Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent People: Waiting for The God Who Remembers

As I heard pointed out in a recent sermon, we tend to emphasize the "high points" when rehearsing Noah's story…the getting on and off of the ark…while largely ignoring the passage of time and the happenings - or non-happenings - between those bookend events.  And yet, the getting on and off comprise only a fraction of the time encompassed by this story!  We tend to think of the in -between time in terms of 40 days and nights of rain when, in reality, a little more than a YEAR passed from the time the ark door was closed and reopened.

Imagine what that year must have been like!  It appears that, while God tells Noah ahead of time that he will send rain for 40 days and nights, he does not reveal that Noah will be in limbo for an additional 300+ days!  WE have the end of the story, but Noah didn't!  There he was, stuck inside this boat (imagine the WORK and the STENCH!!!), while the world as he knew it, vanished.  He watches, weak and helpless, as God reverses his creative act of separating the waters, opening both the fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky!  Those waters prevail and prevail and prevail while every vestige of life is blotted out.  Gone.  His earthly home has been unmade.

At the beginning, I'm sure Noah could still see remnants of the world he knew, and yet I also imagine he saw destruction and death all around.  At some point, all Noah can see is water.  All the identifying markers…the signposts of creation and life...are buried, leaving him without orientation even.  And so he waits.  And waits.  And waits.  He apparently waits in silence with no particular direction or explanation from God other than the promise he was given before he entered the ark: "I will establish my covenant with you."  But Noah can't see evidence of that covenant being kept from inside the ark, hemmed in by death.  He had to believe that God would come and act, making good on his promise.    

It is easy for us to think of the ark as a refuge…a deliverance from judgement…God rescuing his own.   And it WAS!  Yet I suspect that it didn't always seem so to Noah at the time - in the midst of the trouble and uncertainty and waiting - just as our own passage through prevailing waters seems, at times, more like abandonment than a rescue mission!   How desperately Noah must have longed for God to come and restore life and order…to set things right! 

And he does come.  God remembers Noah.  And then...he gives the rainbow as a reminder to HIMSELF of the covenant he is making with Noah and the whole earth.  While we wait for his coming and the ultimate renewal of creation, we, like Noah, must hold onto the promise and trust him to guide the future as he has the past.  We, like Noah, don't always see the acts of God - the opening and closing of the fountains of the deep…the restraining of the floodgates of the sky...the sending of the wind to disperse the waters - but we too must believe that he REMEMBERS and he ACTS on behalf of his people.  He is perpetually saving us and he can be trusted.  He cannot forget us…we are graven on the palm of his hand.

May God grant us the faith to wait well, trusting him to remember us and be true his own word.

"When man is not in danger, he regards faith as a trivial thing, but when, as Noah, he for a long time is driven to and fro by the waves, it may seem to him as if God has completely forgotten him. Therefore, it is no idle talk when the Holy Spirit tells us that GOD REMEMBERED NOAH." --Luther HT: Ryan Laughlin

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