Here is the sermon I delivered just before John Glenn returned to space on the Space Shuttle in 1998. May his memory be for a blessing.
PARASHAT NOACH 1998
It has been a while since I have quoted the words of my favorite songwriter, Harry Chapin. So, let me share with you some words of his which could have been written about Noah:
“And the faces they all fade together.
And the applause it’s all gone so fast
And the story of every darkened stage
Is that the glory just does not last.”
Here was Noah. Righteous or not so great, it doesn’t matter. He did his job. He saved the animals. He was God’s safety valve to begin creation again.
He comes out of the ark and represents all humans to come in accepting God’s covenant. He sacrifices. He plants a vineyard. And then, the glory fades as he drinks of the wine, drinks too much and disgraces himself in his tent.
It is so sad to read. For if God had come back to Noah and had said: “I need you for another assignment”, he would not have been ready. He could not have done it again.
Why did it happen? A friend once gave a sermon which identified Noah with everyone who had ever failed to survive the letdown which comes after a “peak experience” as he called it. Noah was the paradigm for someone who had done a terrific job at an impossible task, had his 40 days of fame, let alone 15 minutes, realized his destiny in life and then walked away saying: “Can it ever be the same again? What else could there be to live for?”
It is a sad reality that so many fail to strengthen themselves for the letdown which is sure to come after having scaled the heights. We feel for Noah because we know he is familiar to all of us.
What could he have done? He started off in the right way. He turned to his family, found something else to do, to occupy himself. But he just didn’t get the breaks or just didn’t see it through. Had he paid a bit more attention to himself, had he invested the energy to try just that much harder to apply himself after a brief and well-deserved rest, had he really believed that down the road another opportunity might come along to scale the heights, maybe he wouldn’t have let himself go that far down.
So, when we find someone who learns how to keep a peak experience in perspective and is ready at all times to change a bit of the world again, we have to pay that person a great amount of respect and honor.
You may be jaded. I am not.
You may be cynical. I am not.
You may think that it is all P.R, I don’t.
All I know is that it is a tremendous lesson for all of us as to the fact that unbelievable as it may seem, the chances sometimes do come again and we have to find that as the absolute, bottom line reason to keep ourselves sharp after a peak experience.
And so, I hope it is fun for him. I hope it is everything he wants it to be.
And, most of all, I pray, God how I pray, that he come back safely.
And this comes from my heart because I tell you I remember.
I wasn’t yet 7 years old but I remember.
I remember sitting in our den, home from school because of a blizzard, holding a globe and watching on TV.
And I remember those three words.
And I remember the chill I got down my spine even though I didn’t understand them.
And I repeated them in daydreams for so many years after.
And I anticipate that same chill as I say them with so much of my heart: “Godspeed John Glenn”.
You are teaching us all such a critical lesson. I only hope we pay attention and learn from you as you scale the heights again.