Crisis + Covenant: Noah, the Flood, and God’s Covenant

Noah Illumination , Italy, 14th Century

Introduction

Noah and the flood is one of the stories that we tend to hear often and know so well that we rarely have a close look at the text. This week, before you start planning your lesson, read through Genesis 6-9 and see if there is anything there that you haven’t noticed before.

Our story this week is a short three chapters which may loom quite large in the minds of the parish children. This is a story that you can count on being in almost every single children’s Bible. After the Fall, Genesis follows the story of the first family–Cain’s murder of Abel (4:1-7), the subsequent curse of the ground and Cain’s wandering over the earth (4:10-16), the spread of civilization (4:17-26), and the generations from Adam to Noah (5:1-32)–and the continual move by humankind away from God (6:5-8). These early stories are mostly about the increasing alienation of all of creation from God following the Fall.

It is also interesting to note that the fate of humankind (created in the image of God) and the fate of the rest of creation are tied up together. So much so that the wickedness and violence of humankind leads God to grieve over all of creation (6:6-7) and commit to destroying all human and animal life–everything with the breath of life (remember how important that breath was when God breathed into the first human, formed from the clay of the earth).

Noah alone is singled out as favored (6:8), presumably because he is both righteous and blameless (6:9). The following chapters cover Noah’s building of the ark, the events of the flood, the receding waters after the flood, and God’s covenant never to destroy creation again.

This is a story that may be made to seem softer with a moral lesson–Obey God like Noah–but the text doesn’t provide those connections for us. We may just have to sit with the text and find meaning in it. What is interesting for our context is creation’s alienation from God, and God’s covenant making with human creation. This is the first in a long line of stories that are about covenant making. God’s covenant with creation helps overcome estrangement and alienation, highlighting the kind of future that God wants for creation (in this case, a future without total destruction).

One more note before I list some suggestions for the lesson. Rainbows are quite an interesting symbol that deserves a moment of thought. In seminary, one of my professors suggested that God’s reminder to Godself is not merely an innocuous and beautiful symbol, but a bow (9:13). God’s reminder and covenant with all of creation is signified, it was suggested, through a weapon, which is (interestingly enough) pointed at God. People could take the promises of God very seriously because God takes Gods covenant with creation very seriously.

Objectives

1. Children will describe the story of Noah and the flood in their own words.

2. Children will be introduced to the theme of covenant as a promise between God and creation that helps overcome alienation and estrangement.

Hear the Word

Younger children may wish to hear the whole story in Genesis 6-9 in one of our children’s Bibles or one of the children’s books about the flood. These stories are often inadequate, but if you know the story, you can share parts that are left out with your class. If you use the Jesus Storybook Bible, your class might enjoy watching this video on an ipad. Older children may like to explore the whole story, but because it is too long for our 50 minute sessions, you might want to explore it in parts. Here are some suggested verses to focus on depending on the focus of your class: God sees the wickedness of the earth and selects Noah to build the ark (Genesis 6:5-22), the flood (7:11-17), God’s covenant with all living things (9:12-17).

Respond to the Word

1. Material Storytelling: Bring various items from the supply closets or elsewhere (blue cloth, different colored streamers or paper strips, a basket for the ark). After telling the story, give the children access to the different items you brought in in order to act out the different parts of the story from start to finish. They can tell the story as one large group setting the stage as they go, or in sets of two or three. If your students are readers, you can use this skit.

2. Covenant symbols: God set the bow in the sky as a reminder of God’s promises to humans and other creation never to destroy the earth and living things again. Invite children to discuss what kind of promises the people might have made to God in response: no more violence, no more wicked behavior, commitment to obedience and closeness to God. Then, using any material of your choosing (clay and watercolor strike me as particularly good options), allow each child to create their own symbol from the story–an ark, water, a dove, etc.–to remind us of what our side of the covenant might look like. How does God want us to relate to God, one another, and the earth, and which symbol is the best reminder of that?

3. Rainbows everywhere: Spend some time talking about what God’s covenant with creation means. Is it strange that this is also a covenant with all of the earth, including animals? Then work on creating rainbows of promise. You may want to guide them through creating rainbows from specific materials or provide various materials and allow children to create rainbows in their own way. Here are some good ideas to get juices flowing on possible materials: Rainbow mosaic, rainbow watercolor crayon resist, 3-d paper rainbow or another 3-d paper rainbow.

4. Build an ark: God brought Noah and his family safely to the other side of the flood by using an ark. This is an important symbol for the Christian Church and a lot of church architecture reflects this symbol. When you look up at the ceiling of the Nave (and many other chapels and churches) the architecture calls to mind an ark. Use the cardboard bricks in the supply closet and work together to build an ark.

5.  Noah Songs

a. Rise and Shine

b. (To the tune of Old McDonald): For the animal part, have each child provide a different animal to use for the song.

Good old Noah built an ark, like God told him to.
And on that ark he took 2:
(animals) ie. Cows.
With a moo moo here, and a moo moo there
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo.

6. Adapt the Naming Animals Game: Young classes may enjoy the animal game from a couple of weeks ago when talking about how Noah gathered two of every animal for the Ark.

7. Generations from Adam to Noah: Last year some of you expressed an interest in creating a sort of timeline for your classes, something that could be put up in the classroom and added to throughout the year. This idea–a timeline of the generations from Adam to Noah–might be just the thing you are looking for.

Close with a Feast and Prayer

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