Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

"Donít Rock the Boat"Noah's Ark, by Edward Hicks, 1846, oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Drama performed on June 9, 2002
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon Genesis 6:9 - 8:22

Order of Worship

Characters: Shem, Ham, Japheth, the three sons of Noah.
Location: the Ark

Scene One - Before the Flood

        All three characters are equipped with hard hats, hammers and, possibly, tool belts. They stand together as if in the hallway between rooms/stalls on a nearly finished Ark. Before they begin and as they talk, Ham and Japheth "putter" at imaginary tasks, hammering a nail in here, sighting a straight line there, etc. Shem has a roll of blueprints he consults.

Ham - How long do you think itís going to be?

Shem - Oh, I donít know. Everything seems to be going according to plan. We should have this
                    baby finished in a week or so.

Japheth - He wasnít talking about the boat, Shem. He meant the weather. How long till the rain
                    begins? Iíve been wondering that myself. Itís hard to believe a storm is brewing,
                    what with the drought weíve been having.

Shem - Guess I havenít paid much attention to the sky. Been too worried that weíre doing this
                    right. (points to the blueprints).

Ham - Actually, I didnít mean the boat or the weather.

Japheth - What, then?

Ham - Father. How long do you think itís going to be?

Shem - Huh?

Ham - How long is he going to keep up with this crazy plan?

Shem - Be careful what you call "crazy," Ham.

Japheth - Or "who."

Ham - Havenít you two ever wondered whether this all isnít just a wild goose chase?

Japheth - We may end up doing just that, Ham. I hear geese arenít all that easy to catch.

Ham - Youíre a real comedian, Japheth, unlike our "other" brother.

Shem - So now I lack humor, and Dad hasnít a brain?

Ham - Well, havenít you had any doubts about this job he supposedly received from you know
                    who?

Japheth - Mom?

Ham - No, from the big guy in the sky.

Japheth - Uncle Ralph?

Ham - No, not that drunk. I mean from "the" One and only.

Japheth - Iím confused. I thought you said you werenít talking about Mom.

Shem - Heís talking about God, you dimwit.

Japheth - Oh.

Ham - Have either of you heard from God about this job?

Shem - No, canít say that I have.

Japheth - Let me think.... Nope. Iíd remember something like that.

Ham - Do you think he really got the word direct from the source?

Shem - Apparently you donít.

Ham - Letís say - I wonder... Weíve put a lot of man-hours into this tub. Is it going to be
                   worth it?

Shem - Of course. If Dad says it is, I believe him. Just like I believe the plans (hold up blueprint)
   
                 came from God. Dad may be a big thinker, but I donít think he couldíve come of
                    with something this big on his own. 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits is beyond
                    my wildest dreams.

Japheth - Iím still trying to figure out what a cubit is.

Ham - Weíre not going to go there again, Japheth... We measure. You hammer.

Japheth - Sure. Itís just that a "cube" is a three dimensional square. Does that, then, make a cubit
                    a portion of a cube, and if so how do you figure that out?

Shem - We should never have given him that rubix cube for his birthday.

Ham - It did keep him out of our hair for quite a while.

Shem - That it did.

Ham - (pause) You seem so sure about all this, Shem.

Shem - Well, yes. I trust our father. He wouldnít steer us wrong.

Ham - You are, indeed, your fatherís son.

Shem - Arenít you?

Ham - Not like you. While you seem to fit comfortably into the shoes heís been raising you to fill,
                    Iím not so sure about myself.

Shem - Ham, Iíd never push you out of the family business just because Iím firstborn.

Ham - The family business? You mean this silly Ark?

Japheth - There you go again. Whatís so silly or crazy about trying to save the world from itself?

Ham - You mean save it from God.

Japheth - No, from itself. Everything has gotten all messed up here.

Ham - Like your rubix cube, which you never did figure out, did you?

Japheth - Well, now that you mention it, no I didnít. (pause) You really like going into town?

Ham - No way! Not even to see my best friends. You take your life into your own hands when
                    you do.

Shem - You still have friends in town?

Ham - Not really. Especially not after Dad started us on this project.

Shem - And before?

Ham - Well, it was getting pretty bad.

Shem - Still is. And it seems to be moving closer to us.

Japheth - Yeah, I long for a good nightís sleep. Iím tired of standing watch over our supplies.
                    Weíd be robbed blind if we didnít, though.

Shem - Be thankful they havenít hurt any of us yet.

Ham - I guess youíre right. I wouldnít want to bring a child into this world.

Japheth - Is that why old "whatís-her-name" hasnít gotten pregnant yet?

Ham - The wifeís name is Samantha.1  And, yes, thatís why.

Shem - Same here.

Japheth - (softly) Us, too.

Ham - What was that?

Japheth - Yes, thatís also why we havenít taken the plunge.

Ham - You and "whatís-her-name?"

Japheth - "Katherine." Yeah, what hope would a child have in this world the way it is?

Ham - Yes, but donít you think wiping the slate clean with a flood is a bit drastic? Is there no
                    other way? Seems like overkill to me.

Shem - Dad doesnít think so.

