Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Está Abril, Pero No Hay Lluvia

Lagos de Moreno bid adios to the month of marzo last night by celebrating the 446th anniversary of city’s founding. Not only did the carnival continue to spin its tilt-a-whirls in the dried-up riverbed, but there were also fireworks over the cathedral (we had an unbelievable view of them from our apartment) and yet another concert, this one lasting until at least midnight.

So, just to recap: To celebrate its birthday month, Lagos de Moreno has a three-week cultural fest, a two-week carnival, near-daily concerts, and an impressive fireworks display. All this to celebrate not the nation’s founding but a city’s founding, and not a milestone centennial or quincentennial, but just your average everyday 446th anniversary. I could not even tell you when Chicago was founded. Fact about Mexico #597: Mexicans love their history.

Now that abril has arrived I keep thinking of April showers, which turns out to not be very accurate here. So, trying to stay in my immediate context, I started thinking about the dry season, the desert, and the dust all around.

I tried making an iTunes Smart Playlist using the words Dry, Desert, and Dust. Only eleven songs came up, which kind of surprised me. (I should note that if I looked for not songs but albums with desert themes I’d have at least two: U2’s The Joshua Tree and The Killers’ Day and Age.) Here's the list:

1. Tears Dry On Their Own / Amy Winehouse
2. Dry Lightning / Bruce Springsteen
3. Like the Deserts Miss the Rain / Everything But the Girl
4. Cold Desert / Kings Of Leon
5. High And Dry / Radiohead & El Lele
6. Dry Your Eyes / The Streets
7. Desert Of Our Love / U2
8. Devils & Dust / Bruce Springsteen
9. A Dustland Fairytale / The Killers
10. Another One Bites The Dust / Queen

By contrast, a quick Smart Playlist using only the word Rain rendered a list of 28 songs – nearly triple that of the Dry Season Playlist. I suppose we are 60% water, after all…

Anyway, then I pulled my new Green-Letter Bible off the shelf, flipped to the Green Subject Index section, and looked up the passages listed for Desert and Dust and then threw in Drought for good measure. Dry wasn’t in this index, so I looked it up in the concordance.

Deserts are a popular topic in the Bible, probably because of the part of the world where most of its events took place. In the book of Kings, Elijah obeys God by going into the desert (miraculous adventures ensue). The Psalms, by contrast, speak again and again of how the desert was a place where God was grieved by God’s people. Then Isaiah shifts gears again and speaks of Divine activity in the desert: God makes water flow so that God’s people don’t go thirsty in the desert, God dries up the rivers to make them into a desert, God makes a highway in the desert. Then we move to the New Testament, and get this: Each reference is about Jesus feeding people in the desert. (For the record, there are two stories in Matthew, two in Mark, and one in Luke – but they are all variations on the same theme.)

Drought is a thornier topic. In Deuteronomy, 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, and even the minor prophet Haggai drought is said to be a punishment sent from God. Only the book of Job is more neutral, declaring simply that drought is an act of God but, in keeping with a theme of Job, ascribing it simply to the unfathomable mystery of the Divine. Thankfully, the New Testament drops any reference to drought, sidestepping the unfortunate question of what it means in the cosmic justice system.

Dust surprised me. I’ve been running along a dusty little trail in the mornings, and I’m inhaling far too much of the stuff. I think I was hoping I’d find some passages describing dust as infernal or at best really annoying. Turns out dust and I have more in common than I’d remembered. Again and again in Genesis, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes the Scriptures tell us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Same theme, repeated again and again and again. How could I have forgotten in the midst of Lent?

Dry features three wonderful topics for this country’s dry season. In the fist instance, the book of Genesis describes how God created the dry land. It seems important that God creates the land dry, perhaps to make its manageability distinct from the uncontrollability of the raging, watery oceans. Next is a story from Exodus in which God manipulates a river (the uncontrollable water?) so that the Israelites can walk on dry ground and thereby escape their pursuers. Finally, Ezekiel seems to acknowledge the deathly perils of dryness by showing his audience that God remembers those whose dryness is killing them. “Our bones are dried up,” Israel says, “and our hopes is lost; we are cut off completely.” To this God says, through Ezekiel, something like the following: “O dry bones, hear the word of God: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live.”

You shall live. Even in the desert? Even in a drought? Even though my bones are as dry as the season, as dry as the world I wander through? Yes. Even then, you shall live.


From Michigan with Love said...

What's a concordance!?

haha just kidding! I know where you are now! That's soooo cool!! I can picture the fireworks! Remember to watch the sun rise!

Thanks for a nice reflection! I'll have to go get that bible!

Folks in Greenville said...

Each of your posts makes me feel proud that we're family!
The folks in Seattle will be lucky to have someone as thoughtful and "real" as you as their pastor. Most of us have felt those dry times ... but not many of us have looked at the way you are. Thanks for sharing your thoughts ... and not just descriptions of the joys of living "south of the border!" (Though the posts about concerts - both current and future are cool to read to!)

Erica said...

What does the dried-up river bed look like? I'm having a hard time picturing it - could you (or do you already?) post some picts?