Flooding like an Egyptian

Proper 19A/Ordinary 24A/Pentecost +13
September 11, 2011

Exodus 14: 19-31

Romans 14:1-12

Matthew 18: 21-35

“The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers.  At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic.  He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty … So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth.  As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea.  The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained” (Exod. 14: 23-25, 27-28)

You know, I feel for the Egyptians who were caught in the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds).  I know I’m not supposed to, but I can’t help it.  There they are, a bunch of cavalry and infantry grunts, led by lunatic generals into a swamp, to chase down a rogue band of ethnic minorities.  They’re just doing their jobs, and I’m sure they would have rather been at home with their families.  They think they have the Israelites in their sights … then the walls of water come crashing in.  No one survives.  The end.

I’m obsessed with being trapped in a flood right now because … well, I’m trapped in a flood.  The rains from Hurricane Lee are sloshing around on ground that was already saturated from Hurricane Irene.  I tried to go in to work this morning, but turned around and headed back home after spending 1½ hours to get one-third of the way there.  All the major roads leading out of our little hamlet are either flooded out or are backed up for miles with cars.  Frightening pictures are coming over the Internet of cars swallowed whole by sinkholes.  With all our technology and Sports Utility Vehicles, we are trapped by water, much like the Egyptians.  And the rain just is not stopping.

The Egyptians in this week’s Hebrew Bible reading were driven into the Sea of Reeds by rage and revenge.  The Lord had just visited upon them the final Plague of the First-Born, where the first-born of every Egyptian – human or animal – died in the night.  The houses of the Israelites, of course, were spared through the ritual of the Passover, or pesach.  The first-born represented the Egyptians’ hopes for the future – their heirs, their best and brightest – all gone in one night.  Rage and grief would have been understandable responses.

Ten years ago, we had our own visitation of unimaginable tragedy.  I was working in downtown Washington, DC, two blocks from the White House, when the airliners struck the World Trade Center.  I also lived in an apartment building from where the Pentagon was clearly visible, where we breathed in its acrid smoke and the ash collected on our window-sill.  I had a friend who narrowly escaped the collapse of the second Twin Tower with his life.  Overnight, thousands of our best and our brightest were taken from us, in the most horrific way possible.  For weeks afterward, the bus that I took to work crawled by the violated Pentagon in a daily, funereal march that seemed interminable.  People would begin to sob.  Rage and grief were understandable responses.

This is not at all to say that 9-11 was God’s judgment on us – as the Plague of the First Born was on the Egyptians.  Terrorism is an abomination.  However, the problem with rage (however justifiable) is that it clouds judgment.  Decisions made in a state of rage – individual or collective – tend to be very short-sighted at best, and tragic at worst.  In our collective post 9-11 rage, we went to war, first in Iraq, then in Afghanistan.  After ten years, our troops are still there, with the costs of war dragging our economy down like the mud of the Red Sea.  We have already had one major recession and may be on the verge of another.  We have lost thousands of our sons and daughters.  We are stuck and we need a major change of course, because the walls of water are threatening to collapse at any moment.

The Gospel reading has some valuable things to say about dealing with the temptation to revenge or acting out.  When a man asks Jesus if he should forgive his brother seven times, Jesus answers that he should forgive 77 (or in the King James Version, “seventy times seven”) times (Matt. 18:22)!  (An accountant friend of mine who heard that particular Scripture asked me “Is that on a one-time or a rolling basis?”)  The gist of it is, of course, that forgiveness is intended to be the “default setting”.  There may be times when forgiveness is extremely difficult and we need to “give it up to God”, or (in the case of ongoing physical abuse) where – for the time being – it is completely inappropriate.  But when we make rage our default setting, we find ourselves chasing the enemy far afield, into perilous territory that quickly becomes a “no-win” situation.  Forgiveness is not just a Biblical mandate – it is ultimately in our best and highest interests to turn our energies away from hate and toward healing.

Let’s try making forgiveness the default option.  Drive safely, and stay away from those flood-waters.

