Friday, April 18, 2014

The Real Noah Story (Part 2)

 Matthew 24:37-39

 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,  and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

1 Peter 3: 18-22

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,  because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.  Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

The sad thing about Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" is that it misses the types 
and shadows by which Noah's story points us to Christ.  Focused on its ecological 
parable, the film distorts the New Testament reading of the flood narrative and its typological importance for Christians today, especially on this Good Friday.  
For as Noah and his family were saved from God's judgment through the ark, 
so we were brought safely by another human creation made of wood through sin, death, and the devil, when Christ was put to death in the flesh on a Roman cross, bearing the due penalty we deserved for our rebellion. Released from the condemnation of the Law, the cross brings us the eternal peace with God that Noah's ark hinted at but couldn't preserve, for though God promised not to send another flood on the earth, there is a greater "day of the Lord" coming, when God in Christ will return to judge mankind according to its works. Christ's voluntary sacrifice on the cross eternally releases us from the guilty verdict that is coming on the wickedness of men, which this time around will not be blotted out by "the waters of the deep" but instead cast into the eternal fires of second death that wait for those outside Christ.

Today the good news of the cross is applied to us through Word and Sacrament,
creating new life where before there was spiritual death.  None more so
than in the Sacrament of Baptism whose washing of regeneration through
water and the Word corresponds to the waters of the flood that washed
away the sins of the world.  This Baptism now saves us through the
resurrection of Christ, uniting us to his death that crucifies our
old self with its body of sin, and to his resurrection life by which
death no longer has dominion over us.  Through the flood waters of Baptism
we are raised from death to life.  Now called to walk in "newness of life",
drowning our sins and evil desires so that "a new man should daily emerge
and rise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever". Living
daily repentance in the sure knowledge that our salvation has already been won
by what looked like to the world as a defeat: a condemned Rabbi sentenced to
die who was actually God in the flesh, who by his blood triumphed over the
rulers and authorities that once held us in slavery.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

We Remember Because God First Remembered Us

 Exodus 28: 1-12

“Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron's garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.

“And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree. And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for remembrance.

Isaiah 49: 15-16
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
    that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
    yet I will not forget you. 

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are continually before me.

We think of remembrance as our religious duty.  We take bread and wine in remembrance of Christ as he commanded the New Testament apostles.  We worship through spiritual hymns remembering "the deeds of the Lord " and all his "wonders of old" (Psalm 77), and as we keep his commandments, we "remember the Sabbath day, keeping it holy" when we feast on Word and Sacrament every Sunday in the divine service (Exodus 20).  But primarily remembrance is God's work, as by his righteousness and covenantal faithfulness he keeps his promises to us.  At key times during Israel's history, God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, hearing Israel groan under slavery in Egypt, when they suffered under various tyrants throughout the Book of Judges, and during Israel's exile in Babylon, each time delivering on his promises that he had made to his people to save them, years before in his prophetic Word.  

Likewise God remembers us through the new covenant in Jesus Christ.  Just as Aaron carried the 12 names of the tribes of Israel before the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, so Jesus took our names into the throne room of God, written in his Book of Life by our great High Priest.  Where he intercedes for us daily, bringing our prayers to remembrance before our heavenly Father as we pray under the covering of Jesus' name.  Jesus also brought us to remembrance before God on the cross.  Our names and more importantly our sins "engraved on the palms of his hands" nailed to the cross that interceded for us with the words "it is finished, your sins are forgiven", which God will never forget or forsake (as we so easily do), as he looks down on us from his "holy hill" and sees us signed,
sealed, and delivered through baptism with the righteousness of Christ.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Real Noah Story (Part 1)

In my film review of Noah (, I mentioned that the Creator was only "tangentially connected to the Christian God of the Bible".  Thinking back, I realize this was an understatement, as the god pictured in Aronofsky's opus has more in common with the God of Deism, a blind watchmaker, who might speak from time to time but overall leaves humanity with little in the way of directions.  This is certainly true of Noah's plight in Aronofsky's film, after the initial vision Noah is more or less blindfolded as to God's intentions once the Ark has set sail, so much so that Noah believes for no reason apart from the weather that God wishes him to commit infanticide on Shem's twin daughters,
and for his whole family to commit suicide once they reach land.  Noah's belief in the film is more akin to Greek mythology, describing the kind of gods that communicate ambiguously through natural weather events and demand instant appeasement.  A cruel, capricious God who acts against his own just Law is not our Heavenly Father who is holy, righteous and pure and has issued the command throughout the generations not to commit murder.  In actuality the triune God gave clear, concise and direct commands for Noah to follow, as described in Genesis 6 and 7:

Genesis 6: 9-21

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

As shown by these verses, God established a covenant with Noah, having declared him and his household to be "righteous before [God] in [his] generation" (Genesis 7:1), out of God's sheer mercy and grace.  Therefore Noah and his family were not to be destroyed along with the "wickedness of men", as the film suggests (Genesis 5: 5).  Part of the Noahic covenant was God's command to Noah and his family to "go out from the ark", and to "be fruitful and multiply on the earth" (Genesis 8: 16, 17). In return God promised them salvation in the shape of the ark, and his enduring promise that "never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth" (Genesis 9:11). Noah and his family were left in no doubt as to God's wishes within that covenant, and Noah was certainly not left to decide for himself who lived and who died,  as God commanded that "two of all flesh", male and female", should enter the ark.  These included every living creature but also Noah and his wife, his sons and their wives (yes Mr. Aronofsky, Noah's sons HAD WIVES!!!), who were saved not as New Age environmentalists to begin over again (God isn't against industrialization by the way) as the film suggests, but that they might receive God's blessings, and that they would worship him in spirit and truth for all he had done for them by his acts of grace.

In Part 2 I will move away from the film somewhat, and talk in terms of typology, relating Noah's story to our covenantal relationship in Christ which will become keenly clear to us
as we move into Holy Week.

In the meantime....

Thank you heavenly Father that you are not absent from us, but that you have spoken to us clearly through your Word, and that you continue to speak through the words of your Son, through whom you have purchased salvation for us by the shedding of his blood, now
and forever.

In the name of Christ.  Amen.