Monday, November 13, 2006

Lesson 3: Many Waters

Lesson 3: God Said to Noah…

When the kids came in on the third Sunday, the first thing we did was ask them to help us fill in the family tree, from God to Noah. This took a while, as we required them to read the genealogy from Genesis 5 to deduce who came next. They also became interested in people’s ages—did they really live for nine hundred years? David got to write both “Methuselah” and “Mahalel,” which the others declared—rightly—was quite unfair. Ali also didn’t like the fact that no women other than Eve appeared on our chart. “Who were all their mothers?” she asked. It killed me to tell her that they are not remembered. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that this was because the mothers were not considered important enough to remember. From tradition, of course, we have some names—the Book of Jubilees gives us “Azura” for Seth’s wife, and “Mualeleth” for Kenan’s. These are only traditional, however, not Biblical. We can’t teach them in Sunday School for our little ones—the sources are tenuous at best, and goodness knows what their parents would think. So, instead, I must tell Ali that men only traced their family lineage through men, and the women were there, and they were important, but many of them go unnamed.

We asked the kids to tell us Noah’s story. It’s another one they’ve heard a hundred times, since they were in the cradle roll class. They overlapped, got elements of the story out of order, but together formed a fairly cohesive and accurate narrative. In past classes, I could tell, they had focused mostly on the colorful aspects of the story—the animals marching slowly, two by two, up the planks as the storm clouds gathered, the dove bringing the olive branch, the rainbow. We decided to focus on the parts of the story that tie it forward, into the Christian story.

Imagine, you are in a desert. It is hot, dry, dusty. It has not rained ever. There are no lakes or seas nearby. Your neighbor tells you he is going to build a boat. What do you say?

The kids agreed that they’d probably laugh at someone who built a boat in the desert, especially before the days when you could tow a boat down the interstate, behind your SUV. “Can you think of anyone else in the Bible who got made fun of?”



“Right. All of God’s people look strange to outsiders. If people don’t think you’re strange, you’re probably not doing as good a job of following Him as you could be.”

We had scavenged several concordances from various church members, and now we distributed them to the kids. “Is this a dictionary?” asked Joshua. We told him that he was close, and explained what a concordance is, and how to use it.

“We’re going to try out the concordances. In the story of Noah, God made the whole earth pure through water. I want to know of other times in the Bible when God purified people or things through water. So let’s try to find them with the concordances. First look up ‘water,’ then try to figure out from the little sentence context they give you, whether that verse might have something to do with purification. If you think it does, look it up in your Bible, and tell us if you were right.” Though no one was particularly enthusiastic, they did their best. The concordances weren’t all keyed to the same translations that they had, and Joshua got stuck with a severely lacking concordance. Still, they began to understand, and to make discoveries in their Bibles with this new tool.

David found the passage that ties the Old Testament to the New: “who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 3:20-21).

We finished, as the story generally does, with the rainbow. None of the kids knew what a covenant was, and we tried to explain it. “It’s partly like a promise, and partly like a legal contract. It’s a promise that is very hard to break. So, in this story, God is promising that he won’t destroy the world through water again. Another example of a covenant is a marriage vow. Baptism is a covenant too. All these covenants have one thing in common—a sign. The rainbow, a wedding ring, water. These signs are to remind us of the promises we’ve made. When I see a rainbow, I remember God’s promise. When I take off my wedding ring to avoid losing it in my bread dough, I remember the promises I made to JC. When someone in our church gets baptized, I am reminded of my own baptism, and the promises I made to God then. We’re going to be talking a lot about covenants, so I hope you remember this.”

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