A letter from Steve - Our Rector
Well the Noah’s Ark festival is almost upon us – I’m sure you’ve heard all about
the preparations, knitted some squares and seen glimpses of animals and rainbows
around the church. It's been an amazing effort by so many people, so thank you to
all those who have helped make it possible.
It's amazing how this ancient story stays in our imaginations. I remember over the
years talking to many schools and children’s groups about Bible stories, and the
one they come back to again and again is Noah’s Ark. I suppose it makes a good child
friendly story about cute animals going two by two, into the Ark – and everyone can
join in the fun with colourful paintings and craft work.
Even in the cinema there have been a couple of films on Noah’s Ark.
In 2007 the comedy film ‘Evan Almighty’, God contacts an American politician Evan
Baxter, and tells him to build an ark in preparation for a great flood. To begin
with Evan doesn’t believe that God has called him, but nevertheless tools and wood
arrive in Evan's yard, animal pairs follow, his beard and hair grow wildly, nomad's
clothes and a wooden staff appear. Despite ridicule, Evan starts building his Ark,
his family thinks he’s mad and leaves him, news reporters gather, but there is no
sign of rain. In the end of course, the flood comes, Evan saves the day and is vindicated.
I like the way the movie explores how difficult it must have been for Noah to go
against his family and neighbours and step out in faith – now that’s something we
can all empathise with. Even for us, being a person of faith, following the commandments
of God, can be a difficult thing in today’s society, and we can find others thinking
we are a bit crazy, and even ridiculing us.
In 2014 the star of the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe, took on the title role in
the movie ‘Noah’. This is a dark and evocative movie that is based on the account
in the book of Genesis, but also picks up other ancient sources and myths to produce
a mysterious, and at times a surreal, film.
In the movie we find Noah wrestling with the problem of sin and evil in the world,
where few believe in the living God. Noah is appalled by the wickedness of the tribes
around him. He tries to reach out to them but in the end gives up the effort, becoming
convinced that the Creator wishes for the entire human race to come to an end.
Now it becomes a race against time to complete the Ark and rescue the innocent animals
from destruction as the rains begin, while fighting off the barbarians who attack
them. After much violence Noah, his family, and the animals are safe in the Ark
on the waters - while outside the ark they hear the dying screams of those in the
water. His family implores Noah to let some of them in, as they "have room," only
for a weary Noah to reply that there is no room for them - that their fate was sealed.
This movie picks up the darker elements that are there in the Noah’s Ark story –
the problem of sin and evil, and God’s judgement. In the book of Genesis this is
a moment of crisis – of God looking at the whole of creation and feeling pain and
regret - wishing he had never even started. If we properly read this story we have
to confront the real horror of God abandoning his project of creation as a failure,
and destroying every living thing.
However, in this darkness, Noah stands out. The Bible tells us that Noah found grace
– or perhaps it's better to say that Grace found Noah. And because of this grace
– this goodness of God that is undeserved - God makes a covenant, an agreement, with
Noah, and he is given the mission of rescuing God’s project of creation.
At the end we are left with Noah, his family, the animals and God. God knows that
although his destructive action makes a point, it gets no-one anywhere. So God decides
to accept humanity as it is. This does not mean being happy with the world and humanity,
but it does mean coming to terms with what they are. Only when you have acknowledged
the situation can you start to do something about it.
God makes a new covenant with Noah and blesses the earth, and puts a rainbow in the
sky as a sign of God’s grace. Noah responds with a sacrifice for sin – again we
see that God’s grace and mercy operates because of our human sinfulness. The story
shows God setting creation going again, but with an awareness and allowance for human
sinfulness (shown in the divine permission that they may now eat meat, Gen 9.3-4).
It's a fascinating parallel to the creation account in Genesis chapters 1 and 2.
I hope that we will truly enjoy our Noah’s Ark festival. As we wonder at the amazing
creations that we helped to make with wire and wool, I hope we get that same sense
of pride and joy that God our creator feels. As we contemplate Noah and his Ark,
may we admire Noah’s dedication and faithfulness. And as we ponder the rainbow of
many colours, may we reflect on the gritty drama behind it, and at the love and grace
of God for us all.