Promises, promises…

Well, that’s great – God is promising to never again flood the earth – I’m all for that.
But surely if God makes a promise, God doesn’t need reminding…?
“I will put my bow in the clouds…” we read –
“..when the rainbow appears, I’ll remember my covenant…”

Not very reassuring, is it.

This covenant is oriented towards God
– as though God needed reminding that there was a bigger plan at work.
The promise is for all of creation,
but it would seem that  the only one who can influence the outcome ;
the one bound by the terms of this covenant,  is God.
There is no “do this and you shall live” component  here;
the inhabitants of the ark have done what they can –
though they will soon fall into faithless and familiar habits –
but for a moment here in ch 9, God is the model of repentance, humility and self-control.
The same one who commands the flood waters
– who was sorry he had made humankind  –
now offers assurance of mercy and grace.

so I wonder – what do we make of God’s promises?

We are often called to think on the promises of God – to delight in them – to trust in them.

And many of those moments of promise
– especially in the Hebrew Scriptures –
have an element of challenge in them:
If you do this, then I – God – will act thus.
Tit-for-tat promises – meant to modify our behaviour
or call to mind some desperate consequence of disobedience.

The responsibility to remember – and subsequently obey – is ours.
In many of these instances,  God is seen as a passive element,
until, that is, humanity chooses to disdain the promises
– ignore the hope – shatter the covenant…then, you will see God act, and no mistake

but the promises of God are not simply rules set up to catch us when we stumble –
passivity is not something that strikes me as being typical of God.
God’s promises are inviting, not restrictive – meant to encourage rather than exclude.
And in promising to make a new start with Noah
– to set out on a new path with him
and to never again “destroy all flesh” with a flood,
God once again invites Noah (and all who follow) to hold God to that promise.

How might we do that, you wonder?
Not through any strength of our own, or by force,
but by engagement.

Our worship, our attention to the things of God,
our acknowledgment of our need of God –
anything that keeps us aware of the reality of God in the world
will keep us “held” by the promises of God.

Suddenly, we are a long way from the image of God
as distant, passive and primarily judgmental.
God worshiped – honoured – engaged in the lives of God’s people –
(and God’s people absorbed by the things of God)
offers an image of life – vitality – an image to treasure.
The image, quite frankly, that Jesus offered.

As followers of Christ, it is in Him that we find all God’s promises manifest
and in Jesus we are invited to experience those promises in the present tense.
No more does Jesus speak only of the far distant future reign of God
the kingdom is near to you, he says.
The ten commandments – rules that had become ten hundred commandments
through complex interpretation and ritual practice – Jesus distills to two:
Love God – love one another – in these all the law and prophets are contained.
These now are promises that engage us now,
rather than tempting us towards a seemingly impossible goal.

Lent gives us a fresh opportunity to reconsider the promises of God as fresh and vital for our lives.
The constant activity of God, revealed through Jesus life and leading,

brings all God’s promises before us for appraisal.

Once again we are invited to involve ourselves in the activities of God;

renewing trust, confronting sin, offering worship and pursuing peace –

activities that seek God, honour God, and involve us with God’s desire to offer life in fullness and abundance.

The bad news is that our journey will take us to places where the opposite seems true.

We will see, in Jesus journey and on our own, that trust is broken – sin prevails.

Jesus himself will suffer for this, as short-sighted, closed-minded individuals

gather to shut the door on the promises of God.

The good news remains – God will not (does not) stand idle.

The promise is active in the face of adversity

the promise sustains through torture and ridicule

The promise prevails over darkness and death.

And leads us, through this season and beyond,

to that kingdom which remains very near.

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