One thing I like about the Catholic church is the liturgy. I love that on any given Sunday morning, the scriptures read are the same ones read in Catholic churches around the world. There’s such a unity in that…and power.
This Sunday we read a bit about Noah. You can find his story in Genesis starting around Chapter 6. Most of us are familiar with Noah and his ark. It was a time in humanity where evil was rampant, people were corrupt beyond correction and the world was full of violence. (Gosh that sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?) God saw all this and in His sovereignty, He determined that the earth should be destroyed. All but this guy named Noah and his family that is. The Bible tells us that Noah was a righteous man who walked with God.
So God shared his plan with Noah…to flood the earth and destroy mankind…and He gave Noah specific instructions on how to build this big ol’ boat that would keep his family safe during the flood. Fast forward past the torrential rains and waters coming up from the earth, through 40 days of floating with a bunch of animals….like for real animals, not his family. Although by the end of all that time on a boat with nowhere to go and nobody to talk to but the same few folks and all the mooing and and pooping and being tossed about, I don’t guess it would be far fetched to think that Noah and family might have been a bunch of animals by then.
So here’s Noah. He’s actually been spoken to directly from God Almighty. He has watched, probably wide-eyed, as animals of all kinds have just showed up on his doorstep in pairs to be loaded onto this huge sea worthy vessel he’s built. He has watched waters flood the earth, all the while being safe and sound in his pitch-covered ark while the rest of humanity perishes. And he has the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE make a covenant with him after the waters recede, and in this God gives Noah not just plants to eat, but meat too ya’ll. Hello steaks and fried chicken to go with your salads.
And this was not just ankle deep mud puddles. In fact, this was nothing even to compare to our tsunamis or hurricanes. This was complete and utter destruction…and Noah and his family were spared from it. This was a big freaking deal.
And following this miraculous event, following this covenant conversation with THE LORD, what does Noah do? Noah promptly plants a vineyard, makes wine, and gets drunk and passes out naked in his tent. Nice.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard the story before. But as the father called attention to all this in his message Sunday morning, I was just struck again by the overwhelming grace of God. The very idea that after everything Noah had seen God do, he still stumbled his way right into sin.
There’s a movement, for a lack of better words, in some more charismatic churches that seems to seek out the signs and the wonders. And for a while I found myself so intrigued by it all. Services where gold dust and precious gems supposedly manifest from the air. Where people have come home from services with gold teeth in their mouth that weren’t there before. Where the cripple walk and blind eyes suddenly see. Sounds amazing. And too good to be true.
And look, I’m not saying those things don’t actually happen. I’m also not saying that they do. I’ve never seen any of those things with my own eyes, so I can’t really say one way or the other.
But what I can say is that I began praying more and more to see those things happen. I was desperate for God to “show off,” as we say in our Christianese lingo. I thought, Lord if you would just do something big and flashy, maybe some of these people who don’t believe would change their hearts. I kept thinking that if God would be more public with all this stuff, people would have to admit He was really real and would believe in Him. And if I’m honest, I think I wanted to see God do those things because I was wanting some assurance and solid evidence myself. If you’re really there God and you really love me, please help grow my faith by giving me a “sign.”
What I began to realize though was that I couldn’t count on signs and wonders to strengthen my faith. If I was looking for something to give me hard proof of God’s involvement in my life, I was looking in the wrong place. My faith can’t depend on what God can do, but rather in what He has already done by the work of Christ on the cross.
So in considering Noah after church on Sunday, it occurred to me that Noah had been given all the signs and wonders a person could ask for. He’d seen the power of God firsthand, how the heavens and the earth moved at His command. He’d seen the destruction, he knew people who were there before the water that weren’t there anymore. Yet it still wasn’t enough to keep him from wandering. After all that, he still managed to allow himself to get drunk and inappropriate before this holy God who had just saved him from utter destruction.
And even when Jesus arrived on the scene and he was healing leprosy, and he was making the lame walk, and he was restoring sight, and he was bringing dead people back to life for crying out loud – even then in the midst of the miraculous, Jesus found himself on a cross.
For us. Because we just can’t get it together to save our lives.
So he came and saved our lives for us.
Jesus became the ark that we drag ourselves into. Our salvation that protects us from the sin storm that rages around us. The ark that will carry us over Jordan to the Beautiful Land.
Because even the glory of God in the flesh doing the miraculous right in front of our face wouldn’t be enough to keep us from sin. He had to go to the cross. He had to take the blame so that we might be saved. He had to defeat sin and death so that we could live.
I don’t pray for the miraculous like that much anymore. I mean, yes, God. Heal the sick, help the ones in need. Most definitely. But more than that, allow the gospel to go into every nook and cranny. We need to demonstrate the love of God to others more than we need be seeking signs and wonders. And we need the gospel more than we need gold dust.