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With all of the news coverage around the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I went and reread parts of Historian Douglas Brinkley's amazing book on the events surrounding Katrina called ‘The Great Deluge'. I know many of you gave and organized projects and went yourself down to Mississippi after the storm, part of the waves of people from around the country who went to help. Brinkley shares a number of extraordinary firsthand accounts, like this one:
Hold on to your seats, folks (and maybe your Bibles too). We are going to do a quick look at two unique books of the Bible. We have been looking at the Old Testament texts all summer, especially the stories about David and Solomon. But when I looked at today's Old Testament text and saw it was from Song of Solomon, my first reaction was to say, "No way! I do not want to tackle that." But then Taylor handed me a commentary by two of her Harvard professors, Harvey Cox and Stephanie Paulsell, and the more I read, the more intrigued I was.
It was a procession unlike any of them had seen - unlike any Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders rally, unlike returning athletes ticker-tape parades. It hearkened back for some to the tens of thousands present when King David, some 40 years prior, had brought the Ark of the Covenant back from the caves to the center of the city. ALL of the people were assembled, the text says, and the elders came, the priests carrying the ark. They followed the ark from the tent of meeting, then all of the holy vessels and belongings, the leaders and all of the people, offering grand sacrifices to God. It culminates in this scene where heaven and earth come together, when the ark - both a box with the tablets of the law from Moses AND a symbol of God's very real presence with the people, come into the temple, into the inner sanctuary, underneath the wings of the cherubim, God's own holy attendants, there. These angels partner with the priests to construct this inner sanctum, poles affixed, curtains set, - as the ark is put into place THE VERY PRESENCE OF GOD in a cloud - echoes of the pillar of cloud and fire that led the people through the wilderness from Egypt - a holy fog filled the House of the Lord.
We ended last week with David grieving. This David, that we've spent all summer getting to know, was first introduced to us as a shepherd, too young to be taken seriously, until the prophet Samuel walked by all of Jesse's sons and anointed him the chosen one. This David, with whom God's presence was so clear in the early days, walks by soldiers trembling across from the armies of the philistines, and their giant Goliath. He strolls out with a sling and a couple of stones, striking the giant down. David waited patiently, as Saul, the previous king, stumbles, his reign crumbling.