Peace on Earth
When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth (Genesis 8:11).
The waters raged against earth. Powerful streams gushed from below the surface. Torrents poured from the sky. The planet was in turmoil. From space, it probably looked as if it was in the throes of death.
Water lapped over mountain tops. Debris churned in the waves. Fish still swam underneath, but on top, only the dead floated. Except for one small craft, there was no life above the waters. No other hope glimmered. The Creator had stepped in to stop the madness of human rebellion. There was no sign of peace on the surface of planet earth.
Finally, the flooding waters crested and began to recede. But this, too, brought turmoil. Like a giant bathtub, the waters began to swirl and drain from the heights. Valleys were cut between mountains. Rushing waters tore loose rocks and trees as they headed downhill. Foliage and carcasses collected in piles. Some would turn into oil, and some into tar pits that future tourists would stare at.
Devastation and despair hovered over the drying planet. The aftermath was not pretty. Earth was still not at peace.
But hope had floated in the boat that Noah made. He had spent an entire year tossed by the raging waters and clinging to the divine promise. He and those with him would be the restart of life on planet earth.
It was not a brand new life on a new earth. The first humans had walked sinless in a paradise. Noah and his family dragged their sin with them from the ark like dirt onto a cleaned carpet. Thorns grew up in the washed soil. Soon the earth would again sprout graves.
But the promise of peace between God and man held as certain as the promise that the flood waters would go down and the plants would once again grow.
After the ark settled on the ground and the tops of mountains came into view, Noah checked to see if it was safe to leave. First he released a raven, but it returned because it found no place to land. Then a dove flew from the ark, but it too found only water.
Seven days later the dove was sent again. This time it came back with proof of life and safety. In its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf.
It was the sign of a state of peace on the planet. The disaster was over. Never again would there be a flood like this. That was God’s promise.
That green leaf was also a symbol of another promise by the Creator and Ruler of the universe. The Son of God would one day walk on Noah’s planet. Angels would announce his arrival. They would sing of peace.
The Promised One would offer the world the olive branch of peace everlasting.
Holy Spirit, who once hovered over the waters of the unformed earth, we thank you for creating and sustaining the faith of people like Noah. You were there when the waters covered mountain tops. At your command, they fled the heights. You guided the dove to the olive branch. You assured Noah of peace. You have done the same with us through your olive branch of Word and sacraments. Drown our doubts. Refresh our souls. Let us live in the new world of peace eternal. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military