Water

 There was a voice message. “I heard about the flash floods in Dallas,” it said. “I hope you’re all right.”
    I was, largely because I’m able to walk a lot of the time and don’t have to get out my car. But one friend got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out.
    And walking isn’t risk-free. In some places the sidewalk gets covered with mud that has been washed down. There's so much, you have to go back, try another way. (It’s like the snow-slush in New York City: you get to a corner and can’t go anywhere without stepping in several inches of the stuff; you retreat. I say, living in Dallas is really just like living in New York City.)
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    Water in the Bible is the chaotic, threatening realm that surrounds life. The firmament of Genesis 1 (the sky) is up there to hold the waters back. But sometimes they break through (as in floods). In the deep places are waters also, and sometimes they rise up and threaten in their own way. The Philistines, by the way, represent these waters. They are ever on the edge of the people of Israel, never fully defeated, always reminding of the chaos that’s beyond.
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    God gives us life but life is never fully safe or secure. Sometimes we get stuck in the mud. Sometimes people drown in the waters. We wonder, like Job, why things aren’t arranged better for us. Why is human life so tenuous, so fragile, so perilously perched on the edge of non-existence?
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    And then we get that voice message. Our friends come over. Neighbors bring casseroles and, with them, their selves. We sit at the table together. We replay the message: “I hope you’re all right.”
    We are all right, together. We have communion.
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    Out & About. Sunday, September 30, I’ll be preaching at St. David of Wales on Ector Street in Denton, Texas; the services are at 8 and 10:30 am, and 5 pm. And at about 9:30, I’ll speak to the adult class on “Love, Caregiving, Death, and God.”
    October 14, the first “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar, on Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot. We’ll discuss the book (which means participants need to read it in advance) from 6 to 7:30 pm at Incarnation in Dallas. Reservations are not required, but do drop me a line if you think you’ll be coming—it will help preparations in the room.

Stephen

 A retired academic whom I’m getting to know lives outside his city, down a bumpy unpaved road. He can’t drive himself, so I was taking him into town. There was a man ahead of us, walking in the middle of the road. “That’s Stephen,” he said to me (I’ve changed the name). “Can we give him a ride?”
    Of course. I made room in the back seat of my rental car, and Stephen got in, speaking gratefully with an old, cigarette-hardened voice. He had about a third of an open paper cup of coffee. “I won’t spill it,” he said to me.
    We took him several miles closer to where he was going, but there our paths diverged and we had to go on. Stephen had spoken a lot along the way, asking my friend how he is doing, not hearing the answers correctly, yet moving on to rather confused talk about his own life and travels. He got out of my car, and I may never see him again in this life.
    Afterwards it struck me: I had made it possible for my friend, who has physical limitations, to do a favor to one of his neighbors—perhaps return a favor. “Does Stephen help you out?” I asked.
    “He tries to,” was the honest reply.
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    Later: “Sometimes Stephen can be violent.”
    “When he’s drunk too much?”
    “Or . . . medicines.”
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    He’s Jewish, this retired academic. It was he who pointed out to me, through his books, the importance of the end of the book of Job. When it’s all over, Job and his family and friends have a meal together. They eat together and strengthen each other, as human beings should do, and can do when they’re at their best.
    He also showed me that the importance of the sacrificial system of the Israelites is that it causes them to come together to a particular place at a particular time and, making sacrifices, eat together. Fellowship (or communion) seems to be what the Bible would teach us we are made for.
    I thought I was just giving him a little bit of help, by taking him into the city for an event at our college. But there was more at stake. Along the way, we came upon a man in the road; a stranger to me, a neighbor to him, a complicated man: someone he would not let me pass by.
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    Out & About. Sunday, September 30, I’ll be preaching at St. David of Wales on Ector Street in Denton, Texas; the services are at 8 and 10:30 am, and 5 pm. (I love this confluence of names: David, Wales, Ector, Denton. Face it: Texas has it all.)
    October 14, the first “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar, on Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot. We’ll discuss the book (which means participants need to read it in advance) from 6 to 7:30 pm at Incarnation in Dallas. Reservations are not required, but do drop me a line ( ) if you think you’ll be coming—it will help preparations in the room.

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The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."