Our Old Testament reading from Genesis 8:1-19 is part of a strange long story, four whole chapters of Genesis taken up by the story of a man with a big boat full of animals. We know the story well, we had it read to us as a child, we can remember the pictures in the book, we know the song, we live it and think of dear old Noah each time we see a rainbow! And oh so many rainbows at the moment as they decorate our windows and houses as we pray for God’s care on those who care for us.
It does not start well though as a story, it starts a terrible flood, a flood that is to wipe out all of mankind because they have upset God because he is angry with them. He has had enough! How can a loving creator God, this God who would create the universe with strokes of his hand, with words from his mouth then destroy it?
The trouble with Noah and the Ark is that too many people have spent a little bit too long trying to find the place in history where the big flood actually happened. The flood account is so much more than history, and so much more than a story, it is an account of the creation all over again, it is a piece of literary genius that reveals to us a little more of who we are, a little more of who God is and much more of the faithfulness of God all wrapped up in that pivotal verse: But God remembered Noah
Noah and the Ark is a story not of destruction but a story of salvation. A story of the chaos of the water, a story of the rise and fall of the tide, a story where Noah finds the Ark floating on top born up by God and then in a place of safety as the waters recede.
As we experience the current chaos of the waters of COVID19, the rise and fall of the tides of death and disease, as we are swept by the waters of isolation and lockdown we like Noah can find ourselves floating on top of them, born up by God. He who brings order out of Chaos, he who stills the storm.
This is a story of salvation, it may look like chaos and disaster, but it moves to being held up, it moves to being delivered, it moves to salvation.
In the light of our Christian Faith and understanding of this extraordinary Hebrew scripture we see the Cross of Jesus writ large in the story of Noah, the chaos of the waves, the chaos of crucifixion, and yet the cross like the waves bears us up, the cross like the waves delivers us the cross gives way to the empty tomb like the waters gave way to dry land.
At the beginning of our reading we were met with the words “but God remembered Noah” The word remember makes you wonder of God had forgotten Noah, but it is an unfortunate translation the Hebrew word zakar which is better translated as “was mindful of” Noah had never been forgotten, God was always mindful of him. He may have felt forgotten, but was always born up, he was after all in the boat not being consumed by the waves!
When you see a rainbow either in the sky or painted in your neighbours window remember this that God remembered Noah. He loves us and is there to hold us all up in this terrible storm – the peak has passed and if we like Noah listen and wait for the right time and the right moment he the waters will become dry land.
It is God’s mindfulness of Noah that we must remember in these difficult days.
The story of the flood stands at the very beginning of the bible to remind us that through everything God is faithful, though every thing God is trustworthy, through every thing we are his and he is ours.
I leave you with a hymn that reminds us of that faithfulness:
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Your friend and Vicar