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Archive for November 29th, 2016

 

Noah Icon, Baptistry, Kramer Chapel, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN

 

Psalm 29
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-12, 17-23
1 Peter 3:18-22 or Hebrews 11:1-3, 7; 12:1-2
St. Matthew 24:36-44

Almighty and eternal God,  according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all.  Grant that we may be kept safe and secure  in the holy ark of the Christian Church, so that with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life,through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

 Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20).  Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would. (From LCMS website)

 Reflection: 

In 1666, a group of Connecticut Puritans, after a religious and political dispute, moved to New Netherland (now Hudson County, NJ) and founded a city. They were governed by strict religious rules and eventually decided to call their city “New Ark”, as in the new ark of the Covenant.  This town is the city known as Newark, NJ.

Newark, NJ does not enjoy a stellar reputation as the largest city in New Jersey.  Let’s look at this symbolically:  a city founded as a kind of a ‘theocracy’ eventually fell apart as such.  In fact it did, from the Wikipedia article on Newark:

The total control of the community by the Church continued until 1733 when Josiah Ogden harvested wheat on a Sunday following a lengthy rainstorm and was disciplined by the Church for Sabbath breaking.[9] He left the church and corresponded with Episcopalian missionaries, who arrived to build a church in 1746 and broke up the Puritan theocracy.

I put ‘theocracy’ in single quotation marks because it does not compute that man can found a ‘theocracy’ that is, a rule by God!  The only theocracy ever founded by the Lord was Israel, and I do not mean the present day State of Israel, but the one founded by the Lord after the Exodus and the entrance into the promised land. Man founding a state ruled by God only tends to be a religious dictatorship.  

In spite of the enthusiastic use of the name New Ark, it is not true to Scripture.  When Noah built the Ark, it was according to the Lord’s own architectural plans (Genesis 6: 15-16).  When the Lord called Moses to build the Tabernacle, it was according the Lord’s specs. Exodus 25: 10 and following. We do not design the Church as Noah did not design the Ark, nor Moses the Tabernacle. When we think we are building a church according to our own designs, it will always be legalistic and oppressive, as many cults, sects, communes and communities designed by Christian enthusiasts from the Puritans in New Netherland to Joseph Smith in Palmyra, New York have demonstrated.  These ‘new arks’ are not salvation from the judgment of God but become themselves God’s judgment on them. They do not save. Only one ark does: “…the holy ark of the Christian Church” and the Church is the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians  12:10ff).  Christ Jesus responded to Peter’s Confession: “I will build My Church” (St. Matthew 16: 18) and the rock is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:3) and the confession that He is the Son of the living God.  The Church builds using the precious stones, as was physical Temple in Jerusalem, and these are the precious stones of prayer, righteousness, faith, hope, love, Sacraments, Scripture, God’s Word.  These the Lord the Holy Spirit uses to build according to His specs:  the body of His Temple, the Lord Jesus (St. John 2: 21).  Here we offer spiritual sacrifices to the Lord (1 Peter 2: 4-10).    No plan, no matter how clever, can save from God’s strict and just judgment of the violence and lusts of the world, the flesh and the devil.   Only in Him do we flee for refuge to His infinite mercy, seeking and imploring His grace,  on account of Jesus Christ.

The old ark was in one locale upon the face of the deep upon the world.  The new ark of the Church is throughout and in the world and like the first ark, not of the world.  May we draw near, “advent” with His Gospel so that others will be baptized into His Church in true and joyous repentance.

 

 

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