“One Who Remembers”
Genesis 9:8-17
Dr. Robert J. Anderson
February 22, 2015

  

A biblical story about the flood in the book of Genesis seems like a strange one to pick for the first Sunday in Lent.  But, I thought this Lent we could look at some scripture passages not usually in our minds with Lent. The flood story is really about God’s Plan B.

 

The book of Genesis opens with God creating the world and everything that is in it.  At the end of each “day of creation,” God pronounces his creative handiwork “good!”

 

In the chapters from the creation narratives to the flood narrative, humankind successfully crosses the boundaries that God established and corrupts God’s good creation.  God created the world out of a void, and humankind was hurtling it back to the void.  The earth was being polluted and violence was everywhere.  God grieved what happened to his good creation and vowed to destroy the destroyers.  God decided to destroy the ruined creation by drowning the chaos the earth had become and all that took breath.  He would destroy everyone except a remnant--Noah and his family.  God remembered the chosen few and rescued them via the ark.  This was God’s Plan B to save creation and sealed it with a covenant and the visible sign of the rainbow.  Here we have a divine paradox.  On the one hand, God is determined to create a peaceful universe.  On the other hand, God is immovable in his compassion for destructive, rebellious humanity.

 

A covenant clarifies an “opaque legal situation” (von Rad) by putting the parties on a new legal basis.  God set up a new relationship with new rules in the post flood world.  This covenant was set with Noah and his family, their descendants, and all that breathes life.  The new agreement doesn’t require anything of creation.  The only limits are set on God by God himself.  Noah is silent.  It is only God that speaks.  God says he will never again destroy the world by flood.  The world continues to be corrupt, but God will not destroy it by flood.  Nothing restored creation to God’s original intention.  The flood didn’t do it.  The covenant didn’t do it.  Humanity continued to be inclined to evil and rebellion toward God.  Tooth and claw continued to be the norm.  The strong continued to overpower the weak.  God accepted his self-imposed and unilateral boundaries.

 

God’s covenant reveals the unity of creation – albeit in opposition to God.  Creation continues in sinfulness.  Humanity continues in undeserved blessedness as God vows not to destroy creation.  All creation is totally dependent upon God‘s active compassion.  Yet, in the face of this, humanity doesn’t accept its limits and boundaries set by God.  We continue to try and take our life into our hands.  We continue to pollute the world with fear and violence.  But, this isn’t the last word for Noah’s descendants.   The last word is God’s: “abound on the earth and multiply.”  Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, all creation remains blessed because God remains loyal to the disloyal.  Since humanity doesn’t stop the downward spiral, God does.  All of creation is dependent on God for survival.  We are dependent upon a force for life beyond ourselves, and God is willing to initiate the intervention.

 

What do we learn about God in our passage today?  God is adaptable.  God’s heart is touched by creation.  God is willing to accept hurt to keep hope alive.  God doesn’t change.  God refuses to give up on creation even though creation gives up on God.  It is God that keeps hope alive when creation persists on closing the door of hope by repeated disobedience.  God keeps the door of hope open by limiting himself - refusal to destroy the world by flood.  He takes this risk because his heart is touched by creation.  This isn’t a rational, objective God of judgment; it is a God grieved to the heart at the violence he sees in creation, yet still seeks reconciliation.  There is regret here but never anger!

 

The covenant grants creation a reprieve.  It is a stopgap.  God still wants a peaceful, harmonious world and this remains opposed to creations violence and corrupting influence.  We see this in the Lenten scenes with Jesus and the devil in the wilderness.  Jesus comes in compassion and love.  The devil wants to steer him away from God’s intention into self-centeredness, power, and fame.  Will Jesus fall victim to the violent pattern of creation; or will Jesus lead the angels and us back to the peaceful kingdom of God?  God’s self-limitation seen in Genesis, finds itself again the Jesus of Lent.  Jesus didn’t count equality with a God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself and took on the form of a servant.  God set aside his power and became weak on a cross where he gathered all of the rebelliousness of humanity and carried it away in death.

 

If God, who has the right to despair, to judge, or destroy, gives up all of this in a covenant, can we not look anew upon everyone?  One day a mother took a walk with her son and they saw a rainbow.  The 4-year old asked his mother if they could take it home and put it in their house.

 

What would it look like if we could take home a rainbow and all that it means and put it in our house?  What would our church look like if we brought a rainbow into our church?  What would it look like if we captured a rainbow and put it inside each one of us?  Imagine the rainbow on the walls, shining out of the windows, coming out our ear and chimney’s.  Our houses, our church, our very selves would be transformed.  We would look upon all that we meet as being inherently worthwhile, because God does.  As God’s heart was broken open and his love poured out, shouldn’t our hearts break at what we see around us and love pour out?  Power doesn’t change things.  Love, forgiveness, and hope do!

 

God is one who remembers.  Remember he doesn’t give up on you.  Let his love flow through you so you don’t not give up on others and let them be filled with the hope you have in your heart!