Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Noah's Ark: Really Not for Children
A child asks his Grandfather, "Grandpa, were you in the ark?"
He chuckled and replied, "Well, no I wasn't."
There was a pause, and the child looked up at him quizzically and asked, "Then why weren't you drowned?"
We always think of Noah’s Ark as a children’s story.
Many Sunday school lessons, VBS curriculums, and Christian Education programs have been about Noah’s Ark.
I suppose it is because there are animals involved and we think that the kids will love animals.
However, the story of Noah’s Ark is not really a children’s story.
It is a complicated story.
It is about God wiping out all of creation, men, women, children, all the animals, except Noah his family and two of every kind of animal.
It is about a God who is angry and takes that anger out on a sinful world.
I am not sure that is the image that we want children to come away with of God.
To understand sin and it’s complications we need a faith that is more mature than what kids have at this point.
Not only that but for our modern ears the story is hard to believe, but also the idea that forty days of rain floods the entire earth is a hard sell.
The idea that two of every living creature got onto the Ark is another hard thing to believe.
I saw a comedy special on HBO by Ricky Gervis he had a whole part of his comedy act where he mocked the story of Noah’s Ark from a book he had as a child.
So if this is not a children’s story, and it is a hard sell among people of the modern world, what are we to say this morning about Noah’s Ark?
I think that to start we all have to come at this story with new perspective.
We have to throw off our earlier notions of what we learned as Children.
Perhaps it is the hardest thing to do as an adult is to unlearn what we have learned.
To make the transition from the faith of Sunday school to the faith of someone who is an adult.
Our experiences show us that the world is complicated and the way our faith interacts with that world is equally complex.
It is not helpful with Noah’s Ark to try and explain in it in scientific or historical terms.
When we do this we get lost in the minutia of detail, and we miss out on the magic that really is the Noah’s Ark.
In other words, whether you think this story is an historical fact or not, is not the point.
What matters most is what the story is telling us about God and our relationship to God.
How can this story help us live today and make sense of the world around us?
It is really a problem that we have with our faith in general.
We want the Bible to confirm for us our preconceived notions of things, instead of allowing it to change us, and make us see things from God’s perspective.
We want the Bible to go along with our thoughts on how God should be.
In fact, in our lives this is often a problem too.
We think that God should do the things that we want God to do.
We demand that God act in a way that we think the world should work.
The good people should get rewarded for their good behavior, and bad people should be punished for their bad behavior.
The story of Noah’s Ark is wonderful because it does not conform into a nice neat box.
It starts with God being brokenhearted over the sin in His creation.
Instead of saying that it is good, as God did in the Genesis account of creation, God is sorry that he ever created human beings and decides to wipe them out, except Noah and his family.
So we might think ok there it is God wipes out the wicked and saves the righteous.
But then something amazing happens, God changes God’s mind.
Consider that God makes this covenant, at the end of the story, although he knows that “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth” (back in Chapter 8)
The covenant that God makes is despite our inclinations God has promised to care for and love us.
That includes those who we deem evil.
It is stunning really.
In our reading from 1 Peter he interrupts the story of Noah and Jesus to say that Jesus went and witnessed to the evil people that God destroyed in the flood.
That God cared about even those evil people enough to not let the stay lost for eternity.
That God through water now saves us.
Water that God used to destroy has become the chosen vehicle of God’s saving grace.
“And Baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you.”
This is hard to comprehend, even for us adults.
I am not sure how we would think a child could grasp it.
I hear this all the time from people.
How can my loved one be suffering when there are so many bad people in the world who deserve it more?
That assumption is built on an unbiblical principle.
That God deals with sin by killing evil people.
The Biblical witness is much more complicated than this oversimplification.
The Biblical witness shows a God deeply wounded and hurt by our sin, but a God who is patient slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.
The Biblical witness shows a God adept at working with human sin to bring about change.
It is actually a beautiful thing.
Because it says that no matter what we do, no matter who we are God will love us until we are found, whole, healed, and put back together.
The truth is that world is a harsh.
It is unfair and unjust.
There are lots of bad things happening all around us, all the time.
I am not trying to be downer here I am just stating what you all already know.
And the adult question we have to work through is where is God in all of it?
What is God’s role in our lives?
Is God that old man on the cloud protecting the good and punishing the bad?
Or is God something more to us?
When we grow in our faith we realize God is something more.
God is a God who makes covenants with us.
God comes to us despite our inclination to evil.
Despite what the world is God has promised to forgive and love.
And that is how God changes the world not through destroying everything evil, but loving it and forgiving it.
For me in my faith journey this is how God has interrupted my life by love and forgiveness.
I think of what I could have been, who I am now, and what I am hoping to be.
It is because of God’s love that I was not totally lost in my wild youth, It is because of God’s forgiveness that I can go about everyday with boldness, and because I know that God is not done with me I have hope for the future.
In this season of lent let us remember that covenant so that we can see God trying to win us over with love and forgiveness.
God is interrupting our lives to say that we are not lost but found in God’s grace.
There used to be a day when the church won people over with fear and intimidation.
Either you do this or else...God will get you.
But this morning let us look at the Noah’s Ark story and see a God who made a covenant of love and forgiveness with us in the saving waters of our Baptism that has nothing to do with how we act.
Let us remember that the covenant is still continues this day through Christ who suffered once and for all for our sins.
And may you live everyday in the saving waters of Baptism knowing of God’s love and forgiveness.