• 2 October 2023

Chapter 2 – All Aboard

Since March I’ve been in lockdown – either government-imposed (as now) or self-imposed as I worried about coming into contact with Covid with no immune system.

I felt as it were endlessly tossed around in a boat in a stormy sea, quarantined, cut off from others, wondering about how long this would go on for, fearful, lonely, afraid whether indeed we would ever see “dry land” again.

You don’t have to be a Bible genius to see a passage that speaks to us – Noah and his Ark. This is a passage that has been ruined by twee pictures of fluffy animals marching in two by two: the poor drowned corpses don’t seem to have made it to the Sunday school illustrations. What does it say to us then?

That we live in a death threatened world, whether we know it or not. Jesus tells us that people in Noah’s day were living ordinary lives until suddenly everything changed. The same for us: in a few short weeks, our lives in March were threatened by something we never even considered. Without warning, we are alone on a stormy sea.

Where can we take comfort? Firstly that God doesn’t give us what we deserve. God was Incredibly patient in the days of Noah and he is equally patient with us now. Not only is he long-suffering but he at the same time offers us a way of escape from death. Then the ark, now the cross. Both appear very unlikely routes to safety but all you have to do is “get on board”. You don’t need a golden ticket, there is room for all who will enter and all are invited.

Secondly, we read “God remembered Noah”. I sometimes feel forgotten as I lurch from one illness to another. Noah felt forgotten but of course, friend, God will never forget Noah, me, you or any of his children! People said 3000 years ago “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”

To which the reply came

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”

No. In our suffering pain and loneliness, we will never never be forgotten. Nor are we ever even on our own. Noah was not on his own. He had his family with him. We have our family – the church. Now sometimes you may think that the church is the last thing you need in suffering: that it can be worse than useless or irritate you beyond belief. But the church is not as it seems: because it is ultimately the body of Christ. As John says “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”. In our church family, we both have and are each of us being made like our older brother to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” If we want to love Christ whom we cannot see we must first love our brothers and sisters, whom we can.

Ultimately what we need in suffering fear and death is Christ. He beckons us aboard his ship, the cross, of which he is both builder, captain, and shipmate. He designed it, suffered it, offers it, and is our companion and friend in entering it.

James AK Smith quotes Augustine, “It is as if someone could see his home country from a long way away, but is cut off from it by the sea; he sees where to go, but does not have the means to get there.” Smith continues “You can’t get there from here. Not even a map is enough. You might already have realized where you need to go, but the question is how to get there.” Augustine points out that God sends us an ark “For no one can cross the sea of this world unless carried over it on the cross of Christ.’ Get on board, says God, for the only way to reach home, is aboard the Ark of the cross.

Excerpt from Hope in the face of suffering – 20 devotions for tough times by Jeremy Marshall

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