Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Noah's Ark take three


Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.  Genesis 7:1-4


Whoa...wait, what is this about seven pairs of animals??  That is not the song I learned in Sunday School where, "The animals they came on...they came on by two-ies, two-ies.  The animals they came on...they came on by two-ies, two-ies...elephants and kangaroo-ies, raooies. Children of the Lord."

Sorry about that...got carried away there.

But clearly there is a disconnect between our collective memories where the animals come on the ark two by two and this passage.  Most of us grew up thinking that Noah took just two elephants, mosquitoes, mice, moose, etc.  No more, no less.  Actually later on in verses 9 and 15 we have God saying for the animals to come on two by two, male and female.  But we have forgotten that God said to take seven pairs of each animal.

In some ways this is just practical.  The likelihood that every single animal would survive the boat ride is low. All living beings share in common our mortality.  This body that carries us, and all living creatures, around is susceptible to illness.  And when you are in the cramped confines of a boat, all breathing the same air, one sneeze and that is all she wrote.  

Having just stepped off my first cruise I am acutely aware of this.  One of the "souvenirs" I brought home was a head cold.  Try as I may to bathe in hand sanitizer and not touch my hands to my face every minute of the cruise, I still got sick.  I can only imagine what kinds of illness went around the ark for those forty days.

I said in my last post that the church is like Noah's Ark and sure it is not all roses/rainbows on the inside all the time, but it does beat getting stuck out in the rain.  But life on the inside does expose us to all our humanness, all our blessedness and brokenness.  Unfortunately sometimes we've been lead to believe that the church is some kind of Utopia.  The church should never fight.  The church should never disagree.  Every day we should just sit around singing "Kumbaya while drinking a Coke-a-Cola.

But let's face it, that is not real life.  And it would only be playing/pretending to be the church if we never disagree with each other...if we never feel tension.  In fact, when people say that the church and Christian are "hypocrites" what they are actually saying is that we are "acting".  That is the most original/Greek meaning of being a hypocrite...it was simply an actor.  Sometimes...truth be told...we do act in church.  We play the part with our nice clothes and say the nice words about love.  Sometimes...truth be told...we need to act as a way to practice actually living that way.

Might there be something more too?  Our choir director recently reminded me of one of my favorite books by Barbara Brown Taylor called "Leaving Church".  I stumbled across this wisdom, "Gradually I remembered what I had known all along, which is that church is not a stopping place but a starting place for discerning God's presence in this world.  By offering people a place where they may engage the steady practice of listening to divine words and celebrating divine sacraments, church can help people gain a feel for how God shows up...that way, when they leave church, they no more leave God than God leaves them.  They simply carry what they have learned into the wide, wide world, where there is a crying need fore people who will recognize the holiness in things and hold them up to God."

The church is not a place of perfection...in fact it is a place where we share our best and our worse parts of ourselves with each other.  It is a place where sometimes we need to go along to get along.  It is an ark where we come together, mingle together, and find ourselves in the messy middle of life on this planet.  I am glad Noah brought several pairs...seven pairs of each animals...because that added to the diversity and crowded-ness and realness of life on the ark.  And when you get down to it...I would rather share this with others than try to swim against the current of life alone.

May the traces of God's grace be found in sharing your life with others...both with the joy and frustrations that sharing can bring.

Blessings ~

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