Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Genesis 4:1-14 and Haitian devastation

Today's (Wed after Baptism of the Lord Sunday) reading is from Gen 4:1-14

As I was reading this, these thoughts came to mind:
-Was this story told as a way to justify the Israelites taking of the land from the Cananites?
-Both Cain and Abel made offerings to God, why was Cain's not accepted?
-Did God instigate this feud between the brothers?

Often when I read these kinds of texts, I think that they are truisms: brothers have altercations violence comes as a result, and in this case there is death. What was behind the events that led to death?  Cain kills Abel out of jealousy?  God had clearly shown favor to Abel and not to Cain, but in the end God's favoritism does not protect, but rather is the impetuous for Cain's deadly action. This passage was written thousands of years ago, about a culture and a people about whom we know very little, so cultural understanding is nearly impossible.

The task of biblical and theological interpretation is to try to make since of current situations, ours and that of others, based on biblical texts and our experiences.  The headlines of this morning were about devastation in the already devastated Haiti.  And in the same hour, I read the story of Cain and Abel.  A story of God's favoritism and God's disfavor.

I can't help but wonder if Haiti, as a collective peoples, can't somehow feel like Cain, wondering if God has any regard for them?   Will they be able to rise up out of the ashes against "Abel"?

But perhaps, Haiti is more like Abel, a humble country whom God favors, but who is being killed by the Cains of the world who have risen up and taken from them, struck them down.  We try to make sense of natural disasters, and God's role in human suffering; but, as the story from Genesis shows, maybe God is not as much of an agent as we humans are..."Your brother's blood is crying out from the ground..."

Even as we try to make sense of it, our response is to be one of compassion. So we give, and we pray:

We pray for Haiti

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the eyes of the world turn to Haiti, let us join our hearts in prayer:
God of compassion
Please watch over the people of Haiti,
And weave out of these terrible  happenings
wonders of goodness and grace.
Surround those who have been affected by tragedy
With a sense of your present love,
And hold them in faith.
Though they are lost in grief,
May they find you and be comforted;
Guide us as a church
To find ways of providing assistance
that heals wounds and provides hope
Help us to remember that when one of your children suffer
We all suffer
Through Jesus Christ who was dead, but lives
and rules this world with you. Amen.
(Adapted from Book of Common Worship)
-Bruce Reyes-Chow, Gradye Parsons and Linda Valentine


  1. I always assumed either Cain's heart wasn't in the right place or he held back the best stuff from the sacrifices. I read this passage again and what I noticed for that first time is that God gives Cain a 2nd chance. Unfortunately Cain doesn't take it but just knowing that God gives second chances is good (Gen 4:6,7).

  2. indeed, it is very good to know God gives second fact maybe God's forgiveness is like ours should be 70x7 (hyperbole of course meaning ALWAYS forgive :)