The house we live in sits just above a tidal flat. At low tide, we see a flat grassy meadow that stretches to the dike along the river bank in the distance. At high tide, the meadow disappears to varying degrees, depending on the phase of the moon. When the moon is full, the whole flat disappears and the water comes near to the top of the dyke. Fortunately, our house is 10-15 meters above the highest tide mark so I can watch the tide without wondering if I need to invest in a canoe for emergencies.
But even though I can watch this twice daily process, I tend not to pay much attention. If people had asked me where the tide was, I probably couldn’t answer–or that was the case until recently. For the past few months, I have been paying close attention to the tides and can easily tell people what stage the tide is at.
This didn’t come from a concern about raising ocean levels because of global warming. There is a spot near our house that is so affected and before much longer, a really high tide is going to go over the road there–but I have known that for years and there are other ways to get to where that road leads. And as I mentioned, we have several meters beyond the most pessimistic predictions of ocean level rise.
What changed for me is that I build a tide clock. I like clocks and I like building clocks. So my winter project was to design and build a tide clock. It wasn’t as quick a process as I thought–the winter was much busier than I anticipated and my wood-working skills were much rustier that I expected. But the clock is done and sits on the mantle in the living room. When I am sitting in my working chair in the living room, I can see the tide clock and the tidal flat with just a slight turn of my head. When I walk into the room during the day time when the curtains are open, I automatically check the clock and the tide.
Part of that began as I worked at regulating the clock. Although I can look up tide times on the internet, I did have to set the clock hand that tells the state of the tide. And while the mechanism is interesting, it is a bit hard to adjust perfectly and so I have been tinkering with it since I placed it on the mantle–I think I have is set now but I will continue to watch it.
There is a parable here–remember, I am a preacher and therefore can’t let something just be something–it also has to be something else to feed the insatiable demand for stories to keep people interested on Sunday.
And so the meaning of the parable is this. I live beside a tidal flat but because the coming and going to the tide has no affect on me personally, I ignore it. My house is safe from the highest tide predictable; I don’t make my living digging for clams at low tide; I don’t need to know when I can get my boat out from the wharf and the only road that might have some affect on my life is easily bypassed. The tide comes and goes and has no affect on me.
But as soon as I build a tide clock, I have a personal interest in the tide. It makes a difference to me where the tide is. Sure, the difference is only because I want to check the accuracy of the new clock–but I am still interested.
So, we live in a world where there is a great deal wrong, which we ignore because we can’t perceive a direct effect on us. Some, we can ignore. Some, we can pretend isn’t a problem. Some, we have to deny. And in truth, some we have to work really hard to avoid. As long as we can tell ourselves it doesn’t affect us, we can ignore it, at least until it becomes too personal.
But as believers, we are called to be involved with the world–instead of ignoring the darkness and its effects, we are to shine the light of God into the darkness. We didn’t create the light–but we have been given the light. We need to turn it on and challenge the darkness because whatever we want to think, we do have a personal stake in making the darkness go away, a personal stake that came to us through Jesus Christ.
May the peace of God be with you.