Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Happy Father’s Day! There probably isn’t a more fitting story in the Book of Genesis for fathers and fatherhood than the story of Noah the Master Builder. As we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household.”
But like many fathers, we don’t know whether Noah had any real building skills for impossible challenge God set before him. Based on scripture, Noah was much more interested in horticulture and the art of wine making than building. In fact all the jokes told today about the trades and construction workers, could have been applied to Noah. We don’t know what inspired him to listen to God. Perhaps Noah’s own father was a carpenter, and every time he asked his son a question and he gave a good answer, he would say, “You hit the nail on the head son.” Noah took that positive reinforcement as a sign. Perhaps, Noah laughed when someone asked, “Why did the roofer take his hammer when he went camping?” He wanted to hit the trails. Or, “What’s the hole digger’s favorite saying?” Let’s get to the bottom of this. Or, “What did the plumber say to the electrician?” Wire you doing that. Or, “Where did the construction worker take his family for vacation?” They went site-seeing. Noah himself might have chuckled at the joke, “What did Noah name the carpentry supply store he set up in Little Rock?” Ark-n-Saw.
For most of us today, the story of Noah and the Great Flood is just a pleasant, favorite Bible story for children, and we wonder what possible word of encouragement it offers adults. That is what I would like to share with you today. Poor Noah may not have had a clue what he was building. Now one had seen a project of that magnitude before him. He may not have had any construction experience, but he could follow directions. In the Book of Genesis, we read, And Noah did all that God commanded him. It wasn’t the work experience that motivated him. It was Noah’s love for God and family that moved him to act in faith and build the ark.
In the ten generations that had passed from Adam to Noah, the world had gone terribly bad. . On the first days of creation, as the sun set each day, God looked at the artistic work of his hands, and declared in a joyous, pleased and happy voice, that that the earth was good. After the birds of the air, and the running animals were set free to roam, he delightfully acknowledged that he was well pleased. Finally, after he created Adam and Eve, he marveled at his work, and announced boldly, “It is very good.” And then he rested from his labors. And yet, after that first generation had passed away, that had so delighted him, something changed. Scripture states that fallen angels took daughters of man as their wives. A new order of beings emerged which was not of God’s design. They were “giants in the earth.” As for the men and women who were created by God to tend the earth and were intended to be stewards of the creation, their actions and attitudes were corrupted by this new order of beings.
So, by the tenth generation, we read that, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
But before God could destroy his work, and send it back to the chaotic, primordial waters from whence it came, the book of Genesis states that Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD. Noah wasn’t perfect nor was he without fault, but he had not been conformed to the values of the world. He had not been corrupted by the new generation. There was something of the original, innocent Adam and Eve still present in Noah.
And so 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. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. For 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. But 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. And 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.”
And God commanded Noah to build an ark. Interesting, Noah wasn’t commanded to be build a boat. The word ‘ark’ is derived from Latin “arca,” meaning a chest or box for safekeeping of valuables. For the Jewish people, the Torah scrolls are stored in a special box called an ‘ark.’ The same was true for the stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments that were stored in the lost ark. Granted Noah’s ark was large. 540 feet in length, 90 feet in width and 54 feet in height, with three decks, and covered in pitch. No ship would be built to this size until the 1800’s. Its dimensions were more fitting for barge than a sailing vessel. But there was also no mention of a rudder for steering or a sail. Noah wasn’t called to navigate the waters. He was commanded simply to build a holy chest to protect and preserve the lives of those aboard against the water. And he would have plenty of time to work. According to the Bible, he was toiling between 75 and 90 years on this do it yourself project.
In the Jewish rabbinic tradition, it is said, that during these years, Noah attempted to warn his neighbors of the coming deluge, but he was ignored and mocked. In order to protect Noah and his family, God placed lions and other ferocious animals to guard them from the wicked who tried to stop them. When the day finally came for the rains to fall, angels gathered the animal and the plants and brought them to the ark. In the writings of the Sanhedrin, Noah was engaged both day and night in feeding and caring for the animals, and did not sleep for the entire year aboard the ark.
Now, why would Noah endure such trials and hard work? Was he truly the most courageous, and fool hearty character in the Old Testament? What does the story tell us?
Of course, as a father on this Father’s Day, I can boldly that everything I learned about fatherhood. I learned from Noah. Someone once penned the following lesson. 1, Don’t miss the boat. 2, Remember that we are all in the same boat, so don’t let anyone bore a whole in it.. 3, Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah started building the ark. 4, Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old someone may ask you to do something really big. 5, Don’t listen to critics, just get on with the job that needs to be done. 6, Build your future on high ground. 7, Travel in pairs to ensure greater safety. 8, Speed isn’t everything, the snails were on board with the cheetahs. 9, When you’re stressed, float awhile. 10, Remember the Ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic by professionals. 11, No matter what the storm, when you are with God there’s always a rainbow waiting.
Yes, for 75-90 years, Noah worked, not quitting nor getting discouraged. That is the challenge before fathers today as well. Noah followed God’s command, all for the sake of that precious cargo of 8 people, his family, and their future. Noah’s neighbors probably thought he was a little dim-witted for talking to an invisible God, but as to building an ark and predicting a flood, they questioned his sanity. Noah, however, knew the treasure of his family. And he knew the truthfulness of God’s words of the things yet unseen. He knew that there would be times he had to stand against the crowds, and speak with a lone voice.
That’s a word of guidance for all of us this day- and especially to fathers. It is hard being a blameless, lone voice, unconformed to the world. It takes courage to do the right thing and go the right way, when everyone else is going in the opposite direction. It takes faith to keep going despite the laughter and jeers of the crowd, instead of just following them. It’s just as true for the precious treasure of our families today. Sometimes the very notion of a family and its health and spiritual well-being seems old-fashioned and quaint in a changing world. And we ourselves might question how long we need to hold on and to keep working for their safety. 75-90 years? Really Lord? And yet, we are reminded that working for the spiritual well-being of our families is an act of faith. “By faith, Noah, prepared an ark to save his household.” In a world where institutions and patterns no longer seem to guide people to God’s life-giving ways, we too must play our part and build an ark.
So, what do your friends and family see you doing for the faith of the next generation? Teaching the stories from the Bible? Praying together before meals? Worshipping together on Sundays? Of course, at times, our efforts may seem fruitless and futile. Like Noah, we may feel like we don’t have the whole picture, or perhaps we’re working beyond our skill set- or pay grade, but we to do it because it is for the sake of our family. Sometimes the results are mixed. One Sunday afternoon, a member of a church invited several friends of the congregation over to dinner, including the pastor. As they sat down to the table, the pastor turned to the 6-year old daughter of the house and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?” The little girl looked up to the pastor and replied, “Oh no, I wouldn’t know what to say.” To which the pastor answered politely and encouragingly, “Just say what your mother would say.” And so the guests around the table bowed their heads and listened to the earnest words of the little girl echoing the thoughts of her mother, “Dear Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?
My friends, it truly is an act of faith, and divine and fatherly love, to respect the warnings of this world and to build an ark to save and protect your family. It is important and holy work. Every generation runs the risk of being washed away by inactivity. But God’s holy covenant to the creation is renewed through your efforts and commitment to your family. And the sign of the that holy covenant is still and will continue to be a sign rainbow in the sky. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.