I bind this day to me forever, by the power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
His baptism in the river Jordan;
His death on the Cross for my salvation;
His bursting forth from the spiced tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom. – St Patrick’s Breastplate
So Noah went forth, and his sons and his wives and his sons’ wives with him. And every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves upon the earth, went forth by families out of the ark. Genesis 8:18-19
The animals had been cooped up in the ark for a very long time. God had blessed the ark so that all who lived within it would dwell together in peace. We don’t have any information about any stress or difficulties, and the fact that we still have both lions and lambs – not to mention Noah and his sons surviving to repopulate the earth – tells us that the usual laws of nature did not apply inside that small, wooden, floating zoo.
But then the flood waters went away, the ground was dry, and the door was flung open to the reborn world. And I don’t think that the verb “went forth” adequately describes what happened. Lots of children’s story Bibles show nice little arks with the animals descending the ramp, decently and in order, sometimes with babies in tow. But I imagine it had a little more excitement. The floodgate that had held in all their emotions and instincts was opening just as the door in the boat that had been their home opened to release them into their new home.
Less went forth, and more burst forth.
I had a dog, who (when I would come home at the end of the day) would run to the door to greet me and then nudge, bark, push, and basically herd (she was a collie) me to the back door where she would run in circles until I could get the door unlocked to let her out. She would then bound out in joy, barking at her release, and relief, and freedom.
So, that is how I picture the ark…but with elephants.
Our God is a God that loves to burst forth. God created flowers that burst forth from buds, butterflies that burst forth from cocoons, and dogs that burst forth from open doors to run around the yard at the end of a long day.
God made us a people who love to burst forth. Children bursting forth from the school door at 2:20 on a June Wednesday. Graduates bursting forth from an auditorium, gowns flying and diplomas in hand. Grandparents bursting forth into rooms, full of pictures and stories to tell about their grandchildren.
I love the translation of St. Patrick’s breastplate that has Christ burst forth from the spiced tomb. When the moment of our salvation was at hand, when Christ’s final victory over sin and death was complete, it was not accomplished with a quiet whisper, but with a bursting forth. Matthew’s Gospel even gives us an earthquake, the very earth bursting forth in triumph at what has been accomplished.
Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything.
There was a time for the ark and a time for leaving it.
There was a time for the tomb and a time for the resurrection.
There is a time for quiet reflection and a time to burst forth.
Don’t be afraid to burst forth into the world, shouting your praises to God, and trumpeting like an elephant bursting forth out of the ark.