Ark Thoughts

by Rosalie

This sermon was preached at Raumati 14.10.07; Readings:Acts 10: 34-43; [during sermon] Gen 7:1-6 & 17-24, 8:15-22

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Rosalie May Sugrue is a wife, mother and grandmother. She is a retired teacher and motelier with a background in Bible study. Rosalie has been active in Jaycees, the Methodist Womenís Fellowship, National Council of Women, the Churches Agency on Social Issues, Victim Support and U3A. She has plays, poems, prayers, Bible puzzles and articles published in many church magazines in NZ including a regular Bible Challenge puzzle in Touchstone. She also has work included in devotional anthologies in Canada, the UK and the US.

  • First name: Rosalie
  • Last name: Sugrue
  • Town: Raumati
  • City/region: Wellington

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Ark Thoughts

Last Sunday Jack and I read something so depressing we decided we had to do something to cheer ourselves up. We checked the cinema phone-service, and yes, a movie was showing in ten minutes. Off we dashed and had a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes. We came out of the cinema feeling transformed. The movie contained no sex, no violence and no bad language, despite such turn-off billing it was highly entertaining, and it carried a positive message.

A rather obvious moral to this little anecdote is, when you feel down, take positive action. If feeling glum don’t spend time looking for someone to blame, don’t wait for someone to pick you up, do something for yourself. Of course, doing nothing is safer with action there is always a risk - what if we had encountered a depressing movie? We could have come away feeling worse and $40 worse off - we like pop-corn and ice-cream.

 

Luckily the movie showing was funny, cleverly crafted, and best of all it contained some good theology. In my opinion, one of the tests of good theology is, does it make you feel good?

Our Bible begins in a positive way. A god creates a world and everything the god creates is good. The Creator feels good and the creation looks good. The crowning jewel in this creation is humankind. After blessing all creation, the Creator sees it is indeed, very good. Alas it doesn’t take long for humans to mess it up and it seems we have been messing it up ever since. However, it is possible to learn from mistakes made.

A question – Who was the world’s first conservationist - the greatest conservationist of all time?

The answer has to be Noah! The movie that cheered us was ‘Evan Almighty’ a modern take on Noah's Ark. Evan, a 21 century American guy, just into major politics -

Prayed for help in achieving his election promise, changing the world

His wife prayed that family are able to spend more time together

The youngest son prayed for a dog.

Like its predecessor ‘Bruce Almighty’ the moral is: be careful what you pray for!

All the prayers of the family were answered in the affirmative, but not as expected. Evan finds himself turning into Noah with non-removable whiskers that grow thicker and greyer every day. Pairs of animals attach themselves to him and loads of timber appear on the empty lot next door. With the help of his 3 sons and a book Ark Building for Dummies Evan has no option but to build an Ark and change his world.

I won’t tell more because I hope you will see it for yourselves. The good theology expounded was not so much caring for the environment or spending time with your family, though these elements were strongly present, the base theology capsule was: the way to change the world is by Acts of Random Kindness ARK.

John Wesley said something rather similar – the best way to reform the world is to reform the individual.

It worked for him and his world. 18 century England was heading towards a revolution like France experienced but Wesley was able to convince masses of the poor that they had dignity and were loved by God. Safe in this knowledge violence was averted. Wesley didn’t frighten the unchurched into believing, he showed them that they were loved. He created a Movement for good. His adherents visited prisons, opened schools, treated the sick and organised converts into groups to care for each other.

What is Christianity about?

Christianity is following The Way of Christ.

It was said of the earliest followers of the Way – ‘See how these Christians love one another.’

Christianity is not about anguish and sacrifice. Christianity is not about belief:..

It is about Hope, Peace, Love and Joy.

It is about Community – shared meals; shared caring;

It is about Respect - respect for the individual, respect for property, respect for the environment.

Jesus went about doing good.’ Some people simply go about! It is possible to go about doing good with no theology at all. Doing good is not the prerogative of Christianity. Doing good is a tenant of many religions, doing good is a philosophical stance, and a natural inclination.

 

Christianity is a matter of the heart, but for those who like to take their Christianity by mind as well as heart, it is important to come to grips with theology, to know what we believe and why. Like all other great ologies the study of theo (God), progresses. Beliefs that served people well for thousands of years like, the earth being flat, have to be reassessed in the light of expanding human knowledge. If you like thinking the world is flat, the theory is adequate for your needs, unless you get the urge to travel, particularly to that biblical phrase, the four corners of the earth.

As we can’t keep up with all new knowledge we have to be selective, choosing what interests us and pursuing it. Because we don’t keep up with everything doesn’t mean we are limited individuals, all people have limitations. If you don’t use email or a cell phone, it doesn’t mean you are unable to communicate. The same principle applies to religion. I enjoy keeping up with theology. I read Geering, Spong and Borg, and appreciate their worldview but they are not essential to faith. This is the Post Modern Age there is no one right answer. Everyone is entitled to a point of view - as long as the point of view does No Harm.

