The Fourth Sunday after Trinity - Reflection

'Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh […] Make yourself an ark of cypress wood’ Genesis 6:9,13-14

Brothers and sisters, I don’t know whether you’re a football fan or not but whatever your thoughts on the ‘beautiful game’ it won’t have passed you by that there is a major international tournament on, and England have made it through to the knock-out stages. England are now surrounded by amazing teams with the accolades and trophies to back them up. It would be easy for the English players to lose their heads; to look outside their team, outside their camp, and start to become overwhelmed. And what the manager will be saying to them, I imagine, will be something along the lines of: focus on me, trust the team, don’t look out there at the monsters of Ronaldo or Lukaku, look instead in here at our camp and trust me to show you the way through. I think this feeling of panic and the lack of confidence looking at the world can bring is easy for us to understand, because, for the past year and a half WE have been feeling just like those young English players, as we look at the pandemic. Likewise, as we read Genesis 6-9 we might pick up that there was a similar feeling inside the ark. And what the writer of the Scriptures points us to, in the midst of a catastrophe - whether football, pandemic or flood - is God, His character, and His purposes. So, let’s dive in to this world famous story, and find at its heart the hope for all occasions.

After the stories of the Fall, and then Cain and Abel, humanity is going down hill fast; each generation seems to be getting worse. Indeed, it gets so bad by the beginning of Chapter 6 that the author can say: ‘The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time’. God’s heart breaks for His creation as He looks at the mess made by humanity. Pushing Him aside and trying to go their own way has only made it hellish for them and for the whole created order. Things have gotten so bad that in chapter 6 verse13 God tells Noah: ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh’. Anyone who has ever created anything has had moments like this when what you had dreamed of, and what you had lovingly created, has turned out so badly that the only way you can see to go is to rip it up and start again. A bleak and terrible conclusion to come to, but even amidst this terrible verdict we can see hope begin to break through.

There is a danger in reading these stories and focussing on human characters for they are broken and cannot saved themselves. And that is why the writer wants us look elsewhere to focus on the main character, the One who the book of Genesis is really about. IF we allow our focus to switch to the main character, well it is there we find hope, for that character is, of course, God. God, it turns out, holds an expectation for His world, and He will not abandon it. What does this God do when the world seems dark and there is seemingly no hope? God does what He always does, He sends a rescue operation. God finds the one righteous person who is left, and works through him to save the world (6:9). In this dismal story of pain, there is one who embodies a new possibility. However, this new possibility can only be realised if God kneels down and gets His hands dirty. And what we learn about the God of Israel in this story, is that to save His world, this God is prepared to do just that. The creation marred by human sin needs to be washed clean, and so down came the rains;  but not before God had ensured a rescue plan, to save those people who followed Him, and of course, the rest of creation. Through the one righteous man, God would save His people, and for those 40 days - and for the 150 days which followed - the ark kept God’s people - and the rest of God’s creation - safe amidst the storms.

Now, let's cast our eyes forward from Noah’s time to ours so that we can we see that the way God operated then was just a foreshadowing of the way God had planned to save the whole world. For what God did in Noah, He did more completely and more finally in Jesus. God works again through the One righteous man. God again rolls up His sleeves and gets dirty in the muck as He comes - this time Himself - as a baby born in a manager. Noah could only save a few, but Jesus came to save many. Noah built an ark to survive 190 days, but Jesus builds an ark to survive countless centuries. And the ark which Jesus built was, of course, His Church. The Church is the rescue craft into which God calls all those who would follow Him to enter, so that they might survive the storms of life. And just as it was true back then, that the ark of Noah was the only way for them to be saved, so the ark of the Church of Christ is the only way for us to be saved. If we decide to give up on the ark of the Church because she leaks a little, or because some of the animals we share with smell a little and make mistakes we will, all too quickly, find that we are swept away by the tides. If we focus too much on the storms outside we will give up and despair! If we focus too much on the annoying habits of those on the boat with us, we will give up in frustration and rage! The only way to keep our head is to focus where the author of Genesis would have us focus: not upon the storms, not upon the other minor characters round about us, but on the main character who never gives up on us, and never will. If our focus is on God —and on His Son Jesus Christ, the One perfect rescuer— then we will never be distracted by the storms of life, and never put off by the broken characters all around us. Amen. (from Fr. Mike).