Sunday, June 1, 2008

in the boat

In the name of God, source of all being, eternal Word, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

This morning our readings present us with a choice: stay at home and have it rain on you, or get in a boat and have it rain on you. (Of course, if you take the book, you have to round up a bunch of farm animals.) It is a Pacific Northwest kind of choice.

The readings also present us with an opportunity: to take God at his word, and, even as we do the best we can to face the challenges of our situation, to trust that the providence of God is what will really see us through.

Even while all the creatures of the earth were being destroyed around him, as Michael Sweeney points out, Noah was faithful. His faith was steadfast.

Jesus uses the image of a house in a storm to talk about faith and works. To hear the word and then act upon it is to live in a strong house built on rock. If you listen but then just go on as if you had not learned anything, it all fades away like sand into a storm wave.

This is how learning really happens: there is a herald, an announcement, that glad tidings are on the way – as John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom. Then there is the message, preached and understood. Jesus spoke in parables; he told us, “I am the bread of life.”

Then there is action based on what you have heard. This seals it: this takes the temporary memory and makes it permanent in your mind.

“Go and make disciples of all nations, and teach them all I have commanded.”

“Love one another, as I have loved you.”

These are not just good advice, or high-sounding words: they are the breath of life. To those who hear and do what Jesus teaches his words are transformative.

They take us out of our ordinary choices – to face the storm at home or risk the perils of the sea – and make them extraordinary, make them part of our preparation for and entering into the kingdom of God.

Last Thursday evening, Eric Hanson conducted the Thalia Symphony orchestra in music by three different composers, all from Bohemia, or Czech: One began with a stable job but lost his tenure and for the rest of his life moved around. The second was an itinerant conductor, a wanderer from place to place. The third was a man separated from his homeland by political conditions: his true homeland was a free Czech republic, but in his time it was a province of the Austrian Empire.

One of them was in exile in another sense: born Jewish in a world where Jews were, under a veneer of civility, second-class citizens. Their true homeland was elsewhere.

So is ours, isn’t it? Our true homeland is to be in the realm where God reigns. But are we truly lost? No, if we listen to the words of what Jesus is saying, and put them into practice, we are beginning to come into that very country. We are beginning to come home. If you trust in God and obey his commandments, you are never truly lost: you are always at home.

There are five great prophets in the teaching of Islam: Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Blessings and peace be upon them all. …Noah?

Noah was righteous; to be righteous means to be in a trusting and loyal relationship with God. Noah walked with God; to walk with God means to obey and follow God’s will.

For Noah, the rains were coming. And, in obedience to God, Noah built an ark. An ark is a chest, a box, a basket – a container for life & living things – and this is the same word used for the basket, sealed with pitch, that saved Moses from death by exposure. The ark of Noah contained life, and the hope of the world. The Ark of the Covenant – a box or chest or basket – contained the words of life, the words of the promise of God. The words of Jesus contain the source of life. And this life of all that is past is what we recover as we celebrate together as a community of faith in the Lord’s Supper.

As we gather together this morning for Eucharist, let us take a moment to examine our hearts: what needs to go on the boat? What must we leave behind? What will carry us into the future of God’s promise? And what will we do – not to save ourselves – but to live into the righteous life of God’s people, to live by faith? Let us pray:

God, as we journey through this life, we journey home to you. And yet, you are the beginning and the end of our journey, and you see us through, walking with us on the way. Guide us, today, on your paths, for your name’s sake. Amen.


The Access Bible (Oxford University Press, 1999) p. 10-13.

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