"Is this Home an Ark?"

May 5, 1996 message
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland  USA
based upon Genesis 6:11-22

Is this home an ark? That's an appropriate question to ask of ourselves, isn't it? Have you ever thought of your home as an ark? Perhaps that image is more fitting than the old "a man's home is his castle." While picturing the home as a fortress does convey a message of safety that's important for insecure times such as these, one point should be made: a castle doesn't float.

Now God did promise never again to destroy the world with a flood. The rainbow is our forever sign of that covenant. However, that doesn't mean there won't be high waters in life, does it? Is your home a safe place amid these lesser floods? That's the question for this day. Is this home an ark?

Now, I prefer the image of an ark to that of a castle. Why? Because castles are often built upon the violence and corruption that arks are created to escape. Furthermore, an ark can travel - a castle is pretty much stuck in one place - wouldn't you say? As a child constantly changes from the day she or he is born through all the stages of life, his or her family needs a degree of flexibility to weather it all. Family life is a voyage.

Is this home an ark? That's a question for families of all sizes and shapes. Even single persons can ask it. Is this home an ark? No matter how many creatures file in and out, two by two - or however, is this home a safe place amid the flood? I'm not asking, are you protected by ADT? Is your house wired for safety? We spend an awful lot of money nowadays protecting what we've got, but that's not really the question of this hour.

In the saga of Noah, "the earth was corrupt in God's sight ... filled with violence" (6:11). In one of the most poignant passages in the Bible, it says that "the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart" (6:6). You ever think that God doesn't care what happens on the earth he created? Then read that passage. Upon it is built every promise contained in this book. God grieved deeply. Was the corruption and violence of those days that much worse than these? I think not. Therefore God stills grieves over his creation.

What did God do about it then? His fury - or was it is tears -flooded the earth. However, he called Noah to build an ark. Not a battleship, but an ark. That's an important distinction, you know. Are we seeking to improve on the plan today by trying to create floating castles, complete with canons? Think about it. Where does this floating zoo we call "family" find its true security?

When God called Noah to the ship-building trade, he didn't ask him to construct a yacht. Is some of our insecurity today due to the fact that we are trying to create yachts instead of arks? What's the difference? Well, as I see it, an ark is basic transportation. A Yacht is much more, as well as much less. The yacht may have more in the way of creaure comforts, and be more pleasing to the senses, but in many ways it is less able to weather the storm. It looks nicer on the outside, but it still can sink to the bottom. Security for a yacht involves keeping out thieves. Security for an ark is staying afloat.

I don't wish to belabor this image, but we've witnessed the sinking of many families around us in recent years, haven't we? On the outside, many of them looked like yachts. Did they function, on the inside, as arks? Well, that's not my judgement to make. It's a question, though, we all must ask of ourselves: Is this home an ark? Is it a safe place amid the storms of life?

There are many threats to family life, some attacking from the outside, some from within. It's easier to run through a litany of the outer threats than the inner ones, though the inner ones are perhaps the most deadly. The violence and corruption spoken of in Noah's story enters our homes daily through the television sets with which we surround ourselves. Does a "V chip" make a home an ark? Is it a safe place amid the flood if we censor what comes in? That's a start. But we can't censor everything, can we? We can't control, for instance, what happens when our children enter another home. We can't put our fingers in every hole. We can, however, create a safe environment where children can talk about what they experience in the context of the values we teach and live by.

Such a safe environment is built upon love. That's an addition we must make to the saga of Noah. In that story, God grieved over the men and women he created in his image. His grief led to the flood. Afterward, he promised never again to let his grief destroy the earth like that. Isaiah later reiterated that promise (in the quote you see printed at the top of your bulletin, 54:9-10) amid another flood: the storm called the "exile." There, God spoke of his "steadfast love" which "shall not depart," and his "covenant of peace" which "shall not be removed."

Is your ark undergirded by steadfast love? Is there a "covenant of peace" evident in your home? In many ways these are more essential than all the holes we try to plug up. If there is not love and peace within the home, all our efforts to keep out the world's corruption and violence are for naught.

