Many of us remember the Flood of 1993. During Fair St. Louis, we walked near the water – already coming up the steps to the Arch!
As large amounts of rain have fallen in the St. Louis area this Spring, the Mississippi River has collected many droplets from the showers. According to a St. Louis Post Dispatch article, the Coast Guard announced that the river was closed to vessel traffic. Crossing the Mississippi in recent weeks has reminded me of water’s force. Apparently 2019 waters may be only 5 1⁄2 feet less than the Flood of 1993.
What I’ve found interesting is that the Mississippi River in other parts of this country seems like another river altogether. As I was in Minneapolis for the Festival of Homiletics, I stayed with friends who lived in Anoka, Minnesota. Anoka sits on the Mississippi River near the head of navigation where larger-size ships can begin to travel. I didn’t realize this on my first night in town, and as I crossed the Mississippi for the second time that day and in a much different location, I got excited. “That’s the Mississippi?” I said to my seminary friend. I suppose I hadn’t though about what the river would look like outside of the central Midwest. Granted, like us, the river is still a bit too high.
On my last full day in Minnesota, we walked around the park which sat on the Mississippi. The park was tranquil. The Rum River branched off the Mississippi where the park was located. People were sitting around there fishing. The bridges are smaller. The water traffic was calmer. The Upper Mississippi River was a much different environment than I was used to.
This brought about a couple of items of reflection. First of all, experiencing the less-Mighty Mississippi River is a reminder of the differences in context. If I mention the Mississippi River here in the Greater St. Louis Area, we will think of a wider river with barges traveling upstream. If I mention the Mississippi River in Minnesota, the river will be accompanied by more-tranquil parks. Likewise, I believe that God requires us to think about our context. Where we live as well as our race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc. influences how we think. Sometimes God needs us to know that there is another way of being a Mississippi River out there just like there are other ways of being God’s children in our world!
Secondly, no matter how different various sections of the Mississippi River appear, there is only one Mississippi River. Like the Vine and Branches from John 15, we abide with God and with one another. Our connection is strong like the Mighty Mississippi.
Summer is a wonderful time to remove ourselves from our own contexts and travel to other places or have conversations with people who may not be from our area. How will we look beyond our own context to see God’s children who abide in other contexts? How will we see that we are all connected?
I look forward to reporting back about the UCC’s biannual General Synod. Later this month I will be attending the event – seeing how members of the UCC are the church across our country and beyond! We are different people from difference churches from various parts of the United States, but we are connected by the Great Vine and Branches – the Christ in our midst.