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And the moon shall turn to blood

It is winter time here. It’s dry, it has not rained since around the middle of May and we don’t expect it to rain until late October or early November. It’s been an odd year. Cold winds and cloud cover have made it really uncomfortably chilly for days on end. Some days the temperature has not risen much above 18 degrees Celsius and has fallen to about 7 or 8 degrees around dawn.

Friday 27th July was a more usual dry season day: clear, warm during the day and no cloud cover that night. We even got off sight for a relaxing day over at Rokana Sailing and Boating Club. It sounds posh, and it is aimed at the wealthier section of the community.

Set beside a large artificial lake created by a dam to serve the needs of one of the local mines, it provides a space for people to do all those messing about in boats things. We don’t own a boat, but it does have a swimming pool and lots of green space. It also has a small game park, with the usual collection of buck and Zebra. On a weekday it is quiet, often we are the only people, apart from the employees, around the place. It’s a place to relax and get a break. We ate, walked, watched birds and just soaked up the quiet and the lapping of the water.

Partial eclipse of the moon from our garden

We came home just about

sunset and off-loaded the car. I went out just after dark for one final check and to lock up, looked up at the sky, and the moon had turned to blood.

It rose just after sunset, already a deep vivid orange. By late evening it was a deep rusty red of dried blood. In inexorable silence the moon seemed to be slowly consumed by the shadow, its colour the product of some fearful violence, with Mars, the god of war, keeping it close company.

In the ancient world an eclipse was often a portent of some important, or dreadful, event. In the Scriptures the moon turning to blood a sign of the Apocalypse. Our modern minds, shaped by rationalist explanations, are less swayed by these fears, but there is still something about an eclipse which drowns out the rational in awe tinged with fear.

Chill winter winds in Africa, heat waves in Europe and North America, Ireland nearly as dry as Zambia, fires in Greece followed by floods and the moon turning to blood are all events within creation. They can indeed be fully explained by appeal to processes at work in the natural world. They also remind us that creation is not just a backdrop, a well decorated stage for the performance of our own lives or the working out of "the drama of our salvation". We cannot do without its fragile beauty, it is part of us and we of it.

All creation awaits God’s redemption and we will live in the harmony of God within the new creation of which we will be a part. In the meantime, we are reminded that God created the human and put them in the Garden to keep it and till it, to care and to manage, not to consume and destroy.

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