As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will seek to post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Tuesday 28th July 2020
Today we begin a series of reflection based on mountains that are associated with stories and events from the Bible. Our first mountain is Mount Ararat, which according to tradition was the place where the Noah’s Ark settled after the great flood. The mountain is located at the extreme East of Turkey and consists of two main summits – Little Ararat (3,896 m or 12,782 ft) & Great Ararat (5,137 m or 16,854 ft). The association with the ark comes from Genesis 8:4, which describes it as coming to settle on the ‘mountains of Ararat’ after the great flood.
Genesis 8: 1-19
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.
After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.
By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.
Then God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you – the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground – so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.’
So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds – everything that moves on land – came out of the ark, one kind after another.
The story of Noah and the Ark could be viewed as presenting the modern reader with a number of significant challenges. For example, there is no scientific evidence that Noah's Ark existed as it is described in the Bible, nor is there geological evidence for the biblical global flood. Also, the narrative of Noah and Ark is often crudely misinterpreted as a children’s story, with the focus on animals going in two by two. Whilst this is not the place for a detailed discussion on the role of oral tradition and importance of storytelling in ancient (and modern) culture, or the diverse genre of stories, parables, history, teaching, wisdom and prophecy within the Bible, in the story of Noah and the Ark we are presented with an engaging story that can read in a variety of different ways.
In the first letter of Peter (1 Peter 3: 20-21), the salvation of Noah and his family from the flood is compared to Christian salvation through baptism. Later theologians such as the delightfully named second century St Hippolytus of Rome viewed the ark as a symbol of Christ. On a more practical note, Hippolytus viewed that the lowest of the three decks was for wild beasts, the middle for birds and domestic animals, and the top for humans, with male animals separated from females by sharp stakes to prevent breeding!
There are views that the ark represents the church as a place of safety and salvation from the toils and tribulations of the world. Another interpretation comes from a ancient rabbinic tradition which compares the story of the flood with the story of creation - a cycle of creation, un-creation, and re-creation, in which the ark plays a pivotal role.
My personal view is the story of Noah and the Ark, represents the Christian story of judgment, redemption and new beginnings. This story plays out in this life and the life to come. On our personal journey to faith we all come to the recognition of our sin and brokenness, which in turn brings judgment and separation from God. Then comes redemption in which we become aware of God’s forgiveness through Christ on the cross. With redemption comes a new beginning. Journeying through life with God who loves beyond our understanding and who has a plan and purpose for our lives that reaches into eternity.
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
your amazing love extends through all time and space,
to all parts of your creation,
which you created and called good.
You made a covenant with Noah and his family,
putting a rainbow in the sky
to symbolize your promise of love and blessing
to every living creature,
and to all successive generations.
You made a covenant with Abraham and Sarah,
blessing them and their descendants
throughout the generations.
You made a covenant with Moses and the Israelite people
to all generations,
giving them the ten commandments
and challenging them to choose life.
you invite us to enter into a new covenant,
in communion with all who seek to be faithful to you.
As people of faith,
we are called into covenant.
Your covenant of faithfulness and love
extends to the whole creation.
We pray for the healing of the earth,
that present and future generations
may enjoy the fruits of creation,
and continue to glorify and praise you.
God of storms and rainbows,
God of rain and sunshine,
God of all creation we worship and adore you.
We gaze in wonder at the beauty of your creation
and marvel at stormy skies transformed with the vibrant colours of a rainbow.
Like Noah and his family,
we praise you for this everlasting sign of your love and care
for the whole creation in your desire to preserve and not destroy life.
And at Jesus' baptism,
the sky again revealed your love
when you identified him as your beloved Son,
strengthening him with the same Spirit
who empowers and strengthens each of us.
For all these assurances of your love for us and for the whole creation,
we praise and worship you, O God,
in the power of the Holy Spirit
and in the name of Jesus Christ,
our Saviour and Lord.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
you will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
now and forever.
Not when the mountains shake,
or the seas roar,
or the clouds part to reveal You,
but here and now,
on this one ordinary day,
we will wait and watch
for You will surely come to us.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all, now and evermore.