26 “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! 27 For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. 28 Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.
29 Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world — from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.
32 Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.
36 However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. 37 When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.
40 Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. 42 So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
45 A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48 But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49 and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51 and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
As it was in Noah’s day. Think about that for a minute. What was it like in Noah’s day? What sign did they get to know what was coming? Nothing before the first rain drop. Before that it was business as usual. Except for Noah. If anyone needed a pre-sign, it was the guy building the big boat for no apparent reason. But he didn’t get any sign until the animals starting turning up, after the boat was complete. Noah is our example because he built the ark in ordinary time, not in reaction to various current events.
And so it must be with us. Early Christians understood Noah’s ark to be symbolic of the church – a space we build under divine direction to keep safe and nurture all whom God sends to us. And God will send us every sort of person imaginable, clean and unclean, lovely and not-so-lovely, various kinds of smelly, with various dietary needs and quirky habits, even some that are downright dangerous. Each is precious to God and worth saving. That is what the ark is for, saving life from the storms outside, bringing them into a place that cares for them, protects them, and delivers them safely through the storm.
All this is made possible because Noah did what God told him to do. Unlike the religious leaders and disciples, Noah did not ask for or wait on a sign. He did not build in reaction to what was going on around him or what would appeal to popular opinion. What he built was unintelligible to the world around him. It was based on an alternate logic. A logic of obedience to God. A logic of nurture. A logic of acceptance.
And so it must be with us.
The New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.