3 thoughts on “Flooding like an Egyptian

  1. Oooooh so very well said, so allow me to add my objective observations of 9/11 to your dialog.

    As an ex airman of the US Air Force and aircraft mechanic of Air Defense Command (ADC), I have been on alert and sent many a fighter prepared to destroy many many commercial if they didn’t return to fight plan because they were as little as 3 degrees off. Both plains striking the towers supposedly were from Boston, Mass. and there’s ADC between it and NYC, so how did both planes get to NYC over 15 minutes apart? Maybe one, yes, but both, no way those afterburning fighters couldn’t have at least gotten the second plane unless their was a stand down order from the Commander in Chief, the only person allowed to give such order.

    Upon realizing that, the united rage of the American citizens was focused on a foreign people that should have been focused at the White House, just as the rage of the Egyptians should have been toward their leader rather than the Hebrews. Still, like the Egyptians, the young and strong solders of the US are dying and maimed in their pursuit of a people not responsible for the event for which they are fighting.

    Had the US been a forgiving nation its solders would not be dying fighting the incorrect people. Had we been clear in thoughts and observation of the events we would have used the US Constitution and eliminated the one(s) responsible for the events for which thousands of our family members have lost lives and thousands more maimed due to the misdirected blind rage. To be a forgiver one has to be objective and understand every action by any life on earth has to be reaped by the one receiving the sowing and that’s why it is written “vengeance is mine, saith the lord.”

  2. re: in our collective post 9-11 rage, we went to war, first in Iraq, then in Afghanistan.

    Actually, the U.S. waged war in Afghanistan before we waged war in Iraq. It’s just that we diluted our efforts in Afghanistan and became distracted from pursuing Osama bin Laden in earnest until after Obama came to power and retrained our focus upon Afghanistan.

  3. Another perspective: I personally was not inclined to hate another Nation or it’s people based on the events of 9/11/01. I was more inclined to hate the US Government, for failing to protect it’s Citizens. Specifically when, from January 2000, up to and including September 10, 2001, I had a recurring dream, that repeated night after night, weeks and months but the dream would not stop!

    In my dream, I was hanging solo, holding onto a lightening rod, atop the World Trade Center. I could hear chatter. Like people were talking and yet I could not distinguish the words they were saying, but the chatter was endless. In it, I could also hear English speaking people, but could not distinguish what they were saying. Planes were going to fly into the WTC. I knew it and believed the dream was a premonition. 50,000 were doomed to lose their lives. I did not know when, why or who was planning this event.

    I wrote the White House about it. I called airports about it. I reported this dream to Authorities. I said all you have to do to prevent this tragedy from happening, is, enforce security at airports. I was attacked, verbally humiliated in Public by Government Officials, and still, my concern was for everyone who would lose their lives, and the destruction of property. I had panic attacks as a result of people refusing to listen which I never had before nor since the actual event. I set my case before the children. I asked them to pray and do good deeds for others, to give charity, I also asked them to pray specifically for all people involved with the WTC, and the people who worked there and or near that building, not revealing to a child, the nature of my dreams or why I was asking. I also took to the Internet, and posted the dream on every board I could think of. People scoffed, laughed and made fun of me, but if ONE person would listen, if I could save ONE life, or lesson the amount of people targeted to die in that event, to me, it was worth it.

    On 9/11/01, when the event happened, needless to say, everyone knew I was the one who tried, endlessly, to warn them, and those who knew me called me, and those who had the post copied etc, contacted me via the Internet. Government? Eventually they found out where I lived and killed all my pets, one in particular was brutalized and tortured. Many lobbies and Unions backed it, as did all Law Enforcement Agencies, and in the end, I will leave the USA for good. Corruption and Lawlessness rampant, within Government so severe, that those paid to uphold the Laws are breaking them, and using their drug dealers to carry out heinous acts against American Citizens. Utilizing radical Islamist to also murder individual American citizens. These are the people selling out America. Unions, Special Interest Groups, and Career Politicians.

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