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Summary: Lent should be more than giving up drinking or chocolate for a few weeks. What does Lent say to us?

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Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (NRSVA)

Saint Benedict, who wrote the guidebook for monastic living, said that a monk’s life “…ought to be a continuous Lent.” He also recognized that not many people have the strength of discipline to live Lent all year long, so he suggested using Lent to “wash away the negligence of other things.” [1]

A man walks into a bar in Dublin (so the story goes) and orders three glasses of beer; he then proceeds to sit by himself and drink a sip from each glass in turn. When he finishes he orders three more. The bartender says, “You know, a pint of Guinness goes flat minutes after I pour it; it tastes better if you just order them one at a time. The man replies, “Well, you see, I have two brothers – one in America and one in Australia. When we all left home we made a pact to drink this way to remember the days when we were all together. The bartender acknowledges the custom and pours three more glasses. The man becomes a regular, drinking three glasses of beer in turns.

One day the man comes in and orders just two glasses. All the other regulars notice this and fall silent; they assume one of the brothers has passed. On the second round, as the barkeep is filling just two glasses, he offers, “I am very sorry for your loss, and I want to offer my condolences. The man looks quizzically at the bartender for a moment, and then a light dawns and he laughs out loud. “Oh, no,” he smiles, “everyone is just fine. I’ve just can’t get them to quit drinking for Lent.” [2]

Noah eventually had that problem; but that’s another story. This one is the brighter side of the rainbow (so to speak). After nine long months Noah and his family stepped out of the floating zoo onto dry land. If you consider what they had been through, you can sense what Lent tries to convey to our understanding.

The Ark was a LONELY place

Remembering that every living human being and animal on planet earth had succumbed to the flood waters, and that Noah and his seven family members at that moment comprised the entirety of humanity, made “global community” a very small scope with an overwhelming sense of aloneness.

Lent should speak of the aloneness man faces without a Savior.

The Ark was a DARK place

Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King have made a fortune with the terror of the darkness. In antediluvian times darkness was to be feared. Even today we cannot shake our natural fear of the dark. Noah’s little band huddled against the darkness of the storm for more than a month.

Lent should speak of the darkness in our souls which craves the light of God.

The Ark was an UNCERTAIN place

No matter where Noah looked there was water! God had promised…but, would they have enough food to wait out the waters? God had said they’d be safe…but, the animals were restless.

Fear of the unknown is perhaps the most emotionally-paralyzing prospect of human existence. If there is anything that makes a dog bark, or a child cry, or the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up, it is uncertainty.

For Noah, if God was that angry to wipe man off the face of the earth – what did that mean for him? Had he dodged a bullet only to face God alone and in the dark? What was to become of them?

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