When I asked our kids last night if they considered our home an ark, they immediately started guessing which animal they thought their brother or sister was. Yes, a home is often a floating zoo. Parents often feel like zoo-keepers. From a kid's perspective, though, I wonder if Mom and Dad aren't also seen as animals. Me, for instance. How often am I a mean grizzly bear? In your home, how are you perceived? Do steadfast love and a covenant of peace fit with the image of a grizzly bear? I wonder. Certainly there are some families, even Christian families, where mean grizzly bears do a great deal of damage. I'm sure these bears love their families, but is there a covenant of peace to go with that love, a covenant which says "abuse does not belong in the ark"?

If your family is struggling with such a bear, or if you, personally, are grappling with a mean bear within you, there is help. Peace is possible on the ark. Of course, an ark is still an ark - zoo and all. Sometimes we can hold unrealistic expectations for what peace means in our ark. Somehow I can't quite imagine Noah's ark as a place filled with "peace and quiet," can you? When we visit my Mom's, her home is like an ark for our family, at least for a few days. The kids eventually start to drive her nuts. Still, she says she misses the "noise" of earlier years. At least that's what she says. You can ask her if she really means it next week when she'll be here for a visit.

Back to main question: "is this home an ark?" Does it remain a safe place amid the storm? Is it kept afloat by steadfast love (not just plain old "love," but "steadfast" love - through thick and thin, tough, "God so loved the world that he gave his only son" kind of love)? Is there a covenant of peace in this place, one which emphasizes that "love" does not willfully hurt, but rather seeks out the best - even amid discipline? Is this home an ark?

That's a question we always need to be asking. We can't just ask it once for all time, because families are always in the process of change, adapting to growing people within and changing circumstances without. Is this home an ark?

That's also a question we need to ask of ourselves as a church. After all, this is a "household of faith." So, then, is this home an ark? Is it a safe place amid the storm? In her recent book, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton built upon an old African proverb that states: "it takes a village to raise a child." Though I might not agree with everything she says, I think the basic premise is solid. It does take a village. Our understanding of family needs to be broader than two parents plus kids. Only in the last century has it narrowed to that.

For all too many of us, the wider biological family is scattered long distance. To use my own family as an example, we're distributed from Pennsylvania to Virginia to Kansas. The closest relatives are an hour or more away. Many of you have similar stories to tell. The Sacks talk about how, since their family is so far away, the church - wherever they've lived - became their family. This is the New Testament pattern, friends. The church is a family, a significant part of the village it takes to raise a child.

In terms of the question: is this home an ark", how are we doing? Now don't place yourself outside the question, evaluating everyone else but you. No, what are you doing to build this ark? What are you doing to make it a place of safety where the "children of the Lord" can "rise and shine and give God the glory"? In many ways, we're all called, like Noah, to build this ark.

Is this home an ark? I can't answer that question for you. But let me close with one concrete suggestion. You know, Mother's Day is coming up next week. Look on the back of your bulletin. Who is listed as Nursery Attendant today? Karen Shenk, the mother of 4 young children. Now, who is listed as taking care of the 2-yr.-olds during worship next week? Karen Shenk again. Do you catch the drift of what I'm getting at? By the way, who ever said that men can't take their turns with children? Guys, here's your chance to shine. Why not volunteer next Sunday in the nursery, and put Karen Shenk out of a job in the 2-yr.old room. Of course, you don't have to limit your action to "Mother's Day." By the way, don't we all make some promises every time we dedicate a child? It takes a village to raise a child. Are you doing your part?

Is this home an ark ... for all God's children? Remember God's promises: the rainbow, the cross and empty tomb, the Holy Spirit, the river that flows by the throne of God. Upon his faithfulness is built our own. Let's make this home an ark.

Hymn: "Great is thy faithfulness"

Benediction

This morning we applied the ark image to our families and to our church. You abd I know it goes much wider than that, elsewise we wouldn't be taking these plastic arks home to raise money for Heifer Project. Actually, the ark image encompasses all creation which, as the apostle Paul once wrote, is "standing on tiptoe awaiting the sons and daughters of God to come into their own."

My friends, May God bless you, and make you a blessing, such that this blessing overflows into your home - your family, this church, this world. May God empower us to make this home an ark, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

1996Peter L. Haynes

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