Ham - Youíd agree with father even if he said the world wasnít flat.

Japheth - Hey, maybe itís like a rubix cube.

Shem - Enough of that rubix cube! I donít know how God is going to do it. Iím sure he has some
                    doors up there he can open to allow the water to pour down, or maybe let it come
                    up from underneath. Frankly, I think there needs to be a good flushing.

Japheth - Speaking of which, where are we putting the bathroom in this thing?

Shem - (looks at blueprint and points to a spot on it) Right here.

Japheth - (looks where Shem points on blueprint) Oh, will it have a door?

Ham - A door?

Japheth - Katherine is a BIG fan of doors, especially for "private" spaces.

Ham - I have a feeling that, if this all works out like Dad says, privacy is going to be the least of
                    our worries.

Japheth - You may be right. By the way, whatís this room for? (points to one side)

Shem - (consults blueprint) Thatís going to be the elephant room.
   
                     (Ham & Japheth look inside with disbelief, their arms measuring a space
                                                that obviously is too small for such a big animal)

Ham - Are you sure about that, Shem?

Shem - (consults blueprint again) Oh, silly me. (turns blueprint right-side up) The elephant room is
                    over on this side.

Japheth - Whew! There was no way we were going to fit an elephant in that other room. Can you
                    imagine trying to push that sucker in there?

Ham - Not and live!

Japheth - (looks into real "elephant room") Now this is more like it. I can see an elephant in here.

Ham - Yup.

Shem - That would be two elephants, guys.

Japheth - Two elephants?

Shem - Two elephants!

Ham - Weíre going to be really packing them in, arenít we?

Shem - Well, God did tell Dad two of every animal on the face of the earth.

Japheth - Somehow, I think the hardest part of this job is yet to come.

Ham - How long do you think itís going to be?

Japheth - Not long enough.

***************************

Scene Two - Many weeks later

        All three characters are now equipped boots and shovels. As the scene opens, Shem and Japheth stand together as if in the hallway outside the "elephant room." Ham is offstage.

Japheth - Man, Iíve had it with those camels. Did you know those suckers spit?

Shem - I discovered that a while back. The secret is to stay out of range.

Japheth - Apparently I wasnít "out of range" enough today.

Shem - Got nailed with a wet one, did you?

Japheth - Iím tired of being spat upon, hissed at, kicked, bitten, you name it.

Shem - Oh, Katherine is getting a bit testy, is she?

Japheth - Youíre a regular comedian, Shem. Better leave the jokes to Ham and me.

Shem - Without a sense of humor, Iíd never make it in this floating zoo.

Japheth - Wish Katherine had a little of it.

Shem - Oh, so things are not as "private" as sheíd like them?

Japheth - No, "things are not as Ďprivateí as sheíd like them." If our marriage survives this rocking
                    boat, itíll be a miracle. How about you and Joyce?

Shem - Well, Iíd say we have our better days and our lesser days.

Japheth - That sounds like how Dad would put it. Very diplomatic.

Shem - Yeah, right! He and Mom havenít spoken to each other for two weeks running.

Japheth - (sigh) Well, I finished the first floor.

Shem - Good, the second floor wasnít that bad. It didnít take as long to clean as I thought
                    it would.

Japheth - What now?

Shem - Surprise! This floor awaits.

Japheth - Where do we begin?

Shem - Why donít you start with the elephant room.

Japheth - No, please. The output of those two is phenomenal.

Shem - "Output." Thatís a very diplomatic way of putting it, Japheth. Iím impressed!

Japheth - Diplomatic or not, I canít take that room again. I did it last week.

Shem - Well, I did it the week before that.

Japheth - And the week before that was my turn.

Shem - And I before that.

Japheth - Gee, I wonder whose turn it is this week?

Ham - (enters with a smile on his face) Hi guys!
                     (Shem and Japheth turn as one to Ham)

Japheth - Oh, hello, brother dear.

Shem - So nice to see you!

Ham - (stops smiling) Iíve seen that look before. What do you want me to do this time?
                    (Shem and Japheth turn as one toward the elephant room) Oh, no you donít.

Japheth - When was the last time you cleaned it?

Ham - Wasnít it last week? (Shem and Japheth shake their heads) Maybe the week before?
                    (Shem and Japheth shake their heads) The week before? (Shem and Japheth shake their
                           heads)
Then the week before that! (Shem and Japheth shake their heads) Okay, I guess
                    it is my turn. Can we take a break, though? I just finished the small animal floor and
                    I'm pooped! Literally.

Japheth - Heís not so "diplomatic," is he?

Shem - Quite true, Japheth. (all three sit down)

Ham - Guys, I couldíve sworn we started out with only two rabbits.

Shem - You thought it would stay that way?

Ham - No, but when we calculated how much food weíd need for all these animals, we planned
                    on only so many mouths to feed. Things arenít going "according to plan."

Shem - Still questioning the wisdom of it all, are you?

Ham - Not, really. Things did turn out as Dad said they would - him and God.

Japheth - Youíre not kidding! We got finished none-too-soon. Those last hours were a bit hectic.

