These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. 10And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. 13And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. 14Make yourself an ark of cypress* wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16Make a roof* for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. 21Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.’ 22Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. - Genesis 6:9-22
Reading God's instructions to Noah and looking at the news on the various forms of media lately, I wonder whether God's been giving any more instructions about ark-building and furnishing lately. The Prince of Wales has had his gardens washed away, people in Missouri are shown moving around like Venetian gondoliers, people in various places around the globe wade chest-high or take pictures of houses with floodwaters up to the windowsills or higher.
God promised Noah that the world would never again be destroyed by floods, but it seems selected bits of it fall outside that promise. It's hard to get images of anxious mothers carrying infants through waters contaminated by sewage and garbage. Men tow boats and canoes full of people and animals that have been rescued from the water and isolation. Even poisonous snakes are looking for places to get out of the water. Thousands of people drown in the raging waters and many more are lost in massive mudslides caused by waterlogged hillsides that simply cannot absorb any more water.
We refer to these as "acts of God" but often God has less to do with it than our own human acts. We clear-cut mountain and hill sides for the timber and leave the ground barren and unable to hold the soil together when it rains. We build houses in low-lying or coastal areas where we trust that dikes and levees will keep the sea out. Then we neglect to maintain those dikes, levees, and dams but still trust they will hold, especially when facing ferocious winds and waves.
We try to learn to circumvent the "acts of God" and sometimes we are able to give warnings or lessen the impact, but in more cases than not, nature wins. I don't think God has a big switchboard in the sky and that buttons get pushed to cause a drought here or a monsoon rain there and an earthquake somewhere else. I don't think God uses these things to test us, but I do think God wants to see us do what we can for those who are victims. I think we're also supposed to look after the earth, replanting what we have harvested, planning communities that take natural features and potential hazards into consideration, even if that potential hazard is a one-in-100 year event. It may happen next year or not for 500, but it needs to be planned for.
And that brings us to Noah, his ark and his mission. What were his chances of encountering a flood such as God told him was coming? I'm sure the city planners, engineers, and meteorologists of the time had no clue. And what if we encountered a modern-day Noah who, answering a call from God, started to build an ark in his back yard with no HOA, planning and zoning, and engineering approvals? What would the neighbors think?
We aren't called to wail and weep if misfortune strikes us, whether flood or other catastrophe, but to look for ways to help not only ourselves but our fellow human beings. We are also called to care for the earth that nourishes and sustains us. I think God expects us to do our very best, to help others and all creation to the benefit of all. I don't think God is taking notes of who has been naughty, nice, or has not come up to God's expectation. That's maybe Santa Claus's criteria but not God's, or, at least, that's what I believe.
The God that spoke to Noah also speaks to us, if we take the time to listen. We are shown things that need fixing every day, but we don't really see them as something we could do. Singly, maybe we can't, but if we find others who are called as we are to do something, then success is much greater. God doesn't need for each of us to try to be a superhero, just a helper who cares enough to try.
We don't have to wait for a flood warning in our area either. Just look around.
Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, January 16, 2016.