Sermon 9-20-2015; ‘Noah’
No one can say that scripture is boring. Not if you read the early chapters of Genesis! God makes the world and destroys in within eight chapters. That’s the first twelve pages of my Bible! God made everything in all creation and pronounced it ‘good’. Within a short time, it’s not so good anymore. Here’s the naked truth… Humankind, like Adam and Eve, have chosen to find wisdom and knowing in their own way, rather than experiencing it through their companionship and trust of God. By the time we reach Genesis, chapter 6, we read that “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.’
This is the part of the Noah’s Ark story that we don’t often hear. We didn’t sing it this morning in the Children’s Song [Arky, Arky]. We don’t see it on the walls of Children’s Nurseries. But it’s a part of the story. Many flood stories from ancient times and places… the story of Noah is not new. What does this story teach us today?
One person can really make a difference. Is that person you? Are you Noah to your family, to your Meeting, to your street or neighborhood? Are you Noah to your company? To your community? To your world – however far that extends? In all of creation, God could find only one person who could make a difference – Noah found favor with God. Noah walked with God. Noah paced himself with God’s steps. Noah enjoyed God’s companionship. Noah moved with God – not ahead of God, but with God. Are you Noah?
By the time of Noah, all the earth was corrupt. It was filled with violence. And God told Noah he would destroy it. The Hebrew word for corrupt – ‘shachath’ – is the same word for destroy. ‘Because of their shachat, I will shachat.’ The punishment fits the crime. The whole world for the whole world. God will allow humanity to endure the consequences of their own choices.
Yesterday was my grandson’s birthday. Benjamin turned 5 years old. When I called and spoke to his dad, Seth told me they were struggling with celebrating and disciplining – all at the same time. A few days before, Ben had taken off running – escaping his parents by at least a block or so, and scared them to death. He has no fear, no restraint – this little man! Seth told me they were shaping his punishment to teach him – to hold him accountable. In the Noah story, humankind had taken off running from God, and now, finally, with every inclination only evil, with violence and corruption, with creation untended and violated, they would be held accountable.
God remembered Noah. God knew Noah. God came to Noah, and told him of God’s plan and promise. Well before the rains came, Noah knew. And Noah did just as God commanded him. He built an ark. He put his family inside – but not just his family. Noah carried the family of creation. Every animal, every creeping thing, every bird, everything that stirs on the earth went into the ark. When Scott Russell Sanders spoke here Friday evening, he reminded us that all living things – not just some – were taken into Noah’s ark. If it was in the world, God had wanted it in the world, and God wanted it to continue. Noah was not given discretion to make choices of what would be included, and what not to take. God wanted it all there. Sanders spoke of the ark as the container that preserved everything – all things were valued – through troubled times. You never know what you might need when you land on solid ground again.
The ark lands safely, once the flood waters subside, and God speaks to Noah again. Humankind may never change – we may never honor God as was intended, but God has changed. God’s heart has changed. God makes a promise to Noah, and to all of us, that there will never be ‘shachath’ again – no flood will destroy the earth and all creation. No one can deny our repeated offense to God against creation… the legitimate concern for pollution, for the destruction of land, the misuse of water, the rising temperature of the earth… God must be grieving again. But God’s promise prevails. The waters of the heavens and earth will remain separated, as they were at the first creation. God intended re-creation of the world, once the ark landed, moves on.
One person makes a difference. One curator, one keeper, of creation. One commitment to the wellbeing of creation, in all its forms. One person who will stand against violence – against corruption. One person who converses with God – who walks with God – who hears and pays attention to what God is thinking, doing, and hoping for God’s world – for us. One Noah.
Oh that our Meeting could be Noah for the world. One Meeting, resolved to work together as stewards of creation – caring for creation concerns in our own city. Known for our keeping of creation. A ‘green team’ - wearing our First Friends tee-shirts, marked as those who’ve come from the ark, working together side by side, cleaning waterways, picking up litter, finding ways to walk with God, in and for creation.
The American author, Edward Everett Hale once said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Noah was only one person. He was the only one. One person can make a difference. Is that person you? One person can make a difference. That person is you.