EXCESSIVE EATING/DRINKING . . . But how do you define “excess”?

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
(Reference: Matthew 24:37-39 )

If one were to judge the historic Anabaptists by one representative (the one who wrote on this verse), one would say the historic Anabaptists did not hold much with eating and drinking, marrying and raising families. He wrote to his daughter, “Even as Noah had warned and preached, before the flood came, so Christ preached, and caused His apostles to preach, repentance, and still causes it to be done daily, by me, unworthy one, your beloved father, and by other servants of Christ. But what does it avail them? not many repent; they remain with the great multitude; we are lightly esteemed, for we are a plain, small and unlearned people. But Christ could well foresee the hardness of the people; hence He says in the Gospel: “As it was in the days, or times, of Noah; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until Noah entered into the ark; so shall it also be in the coming of the Son of man,” that is, Jesus Christ. Matt. 24:37.”

Perhaps he meant that no one did, or does, take special not of living according to Christ’s teachings. And only concerns themselves with things of the flesh. (Shades of previous themes.) But Jesus, who the writer of Matthew is having speak, did not say this as condemnation, but as fact. Everyone was going about their ordinary lives never thinking that it would come to an abrupt end, and that judgment was swiftly coming to them. That is how it often is with life changing events. And often we do not even know they are life changing, or that they should be life changing! That is a sad thing about the Christian life – when people forget that in the midst of their eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage they should be doing it as Christians and authentic followers of God. Not that they, or we, should stop living; but that we should do it in such a manner that it reflects God’s mission for the world.

Five years ago Will Fitzgerald (the originator of this blog) posted a wonderful story based on the story of Noah. I do not know if he wrote it or found it elsewhere – my suspicion is that he did write it. It speaks to the very heart of living life and not knowing when it has changed unalterably. And it speaks to being prepared – not so much for our lives to continue as they were but to be prepared for the changes that come, and prepared for new life in the world to come. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did when I first read it five years ago and when I rediscovered it this day. Selah!

It was a day like any other day, except for the rain. We’d never seen such rain.

I woke a little early because of the sound of the rain. It was a good thing, too, I thought; the rivulet that had been running through the chicken yard had turned into something more like a river, and the rushing water was eating away at the coop’s foundations. I think if I hadn’t got there when I did, the coop would have tipped over. By the time I had shored it up, I was hungry.

I’d taken to breaking fast with my neighbor, Seth, since both our wives had died. The bread was getting a bit moldy from all the dampness, but it was edible. Seth had just returned from attending the marriage ceremony of his second daughter’s oldest son; a number of his kin from that generation were of marriage age, so it was a season of weddings for Seth. Even all the rain couldn’t dampen his enthusiasm.

Seth told me a strange story: he’d heard that a man we knew when we were all children had built a large boat. He said the rain would continue until it drowned us all, and that he was planning to enter the boat with his family and ride out the storm. No one had ever seen such a boat, which was large enough for all kinds of animals. We decided to go to see it; it was a few hours walk away.

The way was somewhat more difficult because of the water. We had to ford several new creeks, and we found a couple of people who needed help, so we helped them out as best we could. By the time we got to the boat, it was nearing noon. We didn’t get a chance to talk to Noah, actually; we could see him entering the boat with his family from a distance. And here’s one strange thing: the door to the boat seemed to close on its own. When we arrived, we knocked at the door, but it appeared that it had been shut up with pitch. No matter how hard we knocked and shouted, no one heard us, apparently.

We then heard a kind of roar, and could see a flood of water rising towards us. We moved as quickly as we could to higher land, until we could look down at the rising waters and the large boat. The water eventually started to rise the boat, and it began to float. We again tried to shout down to the boat, but even if the sound of the rain hadn’t covered our voices, I think we would have been too far to have been heard.

We had to go even higher as the water increased. I thought about my chickens; they were probably gone.

We’ve made a camp at the top of this high hill. We don’t have much protection from the rain as it falls, and I don’t know if the water when the water will stop rising. We’ll be in trouble pretty soon. I wish I were on that boat of Noah’s.

It was a day like any other day, except for all the rain.

Creation: The Ongoing Triangle of Creator, Creation, and Humanity

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”     (Genesis 9:8-11)

[The Confession says, “We acknowledge that God sustains creation in both continuity and change. We believe that God upholds order in creation and limits the forces of sin and evil for the sake of preserving and renewing humanity and the world.“ What follows is a choral reading based in part on this passage from Genesis, and in part on this section from the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.]

A Choral Reading

Voice One: God looked around on the wet land.

Voice Two: The earnestness of my Will has wiped this land clean. It is time to start again.

Voice One: Noah and his family climbed out of the boat and on to the damp grass. And looked up.

Voice Two: Noah!

Voice Three: Yes, my God?

Voice Two: Noah, are you well and dry? You and your sons and all who are with you?

Voice Three: Yes, my Lord. We are well, my sons and my family who is with me.

Voice Two: Noah, I have done a wondrous thing . . . and a terrible thing. And because you obeyed with me and believed me in all things, I will make a covenant with you. With you and all who will come after you.

Voice Three: We await your words O God.

Voice One: Yes, Lord. All creation and humanity awaits your words.

Voice Two: Never again, Noah, shall I do such a thing. Never again shall water cut off all life. Evil will come, and all the water at my command would not stop it. I will find another way. But never again will I use floods to wipe away evil.

Voice One: The Lord has spoken! Water will not destroy all that lives. Never again need humanity and creation fear that rising floods will cut off all life! Nature may toss and turn us, but the Lord will not cut off life through nature. But the evil of humanity . . .

Voice Three: My Lord and God, we hear your words. They echo through all generations. We praise God for the Lord’s covenants, for we know they are true and will last for all ages.

Voice One: God creates. God can also destroy what is created. The power of the Creator is mighty and beyond our understanding. But the Lord will stay the Divine hand, and give creation and humanity the chance to live in peace. We are not worthy of such chances, but they are ours, a continuing legacy. May we strive to be worthy through God’s grace and mercy to us. And may we look for God and listening for God’s covenants to and for us.

All Voices: Selah!