Noah’s ark is probably the most popular story in the Bible in terms of young children’s products. I’ve seen rainbows, arks, and cute animals on crib mobiles, nursery wallpaper, bedsheets, onesies, toys, and books. There’s even a Baby Einstein’s Baby Noah DVD. And, these are “secular” products, no faith necessary.
Noah’s Ark: Not a Children’s Story
However, as we read the first Narrative Lectionary passage for the 2018-2019 program year, you will see that this is not a G-rated story. Noah’s ark is the story of violence and wickedness, terror and destruction. This is a story about the worst things on the news: Murder, theft, assault, rape, oppression, torture. The crimes against humanity and God are not listed, but you know the list must be lengthy. And then, imagine all the images you have seen of hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, fires, and earthquakes. This story dwarfs them all with almost total destruction, the death of pretty much 99.9999% of humanity. This is a description of a class-A extinction event. The judgment of God. It might sound nice to say that God wiped the slate clean, so creation could start again, but that’s a euphemism of the highest order.
Noah’s Ark: A Story
The second important thing to keep in mind as you read this is that Noah’s Ark is a story. It has characters, a setting, a plot, a problem, a solution, a resolution.
- Setting: The entire earth
- Characters: God, humanity, Noah and his family
- Problem: God’s good creation has devolved into unending violence and wickedness.
- Solution: God will send a flood to destroy almost all life on earth, saving only one family and a representation of the natural world.
- Resolution: God promises to never do that again.
This is a story that has been preserved for at least a millennium and a half. It was told for a reason. In my opinion, time spent arguing whether the events in this story really happened is wasted. A story is a story whether it happened or not.
Noah’s Ark: The Point
You can, and should, reflect on this story and determine for yourself what the point is. For me, thanks to my Lutheran education, this is a story about law and gospel, judgment and grace. God measures humanity by even the most basic law (respect others, I assume) and we are found wanting. By a lot. And, the blood of the victims cries out to God (Genesis 4:10). Our actions have consequences.
God’s judgment is grounded solely in God’s love, for it is because of God’s love for creation that God even cares what we do to ourselves and others. God’s love is not finished with creation yet, so a ray of hope peeks through the storm clouds. Creation is preserved by God’s grace. More grace and hope are offered at the end of this story, as God promises not to do this sort of wholesale judgment again, “as long as the earth endures” (Genesis 8:22). God promises, and we have hope. No amount of sin or violence can overpower God’s grace.
A Story for Repentance
As we begin the Narrative Lectionary (and perhaps your program year), we are faced with a story of destruction and re-creation. This is a story that teaches us that God takes sin seriously, their sin and our sin. This story challenges us to look within ourselves and our communities for the “wickedness” that causes God’s heart to hurt. In our free resource this week, we are including two pieces of interactive liturgy, Confession & Offering. Not normally related, these Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship activities are connected by a heart. Designed for use within a worship service, this two-part activity can be adapted for a classroom or small group setting.
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
2018-2019 (NL Year 1) faith formation materials are now available for purchase! Fall and Winter lessons can be downloaded right away, and Spring lessons are coming soon.
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!
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