Shem - An understatement, for sure!

Japheth - Yeah, and with all this talk of rain, do you think I remembered to pack an umbrella?
                    NO!

Ham - (chuckling) I just wish we had thought to bring some air fresheners or something.

Japheth - Oh, Katherine remembered that. I wish she hadnít. Our room smells so flowery I can
                    hardly stand it. Iím glad the rain has stopped. Iíve been sleeping up top lately.

Shem - Seen anything up there?

Japheth - Anything but water, you mean? ... No.

Ham - If and when we do see dry land, what then?

Shem - I suppose weíll dock this boat and unload.

Ham - No, I mean what about after that?

Japheth - After we unload?

Ham - I mean, once this job is finished.

Shem - Weíll all settle down, I guess.

Ham - Itís just strange. For so long weíve been living out Dadís calling. He was the one God told
                    to build, fill, and float this Ark, not us. We just did what Dad told us to do.

Shem - You questioning our father again?

Ham - No. Iím proud of him, I really am. I willingly have done it all. Once this boat lands,
                    however - if it lands - what then? Are we going to stay together, or will we each find
                    our own way in this world? What are we going to do with ourselves. The job
                    market is sort of wide open at this point, you know.

Japheth - I hadnít really thought about that, brothers.

Ham - I have... A lot!

Shem - Donít you suppose God will have something more to say to us? After all, he got us to this
                    point to start with. Would he just leave us to figure it all out for ourselves?

Japheth - Well, he didnít tell us how we were supposed to get those elephants into that room, 
                    but we did it.

Ham - Donít remind me. My foot still hurts.

Shem - You know, once we land, weíll have to get them out of there?
   
                             (Japheth and Ham look at each other in panic for a moment or so)

Japheth - I think I can wait for the water to recede and the land to dry.

Ham - Yes, come to think of it, Iím not in too much of a hurry to get out of here. Except...

Shem - Except?

Japheth - Except?

Ham - Except, Iíd sort of like us to be on solid ground before Samantha gives birth.

Shem - What?

Japheth - How did this happen?

Ham - (Shem & Ham turn & look at their younger brother) Do we have to explain that to you also?

Japheth - I know about making babies! I was just thinking how that has been the last thing on my
                    mind this whole trip.

Shem - I agree. This isnít exactly a romantic cruise in the Mediterranean.

Japheth - And carrying for all these animals hasnít exactly made me want to have some critters 
                    of my own.

Ham - "Critters?"

Japheth - Oh, theyíre cute when theyíre babies, but once they hit a certain age they become ...
                    ... animals! Iím not ready to be a father.

Shem - I see what you mean. But once we hit dry land, weíll need all the help we can get to do
                    something with this new world.

Japheth - (sarcastically) You make it sound so appealing. Our children sound more like farm
                    hands or slaves.

Ham - That may be how things will work out - you never know.2  Besides, younger brother, I bet
                    you will end up bringing more little "animals" into this world than Shem or myself.3

Japheth - Yeah, right! At most I want two children, preferably one.

Shem - Youíve spoken of this with Katherine?

Japheth - Well, not exactly.

Ham - Weíll just see what happens.

Shem - Indeed! Do the other women know that Samantha is with child, Ham? I sure didnít
                    notice.

Ham - Iím positive they do. They seem to have a sixth sense for such things. They probably
                    already have a baby shower all planned.

Japheth - Donít you think it would be better if we had showers first?
   
                         (Shem and Ham look at each other as if, "he canít be that stupid,"
                                                             then seem to think better of it)

Shem - Now that you say that, a shower would sure feel good.

Ham - You know it. Why wasnít one in the blueprint?

Shem - Got me!

Japheth - By the way, whatís a shower?
   
                                 (all three look at each other, puzzled)

Ham - I havenít got the foggiest idea.

Shem - Me neither.

Japheth - Well, there you go. One of us will just have to invent it.

Shem - Until then, brothers, weíve got work to do. Break is over. (pause) Oh, yes, Ham, for the
                    elephant room, youíre going to need ... this. (hands Ham a large snow shovel)

Ham - (sarcastically) Thanks!


1  Obviously, we've taken some liberty with the names of the wives of Noah's sons, as well as "Uncle Ralph," which are nowhere listed in the Bible. The inter-relationship between the brothers in this family is also a mostly hidden aspect in the Genesis account which we have "stretched" quite a bit for drama's (and humor's) sake.

2  see Genesis 9:20-27.  Canaan was the youngest child of Ham, though some scholars believe Canaan is the youngest son of Noah according to the "J" tradition. Needless to say, this drama only alludes to 9:20-27  In a previous era 9:20-27 was used as a justification for the enslavement of African-Americans, who were seen as descendants of Ham. Did it function in a similar way for the Israelites in their struggle for the land against the Canaanites? This is a troubling text that deserves more than a humorous drama to explore, though a little levity often helps.

3  Compare Genesis 10:2, 6, and 22.  Of course, these list only the male offspring of each brother.

online resources for this scripture text

For commentaries consulted, see Genesis.


©2002 Peter L. Haynes

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