, land.