6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7 and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; 9 but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; 11 and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more.
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done."
So, when all is said and done, what is the bottom line or take away message of Noah's Ark? I am not sure I can answer that question in short, succinct way. I think there are a few important ideas that are roaming around my mind as we close off this series of blog posts.
1). Noah's persistence and patience ~ When I think about what Noah went through: the people who thought he was crazy or the people who wanted to come into the ark and he would not allow, it causes me to think about my own relationships. I think about people who say hurtful things or people who I have said hurtful things to. Human relationships are messy. Sometimes what creates the mess is that we need to do something that we feel compelled to do and others don't understand...or vice versa. Our relationships at once are the most incredible blessing, but sometimes the ties that bind rub us the wrong way. Noah was given a task to do, he did so with a great deal of prayer, persistence and patience. Even when the dove came back empty footed, Noah kept on keeping on. I guess he had no other choice. But still, how many of us lose heart after a few days (or minutes) when God does not respond to our prayerful requests on our time table? Yet, this message of God's time and our time is an important one, especially in Genesis. God promises Abram and Sarai (their original names) a child...then it takes a loooooooong time for Isaac to be born. Joseph dreams a dream and it takes a looooooooong time for those dreams to come true. For so many people in Genesis, things don't happen at the pace of twitter...they happen at a snail's pace. Noah kicks off this important theme and one I think we need to hear, especially in the forty days of Lent.
2). God is willing to change God's mind. We get to the end of Noah's ark and God essentially says, "Perhaps that was not the best decision I made." We don't like to think of God changing God's mind. We like God to be confident and certain all the time. But if relationships matter to God and humans are as fickle as we know we can be...then over the course of time it means our choices will influence God and even change what God might do or where God might nudge us to go. I think this is vital today. The Noah narrative points to an important tenant of Process Theology, which essentially says our temporal or human actions can impact God. While the church has not always talked about this, we know this to be true about relationships in general. If my wife says something that tickles my funny bone, I laugh. If she says something that hurts, I cry. Why would we think our relationship with God is less dynamic and changing than our human relationships? The ending of Noah gives some support to this understanding.
Finally, one of the members at the church sent me a top eleven lessons for Noah's Ark and it is a fitting end to these posts:
TWO: Remember that we are all in the same boat!
THREE: Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark .
FOUR: Stay fit. When you're 60 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
FIVE: Don't listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
SIX: Build your future on high ground.
SEVEN: For safety's sake, travel in pairs.
EIGHT: Speed isn't always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.
NINE: When you're stressed, float awhile.
TEN: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
ELEVEN: No matter the storm, when you are with God, there's always a rainbow waiting
I pray these forty days of Lent have filled you with the presence of God. As we gather around the Last Supper table, the cross and eventually enter the garden of the empty tomb, may we know that God is always with us...no matter where we are or who we are.
Blessings and peace to you ~