Genesis 6: 16-22; 9:8-15
This year I will be preaching from the Narrative Lectionary, which is a four year cycle of readings that shows the breadth of voices from the Bible. Both the Old and New Testament readings are texts that proclaim what God is doing in human history. The stories tell of hope and disappointment, suffering and redemption….it is here we find God dealing with the complexities of human life. Stories from the gospels differ each year, avoiding repetition and highlighting what is distinctive about each gospel’s telling of the story of Jesus.[i]
Designed by Brian Saphr
We are familiar with the epic of Noah that spans a whopping three chapters in the book of Genesis. From the ‘Arky Arky’ children’s song to Bill Cosby’s memorable Noah monologue and then the subsequent one, even funnier, to cute little replicas of the ark and pairs of animals, Noah’s ark is a beloved story of the Judeo-Christian faith.
But there are other flood myths that are critical to
other peoples identities too. Myths of great floods that wipe out civilizations are not new. Navajo, Ojibway, Inca’s you name it, it seems most cultures have a story of a flood, brought on by a deity or deities, and some sort of vessel is built saving a remnant of the people.
Most famous probably is the Epic of Gilgamesh from Mesopotamia where, in his successful effort to find immortality encounters Utnapishtim who tells him the story of a great flood that the gods sent to destroy all of the city and about how the god Ea (a yah) told Utnapishtim to build a boat and populate it with male and females animals. Well it follows the story line of Noah to a certain point but there is no pretty colorful bow hung in the sky in the end. It continues into a longer tale.
Today our scripture for reflection is from Genesis, the story of Noah, of God and a great big flood. Somewhere between the beginning of Genesis where God created the earth and the heavens, the stars and the moon, the creepy crawly insects and animals, us humans in God’s image; male and female alike, and pronounced it all good, somewhere between that and the story of Noah things went horribly awry.
The people went bad and God got miffed.
Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
We could spend hours asking a few questions here but the big one, why in the world would our loving God do such a thing? What was this divine God that we worship thinking? Why would God do a major ‘reboot’ with creation like that? Well we don’t know the mind of God if in fact we read the story in this way. It appears that God changes, or our understanding of who God is changes. And what we also see is that in this story of failure and crisis is that God’s relationship with Noah and creation deepened as God called Noah to repopulate the earth. A broken relationship is restored and a covenant is made visible through one of the most beautiful acts of nature, a rainbow.
Now if there wasn’t a big meeting after church about a topic near and dear to my heart I would love to explore more fully this beloved story that we tend to gloss over and make pretty for children. What I want to take from this story is how God’s relationship deepened with humanity and how our relationship could deepen through redevelopment, and covenant.
You, as a congregation, are at an exciting juncture. You have made the commitment to call a redevelopment pastor which indicates to me that you are wanting, willing, perhaps even longing to become something much more than who you are presently.
Not that there is anything wrong with who you are presently. No! There is not. I have experienced you in these last 20 months, almost two years, as a loving, giving, caring, and yearning congregation. But I also sense that you are longing to ready yourselves and prepare for future generations to experience the love and acceptance that you have found here. You are ready to be open to where God is calling you next and who God is calling you to be.
I believe that we, together, have already stepped onto that yellow brick road into the future. The great ministerial conundrum of our day is what will the future church need to be, and that is our biggest question too. What will we look like twenty years from now or even ten years from now and still be church and how do we position ourselves? Inherantly redevelopment means change, to reboot the system so that the softward can be updated and enhanced.
This is covenantal and sacred work. These next four years will be holy territory that we will navigate together because of the call God has placed upon us together.
And God will be with us. God expressed covenant with Noah and God’s covenant of grace and mercy will be upon us too. Let us open ourselves to all future possibilities. Let us call upon our still speaking God to nudge us from complancey into the great and future church that we can be.