Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 60, May 12, 2020

States are beginning to reopen after the time of social distancing. For many of us who have not been in the essential lines of service, and we are extremely grateful for and owe a huge debt of gratitude to the ones on the front lines of the pandemic, but for many of us who have not been in essential services it has been a time of “hunkering” down. I have thought more than once that there are similarities in our experience of “sheltering in place” and Noah, his family, and the many animals who all shared safe space on the Ark. The Ark was a place of shelter. The Ark protected the inhabitants from the devastation taking place outside as the floods raged. And as much as the Ark was a place of safety, shelter, and protection, at some point they couldn’t wait to get off the Ark! Can I get an Amen! We’re all ready to get off the Ark and get back to living.

To embark is to get on a boat or a ship, and the related word disembark is to remove from on board a vessel; to put to shore; to land; or to debark. I have had no luck finding the genesis for the words embark and disembark in the biblical story of Noah and the flood, but embark and disembark sure seem to have a lot to do with that long journey of Noah on the Ark. As we begin the process of disembarking from our various “arks” where we have been sheltering in place, there are some important lessons from Genesis we can take with us as we “disembark.”

• It could always be worse. We are somewhere near day 60 of our “embarkment”. It is pretty common knowledge that the rains during the time of Noah lasted forty days and forty nights. Before we grouse and complain that we have had to be in our “arks” for sixty days, remember that it was not the ceasing of the rain that led to their release from the Ark. The forty days of rain left behind a flood that lasted 150 days, and it then took many more months for the earth to dry sufficiently for Noah and his clan to leave the Ark. They actually embarked on the seventeenth day of the second month of Noah’s six hundredth year and they did not disembark until the twenty-seventh day of the second month of Noah’s six hundred and first year. Compared to one year and ten days, our sixty days fall far short of what Noah and his clan endured. It could always be worse.

But the true lesson of the Ark is not that it could always be worse. The true lesson Noah and the Ark teaches us is that it can be better. As Noah and his clan prepare to disembark, there are some symbols that accompany their disembarking that are powerful symbols of a life that can be better.

• The dove is a symbol of peace. The dove is released by Noah to fly out and find if the land has dried up enough to disembark. The first trip the dove could find nowhere to land and returned to the Ark. On the second trip the dove finds a bit of dry land, evidenced by the branch of a tree with which the dove returns. The third trip the dove does not return. The world is now safe and the dove sets about building a new life.

• A primary reason the dove is considered a symbol of peace has to do with the branch the dove returns with on the second trip. The branch is from an olive tree. Have you ever heard the term, “Extending an olive branch”? The world pre-flood was a place that was profoundly broken. That world caused God pain. The dove and the olive branch are symbols of peace and reconciliation. There is a new beginning. There is a new world. There is a new opportunity to live in a right way. Ultimately, we will learn from the bible that the right way to live is to be in a right relationship with God and with our fellow human beings. Will an “olive branch” be something we take with us as we disembark? Is there a relationship that is fractured, a trust that has been broken, words or actions that need forgiving? Might we recognize this as a time in which God is extending an olive branch, offering a chance for each one of us to renew our relationship with the One who is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

• Added to the dove and the olive branch, far and away the most memorable symbol of the story of Noah and the Ark is the rainbow. The rainbow is a sign that we live not under God’s curse but under God’s covenant. “Never again will I curse the ground because of human beings…and never again will I destroy all living creatures…As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:21, 22) Having made these wonderful promises of life, God says, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making…I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:12)

Noah and his clan must have been itching to disembark. After being cooped up for over a year they were ready for some freedom, to break loose of the boundaries that had confined them. But an incredible opportunity is missed if we do not think carefully about how we disembark. The rainbow fills the whole sky with bright and beautiful colors, colors made even more beautiful because they are different colors. Rightly so, the rainbow is a sign of inclusion.

As we disembark…
• May the dove remind us of peace, and the call Jesus gave all his followers to be ones who make peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

• May the olive branch remind us of our call to be ones who work for reconciliation in our world, practicing forgiveness and holding fast to our Lord Jesus Christ, who has torn down every dividing wall of hostility that stands between people.

• May the rainbow remind us that God’s blessing is for the whole world, for all people…may the rainbow remind us that God’s kingdom has a place for all people, as the first chapter in Genesis greets us with the good news that we are all created in the image of God…and may the rainbow remind us all of God’s love for this world, of God’s love for all the people of this world. “For God so loved the world he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16)As the call comes for us to disembark, to reenter this world, may we find ourselves filled with wonder and awe, filled with a great sense of responsibility, and filled with a great sense of joy that God has once again entrusted us with a new beginning. O Lord help us to use this new beginning as an opportunity to spread your light and your love into a world desperately seeking to find healing and hope.

With the love of Christ,