I have a birthday card on the windowsill in my study which was sent to me by parishioners on my birthday a couple of years ago (60 is unkindly mentioned inside!) It is fun – a cartoon of Noah’s Ark sinking into the ocean by the stern as rain pours from the sky, whilst on the bow Noah is saying to one of his sons, ‘I knew the woodpeckers were a mistake.’ I love it!
This vivid story which is very much part of our faith history and very ancient. In some respects it resembles others from different cultures in the ancient Middle East, most notably the story of Gilgamesh from the Sumerian and Babylonian cultures. The Biblical account however talks not of monsters or great battles between mortals and gods but of relationship – primarily between Noah – a righteous man and his family – and the creator God. It’s a complexed work – two accounts woven together at some stage (probably by priestly scribes long after the original oral account itself was written down).
The story of Noah is not about a vengeful God, but about the journey of faith. The ark itself represents faith, and the Hebrew word is the same as that used for the basket in which Moses is cast into the waters as a baby. He becomes the leader of his people from slavery to freedom – again, a faith journey. The Gospels writers also use the boats of the disciples as allusions to faith expressed in the Church.
In this age in which we live, faith (particularly in the West) may be under pressure as never before, yet the understanding of the self-giving love of God revealed in Jesus Christ, which we are called to display within our own lives, has never been needed as much as it is now.
The institutional Church has much to be ashamed of through history, but we should never forget that WE are the Church – members of the Body of Christ. We all have a vocation to reveal Jesus Christ in our lives to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth.