February 21, 2021 - 1 Lent - Deacon Deborah Drake
Noah was a man who was in good relationship with God. While Noah was busy tending his land and raising his family, God spoke with Noah and told him the earth was about to be destroyed so God instructed Noah to build an ark or what we have come to think of as a very large boat. The word Ark doesn’t necessarily mean boat but actually refers to a place of shelter or safety. Noah, along with his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law, entered the Ark as God caused waters to flood the earth. The Bible records the measurements of the ark in cubits. The ark is estimated at about 1.5 million cubic feet, about a third of the volume of the Titanic. The ark also held two of every kind of animal. According to ark measurements, it had about as much space as 250 railroad stock cars, which some folks have calculated can hold between 20,000 and 40,000 animals roughly the size of sheep. There were probably about eight humans on the ark and the flood lasted for about a year. Imagine the uncertainty of living in this ark for a year and seeing the entire land covered in water and no other human beings in sight.
What did these eight people talk about, how did they keep up their good mental and physical health? What did they think the future looked like for them? They did not have television nor internet. How did they keep their trust in the goodness and mercy of God who seemed to be bringing devastation upon the earth?
Being held up in the ark for at least a year brought them into a type of wilderness and we are told after the flood God makes a covenant with Noah. “ I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
We also read in the Bible of other covenants God made with humankind. The Israelites were freed from the slavery of Egypt and assured of the love of God but they wandered in the desert a very long time before securing the land where they would settle. The Israelites struggled to hold onto the belief in God’s covenant with them when they were in the wilderness. Many years of learning to trust that they were loved by God and in spite of hardships God would never abandon them. When things were out of their control in the desert and there was no guarantee of food or safety or outcome, would they believe in the God who promised to give what they needed, to keep them safe and bring them to a new homeland? The Israelites also had an Ark but it was not an ark like Noah’s but a wooden chest which contained the tablets of the commandments and some other items, it was carried by the Israelites on their wanderings in the wilderness.
The Ark was seen as a covenant of the physical manifestation of God’s presence and supreme power. It was the sign that God was present and loved the people.
Today, in the gospel reading we are told Jesus is assured of the love of God and that God is well pleased with him but he too has to enter the desert or a place of wilderness for a while. Jesus teaches us about a covenant with God in that we love God and we love one another.
We are now in a type of wilderness and we need to be reminded God is ever present, pleased with us and loves us.
We need to keep trying to hold on to a belief that our identity is also, like Jesus, entwined in God’s Love. That we are also loved and that God is also pleased with us – not because we get more things right than we get wrong but because we belong to God and that is the covenant God wants to have with us. The main principle underlying a covenant is 'reconciliation to God' and the season of Lent walks us through the journey of self- reflection and to let go of anything that keeps us from reconciliation to God.
The wilderness we are now experiencing is new territory for us. In the wilderness the old structures, things we left behind, no longer contain, support, or define our life. It is not, however, uncharted territory.
We go to the wilderness with the knowledge others have been in the wilderness before us and with confidence that Jesus has gone before us.
In the wilderness we let go of our illusions of self-sufficiency and surrender to God, our helplessness opens us to God’s grace, and our guilt is overcome by God’s compassion.
That is the way through the wildernesses of life. Keep repeating to ourselves “I am a beloved child of God. With me God is well pleased.” Let that become our wilderness and Lenten mantra.
Let those words fill our minds, cross our lips, and occupy our hearts. The truth of those words is in the covenant we have with God.
We go through the whole bible and you see that God made a covenant with Adam and Eve, Abraham, and others. Now God in the New Covenant says I will take my law and I will write in on your heart. No longer on tablets of stone, but I will write it on your heart. I will be your God, you will be my people. And I will forgive your sins and remember them no more." Amen.