Genesis 8.4. ‘In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat’.
Several years ago a friend and I visited Armenia and went to the foothills of Mt Ararat. It is a special mountain for the Armenian people. In the Bible, in the book of Genesis, we hear the story of Noah and of how Noah’s ark settled on Mount Ararat as the terrible flood subsided.
In the New Testament the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews used Noah as an example of faith and saw the ark as the divinely-appointed place of safety, ‘By faith Noah took good heed of the divine warning about the unseen future, and built an ark to save his household’. And ever since then Christians generally have thought of the ark as the divinely-appointed place of safety.
In the Book of Common Prayer baptism service, there is a prayer which Archbishop Cranmer adapted from Martin Luther. Listen to part of it now: Mercifully look upon this Child; wash him and sanctify him with the Holy Ghost; that he, may be received into the ark of Christ’s Church; and being steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally he may come to the land of everlasting life, there to reign with thee world without end. ‘The ark of Christ’s Church’. Perhaps you’ve never thought of Christ’s Church as an ark. Look at our remarkable ceiling here at St Chrysostom’s – its just like an upturned boat. We are, symbolically, at least, in the ark.
‘It’s a wonderful world.’ And so it is but it’s waves can also be very dangerous, very troublesome as the prayer puts it, and it isn’t at all easy to pass through these waves. And yet if we’re ‘in Christ’, if we’re attentive to his word, if we make use of the means of grace which he offers us, and if in worship and fellowship we keep company with others who are ‘in Christ’ – in other words, if we’re ‘in the ark of Christ’s Church’ – we shall indeed be ‘steadfast in faith, joyful through hope and rooted in charity’, and we shall ‘so pass the waves of this troublesome world that finally we may come to the land of everlasting life’.
The storms may rage around us. At one level we’re as frightened as other people, but we’re able to rise above our fears, and to take risks for the sake of the gospel. Because we know at the deepest level of our being that we’re in the place of ultimate safety, we’re in Christ and in the ark of his church.
And as the ark rested on Mount Ararat when the floods were over and the waters had abated, so one day – please God – we will have so passed the waves of this troublesome world that we may come to our own Ararat, the land of everlasting rest.