Genesis 8.6-13,20-22; Ps 115; Mark 8.22-26
The account of a great flood that destroyed all the world apart from one righteous man, Noah, his family, and pairs of all earth’s creatures, occupies four chapters of the book of Genesis; we hear two excerpts from this long narrative today and tomorrow. The story begins with God’s chilling declaration that he is sorry he created humankind. [Genesis 6.6] At its close God makes a covenant with Noah, promising that he would never again destroy the earth. [9.11]
Today’s reading begins ‘at the end of forty days’—i.e., after the flood waters have ceased to fall. Noah sends out a raven, a large bird considered to be wary, even pessimistic, whose flight is said to have dried up the waters covering the earth. Then Noah sent out a dove, and on its second attempt the bird returned to Noah bearing an olive branch in its beak—a gift at once symbolic and practical which a poet described as ‘a sprig of hope’, a sure sign, despite all evidence to the contrary, that God himself wills life with all its ambiguity to continue.