 

As a child I saw the Bible as a book of stories, stories that had happened long ago. As a teenager I underlined texts that were important to me. I also noted verses that were at odds with other verses (in a different colour of course). I found the discrepancies interesting and wondered why. I was delighted as a tertiary student to learn some of the whys. A significant book for me was Genesis I-II by Alan Richardson published by the SCM press in 1953. Richardson expounds theories of Biblical authorship. He explains how the Hebrews like all ancient peoples relied on oral traditions. At a point quite late in Hebrew history these were written down in different places. In our bible pieces are stitched together in a vague attempt at chronological order. There is no clear division between myth and history. Sometimes conflicting stories are laid side by side and we have merged them into each other, prime example being the two creation stories. In the first oral strand, the priestly liturgical version, male and female are created together. In the second chatty, folksy version, the female arrives later.

 

We all know the story of Noah’s ark don’t we? Let’s make sure. We will now have the Old Testament lesson…Gen 7:1-6 & 17-24, 8:15-22

In the Noah’s Ark tale as told in Genesis there is some attempt by the editors to harmonise two different traditions. The folksy version warms to Noah having pairs of animals, the priestly version, is aware that salvation requires gratitude, and that Hebrew gratitude to the Divine requires sacrifice - sacrifice of perfect edible animals. The folksy folk go along with this but haven’t thought through the conservation consequences! The priests are alert to consequences, and like using holy numbers. Seven is one of the holiest numbers in the Bible. It is because seven was holy to the Hebrews that millennia later the world has a seven day week.

Myth is not a bad thing. Myth is story with meaning. Myth gives form and identity to a culture. Enjoying Evan Almighty presented no problem to the viewers that what we were watching couldn’t possibly happen in real life. We benefited by being entertained and by appreciating the message - respect for family and the environment, and Acts of Random Kindness. Impossible stories are mighty in potential for sharing truths. An incident does not have to be factual to be true.

 

Myth is not limited to the OT. The NT presents its own problems in separating myth from factual account. Ancient editors didn’t think like we do. Truth was not divided into fact and fiction. Research was not a valued skill of those who decided to record events long after they happened. Events were viewed like wine, or a Christmas cake, time is needed for the flavour to develop.

As Bishop John Robinson said in Honest to God, SCM press 1963, every generation has to find God for itself. I think this means each of us has to find our own God. I don’t abandon the God of the Bible, I love and respect the Bible, but, I do choose to be selective in what I take as truth from the Bible. For me the Bible presents an emerging God. In its pages I see humans struggling to find a worthy God and what this God requires of them.

I choose a sustaining God, a life force, a divine energy whose name is Love, the God whose character is love. Jesus of Nazareth is the best example of both what this God is and what this God expects of us. Jesus chose to go about doing good - he healed, he taught, he told provocative stories, he related to male friends, he related to female friends, he mixed with outcasts, he enjoyed meals with friends, wining and dining was important, he chose to live his own life, but at the end he cared for his mother.

If your theology promotes uncomfortable thoughts and makes you miserable, why persist with it? Cast off the dark images of the ancients. Take up other biblical images, LIGHT and LIFE.

Follow The Way of Jesus - the way of Hope, Peace, Love and Joy;

Do good; have fun; care for all creation;

Show respect by giving thanks, thanks to God and thanks to those who are good to you

Be sorry for things you have done that have caused harm

Say you are sorry to God, and to whoever you’ve harmed, make amends,

Don’t be tied to old guilts, repent, accept forgiveness, and move on.

Do what you can to right any wrongs you have contributed to,

Even wrongs you haven’t contributed to, if you can change anything for the better, go for it!

Respect all people, listen, walk in the skin of those who irk you

Above all enjoy the life God has given you and be grateful.

The Millennium Statement, crafted by English theologians in 1999, puts it this way…

 Let there be respect for the earth

peace for its people

love in our lives

delight in the good

forgiveness for past wrongs

and from now on,

a new start. Amen

(printed on back of service sheet)

Noah Wisdom

  1. Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.

  2. Stay fit. When old you may be asked to do something really big.

  3. Don't listen to critics; get on with the job that needs to be done. 

  4. Build your future on high ground.

  5. Remember we are all in the same boat.

  6. Companionship is important; travel with companions.

  7. Speed is over-rated. The snails and hares arrived together.

  8. When you are stressed, float a while. 

  9. Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

  10. No matter the storm, when you are with God, there is a rainbow waiting.

Final Hymn FFS 15 Fancy Noah sailing in the ark…

Comments

Deleted user
24 July 2017, 7:57 PM

I found this sermon stimulating. Yes, I too enjoyed "Evan Almighty" and certainly had a good laugh. I was encouraged to hear you say that Christianity wasn't just doing good, but that it was a matter of the heart  In a sense I wonder if sometimes we find it easier to do good than to talk about a relationship with Jesus, which is a matter of the heart. I enjoyed reading your list to Follow The Way of Jesus - the way of Hope, Peace, Love and Joy. If we put that into practice in our daily lives, life would be so different. Anyway. Thanks for your message.

 

Rosalie
24 July 2017, 8:45 PM

Thanks Clive - few people are attracted to reading sermons - so greatly appreciated when a comment appears!

2 comments