Noah’s Ark is actually a pretty terrifying story.
While it is often the faire of Vacation Bible School, it has a dark, deep truth hidden in it.
In between the zebras and anteaters is a shift in the understanding of God’s relationship to creation and the Israelites.
The world God created has gone bad.
God could saw people doing unspeakable things to each other. He saw corruption and violence all across the land.
Like a baker who cannot get the dough to cooperate, he wants to throw it away start again.
So the whole world was wiped away.
God destroyed with water.
We pick up the story and hear almost a sorrowful tone in the covenant God makes.
I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth
God is hanging up his bow, his weapon.
The word we have for rainbow comes from this very spot of the bible. God has hung his bow pointing away from the Earth as sign that there will never be a flood like that again.
God knows that the world will go bad again but he will never try to reconcile it to himself with violence again.
Violence from God is off the table.
That cannot be how the problems of the world will be fixed.
This is God’s promise.
Jesus saw hundreds of people in a miserable condition on the shores of the Jordan River.
From all over the land people came to get what John the Baptist was offering.
These were sinful people.
Jesus knew they were sinful, we know they were sinful, they knew they were sinful.
Because these crowds came to receive a baptism of repentance. Their sin is implied.
They came for the bad they had done and for the good they had left undone.
Jesus was in their midst even though he was not a sinful person.
He was about his father’s work.
One by one they went down into the water.
He got a little closer to the river.
Maybe he was tempted to do what his Father did way back when and drown all of these sinful people in the waters of the Jordan.
If he was tempted, he resisted.
I cannot save them by destroying them, I can only save the by being with them and by them being with me.
The first step toward our salvation was Jesus coming into the muddy waters of the Jordan with all of those sinful people.
In this demonstration of solidarity Jesus began to save the world in a way that great flood couldn’t.
His Father, unable to contain his pride and joy, burst out from the heaven’s “that’s my boy!”
I am so very angry today.
I bet you might be angry too. I saw the videos of students running from their cradle of education and nourishment.
I witnessed mothers and fathers lose their prideand joy.
I witnessed high schoolers lose their innocence.
I heard weak words from politicians.
But hey, what can we do, right?
I have a friend I have known for fifteen years.
He posted something about his life in the wake of this week’s shooting.
Justin went to a different school but I he came to my town for Boy Scout meetings.
He was strange, he didn’t fit in that well, and I thought he was hilarious.
I knew that he had some trouble at his school but I wound up falling out of touch with him.
His side of the story goes like this.
While he had always been a somewhat strange kid growing up, something changed in High School. He started to experience the first signs of mental illness.
One day, four police greeted him at the at school and interrogated him about what they believed were threats to shoot up the school found in private messages.
Justin was complicit.
They walked him to his locker to look for guns and found none. They went to his car and found nothing.
Justin was complicit.
After that, they let him go and apologized. Justin understood.
“After everyone calmed down,” Justin writes, “and my mental illness was only just beginning, no one offered me help. There was a polar opposite shift in my behavior and grades, and no one thought to sit me down and suggest I see someone. Many sat me down to berate me and to tell me to stop using, “I don’t know why I’m acting like this,” as an excuse.”
All of the signs were there.
His behavior had changed.
He went from the honor roll to in-school suspensions.
After taking it upon himself to get help, he brought his diagnosis back to the school, and after a large meeting with all of his teachers, most of them only gave him contempt in return for his efforts.
“Why should he be treated any differently?”
No one helped him.
To put it a different way, nobody got in the water with him.
There are some who suggest that the only solution to this crisis in our country is the proliferation of guns. There need to be guns in the classrooms, guns in the hallways, guns in the lunchrooms. They would suggest that the only way to meet violence is more violence.
Jesus calls us to a different solution.
There are Justin’s in your life.
There are people struggling.
I wonder if this Lent we might seek out the Justin’s of the world and simply talk with them.
What if instead of giving them our contempt, annoyance, and fear, we gave them our solidarity, understanding, and love?
What if we got into the muddy waters with them?
I cannot say it will solve everything but I can say this:
Each time you get into those muddy waters
Whether you hear it or not
God will be saying
That’s my girl
That’s my boy
That’s my child.
With whom I am well pleased.
A portion of this sermon was informed by Martin Smith’s “A Season for the Spirit.”