A boat is coming to carry people away from the flood.
You do not have a ticket.
You do not have the money to get a ticket.
You cannot forge a ticket.
You fumble in your pocket anyway, despite knowing you will find nothing.
If you are wondering whether you know anyone who might be able to get you the money or the paperwork, you do not. You do not even know anyone who knows anyone.
The flood is coming. It has been coming for a while. It has reached others. You have heard reports. You have seen it yourself. You have met victims.
You didn’t think it would come for you. At least, you didn’t think it would come for you to begin with. Now it is nearly here.
So is the boat. But you are not allowed on the boat.
The boat is reserved for one man and his family. His name is Noah. He and his sons and their partners and their grandchildren will be rescued. You will not. You will not even be allowed on the ship even to serve them and clean up after them. You cannot stowaway.
Many said that floods were coming. They saw the weather signs. They felt the ground dry up. They knew the trees had stopped bearing leaves. They saw the black clouds and felt the stormy winds.
You did not laugh at people who said the floods were coming. You did not join in with alarmist panic either.
You did not commission people to make sure you would be insulated against environmental catastrophe because you didn’t have that kind of money. You knew you were powerless either way when the warnings came.
You just kept working. What else could you do? You worked and raised your children and made sure you had shelter and a roof over your head. You had fun times with your friends and family. You tried to enjoy life. You tried not to think about it.
You got on with your job.
And this is the kicker: your job is building boats.
You are a skilled carpenter. You sand down wood and hammer nails and apply coats of varnish. You breathe in sawdust and work twelve hours a day and learn how to make the dimensions exactly right so that a ship of any size will float.
You know the boat is coming because you are building it.
You were among the people commissioned to build the ark that is going to take that man and his family away.
You have never been able to afford to go on any of the boats you have made before. This will be no exception.
Even with the floods already here and the rains rising all around you, you have no choice but to watch.
Noah will float away to safety on the boat that you are building, because he has the wealth to commission you. And the power to leave you behind.
He has his wealth because his father, Lamech, had wealth. And his father before him had wealth; Methusaleh said he was so rich he could defy time.
The family gained their wealth through placing indentured servants in long-term debt bondage. Their slaves would work the land without pay and Noah’s family would cream off the profits from their work. In that sense, Noah is no different from any other man who has wealth and power.
But he is different, because he will have a boat. People call him a visionary and a genius. People say he is a prophet because he knew that it was the right time to build a boat when he realised that floods were coming. Some of them stand on and watch in awe as you saw planks for him.
In years to come, children will ask who built the ark. They will not say your name. They will chant back the name of the man who commissioned you to build it.
You are not building this boat alone. You are building it with hundreds of others. There are people who chop the wood, who transport it to you, who treat it, who clean it, who keep you fed, who watch the children, who make sure everyone is clothed, who design the ships, who furnish the insides, who create the infrastructure to make sure boats can be built.
You are among many.
There would be enough room for all of you on this ark. Noah is taking his collection of exotic pets.
Nobody is impressed by your ability to make boats. They are impressed by Noah’s ability to commission you to make them.
Many people do not share such reverence. They fight over the last scraps of food and clean water. They scramble to reach the highest perches, and push others out of them, even though it will ultimately be pointless because the floods will drown everyone.
Everyone except the people on that ark.
They know that. People fight to reach the ship so that they can get a place on it. They will not get one.
Noah has hired the strongest people to prevent the others from fighting with each other. They form a solid ring to stop anyone reaching the boat. They control the food and water rations. The floods will drown them too.
The man they think is a genius because he has money will sail away on a boat you cannot afford to get on and leave the whole of humanity to drown.
Afterwards, he will tell the story from his perspective. He will say that everyone else was violent. He will say that you deserved to drown.
He will say that he was the only righteous person throughout the entirety of his generation. He will say that the flood was God’s will.
He will say that, if anything, he saved humanity. He will take the credit for the survival of the animals.
And you will be washed away.
So, why do you keep building?
I wrote this in response to unfolding environmental catastrophe. I will likely preach it in October for Parashat Noach.