Southminster Presbyterian Church

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Waiting for the Rainbow

Ken Onstot

Scriptures:  Genesis 6:11-22; 8:1-12

(Noah's son, enters with two boards and begins nailing them together with a thin third board set up on a saw horse.  Noah enters.)

Noah:  I hope you're almost finished with that patch, son.  We're about to spring a leak on the penguins.

Son (flinging down his hammer on the board):  Will you get off my back, Dad!  The penguins will be just fine.  Penguins are supposed to like water, aren’t they?

Noah:  It's not the penguins I'm worried about.  If this boat leaks, we will all go down.

Son (going over and confronting his father):  I thought you said God was going to protect us.  God will save us, you said, if we build a boat.  So we built a boat.  Now every time I turn around I have to fix a leak.  Or haul water down in rain buckets.  Or rebuild the fence between the foxes and chickens.   Or shore up the flooring between decks, so the giraffes don't land on the hippos.  If we're saved by God, how come I'm doing all the work?

Noah:  Sometimes our work is the means God uses to save us.

Son (goes off to the other side):  Well, I'm starting to wonder about God.  What kind of God would kill off an entire planet—men, women, children, animals?  Does that sound like a loving God to you?

Noah:  Would a loving God stand by and let the world go on as it is?  Would a loving God let people go on killing each other, exploiting each other, lying to one another to satisfy their lust and greed?  Would a loving God allow the world to be despoiled by fewer and fewer people consuming more and more of the earth's resources while others don't have enough to survive? Would God be loving to let people exploit women for sex, children for labor, and nature for greed?  Is that what a loving God would do?

Son (subdued):  Of course not.  But isn't God throwing out the baby with the bathwater... I mean, literally?  Why should children and animals suffer for the wrongdoing of adults?

Noah (also subdued):  I don't know, but it always happens that way.  Look at any war that has ever been fought.  The whole creation suffers when people act wickedly--even children and animals. Children always suffer for their parents' sins.  Then they grow up to repeat them.

Son:  That's an encouraging thought.

Noah:  That's how it works.  The sins of the parents are inherited by the children.  The only way to stop the cycle is to start over.

Son (going over to his father):  So where does that leave us?  If human beings are so hopelessly corrupt that God must wipe them out, why should God save us?  Are we so much better than everyone else?

Noah:  I've wondered about that.

Son: What makes you think we will ever get off this boat?  God told you it would rain for forty days and forty nights.  Apparently God forgot to tell you that the water would go on rising for 150 days.  We've been on this boat for over a year and we still can't see the ground.

Noah:  God promised to save us.

Son:  When?

Noah: I don’t know.

Son:  And then what happens?  Suppose the waters recede and we get off this floating menagerie.  What will keep it from happening again?  You say that God flooded the world because of people's sin.  Well, we're people, aren’t we?  What's going to keep us from sinning again? What will keep our children and their children from sinning?  What will keep God from throwing up his hands and wiping us out all over again?

Noah:  I don't know.  But God must have some plan in mind.  Otherwise God would not have bothered to save us.  Perhaps there is some kind of water that can wash away sins without washing away people.

Son: The only kind of water that could cleanse us from sin is the kind that would kill us.

Noah:  Well, this water (motioning around him) is not going to kill us.  Remember that raven I released two weeks ago.  It never came back.  Maybe it found a place to land.

Son:  Or maybe it ran out of strength and drowned.

Noah:  I don’t think so.  After that I sent out another bird--a dove.  Last night it came back with this.  (He takes out of his pocket a twig from a tree.  The Son goes over and looks at it.)

Son:  An olive branch.  (Thoughtfully)  We haven't had any good olives since, … I can’t remember.  Where did you get this?

Noah:  I told you, the dove brought it back.

Son (handing the branch back):  It was probably just some floating debris, another painful reminder of what's been destroyed by the flood.

Noah:  But look, its fresh.

Son (ignoring it):  How can anything be alive down there after a year under water?  If this boat ever does land, which I doubt, we'll never find anything to eat.  It will all be buried under mud.

Noah:  God will provide, my son.

Son (with sudden vehemence):  How?  We were supposed to be in this boat for 40 days.  But the water kept rising for 150 days.  You think it's starting to go down, but with no land to look at, who can tell?  After 40 more days you sent out that raven.  It never came back.  Who knows what that means?  Then you waited another 7 days and sent out a dove.  It comes back with a branch.  We can't feed this family with a branch.  We're running out of food, Dad.  In another day or two I'm going to slaughter one of those bulls and have steak. (He starts to march off with the hammer in his hand.)

Noah:  Wait!  You can't do that.  They will become extinct.

Son:  Who cares?  Why worry if some species becomes extinct when your own family doesn’t have enough to eat.  We've got to survive.

Noah:  God has given us all the food we need, if we share it.

Son:  But it won’t last much longer.  If God is going to save us, he better do it quick.

Noah (putting his arm around Son):  Son, calm down.  Do you remember how frightened you used to be by storms?  When you heard the thunder you ran for your mother and me.  We held you, and then when the storm passed I took you outside and showed you the rainbow.  The rainbow meant the storm was over and the sun was coming out.  The storm always ends, the sun always comes out.  That's how God meant it to be, and that's how God wants it to be again.

Son:  So we're waiting for the rainbow.

Noah:  That's right.  The rainbow reminds us of God's faithfulness.  I know this is hard.  I don’t know why there is so much suffering in the world, so many floods and fires, storms and earthquakes, wars and famines.  I don’t know why these things happen.  But I have to believe that God still has a purpose for us, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.  And I know that no storm can separate us from God's love, otherwise God would not have given us the rainbow.  I don’t know how God will finally deal with human sin, but I believe that one day God will give us a different kind of water—the kind of water that can wash away sin, without washing us away in the process.

Son (shrugs):  So meanwhile I'm supposed to fix the leaks.  Is that it?

Noah:  Yes.  And those boards you put up will be the structure of God's love.  All our work to serve God, to preserve the creation, to help one another live full and productive lives--all of that will be signs of God's faithfulness, just like the rainbow.

Son (going back and picking up his hammer):  I hope you're right, Dad, especially since it's the only chance we've got.

Noah:  Yes, I guess it is.

 

"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care."

Psalm 95:6-7