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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Today’s Reading | Genesis 8:1–19

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred fifty days the waters had abated; and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.

At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him anymore.

In the six hundred first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.

Then God said to Noah, “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families. (NRSV)

This story reminds us that three times Noah had to open the window of the ark and send out a dove to determine whether the waters of the flood had subsided. On the first attempt, the dove returned without any evidence of dry land. On the second attempt, the dove returned, holding an olive leaf in its beak—evidence that the waters had receded. On the third attempt, the dove did not return to the ark. Facing life after a flood, Noah did not know what to expect. By sending the dove out three times as a scout, Noah was engaged in taking measure of a totally new landscape.

I imagine that it was with reverence, and an appropriate amount of fear and trembling, that Noah opened the window of the ark to let loose the dove. I imagine a similar kind of reverence is involved whenever scientists take measure of environments that are so complex and grand that they arouse both awe and humility.

Sometimes, in our efforts to be effective and efficient, we press ourselves for metrics by which we can evaluate the expenditure of our efforts and other resources. This is part of being a good steward. I am reminded by this Bible story, however, that measuring our own effectiveness is only half the picture. We need first to take reverent measure of the complex world around us—a world made and remade by God.

Fill us with awe and appreciation, God, for the world in which we live. Help us to be astute observers of its complexity and interrelatedness. In our zeal to live with purpose, help us not to overlook reverence. Amen.

Written by Joyce Shin, Associate Pastor for Congregational Life

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