After the flood, what ?
By the Revd Robert Jordan M.A.
222nd February - The first Sunday in Lent - 2015
Bible Reading: Genesis 9:8-17
In this morning's newsletter we can read a quote, which I find particularly relevant to the reading today. Rabbi Lionel Blue once wrote "My belief gets some support from the Scriptures, but not as much as I want. They strike me as a mix of what actually happened, what people wanted to happen, and what people thought was the meaning of what happened. I still can't unscramble them." What the reading from Genesis 9 said happened, what actually happened, what we want to have happened and what we think is the meaning of what happened.
May the grace of God grant us understanding to determine the way forward.
The only way the meaning from Genesis today makes sense is if we place it in the context of what has come before - and if today is a reading with hope and possibilities - it is preceded by one of the most difficult moments ever in the Bible: that of destruction and death. We know from different sources that the region did face a massive flood and that this inspired the religious imagery of many different groups of the time. It was a way of communicating a vision that spoke to people of all times and even people of no faith - how many films have been made about this?
The God Creator is now unmaking what he had made: this is difficult both to understand and come to terms with. Some of the thoughts this morning are inspired by a meditation by Lawrence Moore, director of the URC Windermere Centre.
Today we read of the re-establishment of relationships, where Noah and the family and all creatures in the ark are opened out to the future, but we have previously faced the vision of the rising waters taking with them all that lives, on a scale we will never be able to imagine. As Lawrence Moore writes, suffering is good when things change and suffering is stopped, but it is too late for some, and this is something we will not be able to escape and for which we may not find a satisfying answer. And this is why this reading for the first Sunday of Lent is so powerful. We are beginning our walk with Jesus to the Cross, yet we know that it includes the Resurrection, but it also includes the Cross.
Ina very powerful way, Lent is a time when we come face to face with sin and what it does to life. We don't like it but we can't pretend it does not exist. But we are also confronted with the reality that God does not make this the end...because things do happen which enhance life and bring us hope. We believe in a God who will not abandon us, who will make a difference, even when there are moments we cannot comprehend, which disturb us beyond normal feelings.
Today's reading can only be fully grasped if we do not forget what comes before...here we come once again face to face with the Creator God who reaffirms the fulness of life for the whole way ahead. God establishes the covenant "for you, your descendants, and every living creature..." God gives a visible sign that affirms this covenant - the rainbow, which is a reminder of God's commitment "I will remember and never again..." This is a commitment God makes which not only involves human life but all forms of life.
This covenant is an expression of God's care, it is an open road for the future of creation, and today when we celebrate communion we again remember that God wants to remember - today we celebrate the NEW covenant, also with visible and external signs: bread and cup, and God's promise in Jesus. None of this plays the game that sin does not exist, that sin causes pain and suffering and has consequences, but in the midst of this we have a God who wants to offer hope, and this involves God as a partner on the way.
This reading today knows that there will be pain and things will not always go the right way but the promise is there, and on this way of Lent God knows we follow the way of Jesus - which does include the cross, but also the resurrection, and so wants to affirm hope as a way. God is so involved in all this that this process of salvation "changes God" (again a reference to Lawrence Moore). God promised he would limit his reactions, his own disappointment with what goes on and would reaffirm life, ad hope and possibilities. This is the true significance of Jesus, and what Jesus does is the gift of forgiveness and a new beginning, a new possibility, and this is how we live our faith - not because all is well, but in the midst of all that is not well, we won't give up because the way of Lent does not end on Good Friday but continues on through resurrection and the way that follows.
May God help us see what comes after the flood...our life today, with all its fragility and all its brokenness, but also all its potential, and the hope it involves. Our Lent journey will include the cross (i.e. the flood) but also the resurrection (i.e. the rainbow) Amen.