Genesis 6 & 7 – No story quite like it.

There is nothing like Genesis to get a conversation going; and nothing like Noah to spark our story-telling.  Even a lazy internet search brings out the most outrageous examples, for and against the claims made in Genesis (and by Christians) about the exploits of Noah and his kin.   Of all the Old Testament witness, Noah’s story is most often misrepresented.  We dress it up as a children’s story, full of the things kids must like: animals, rainbows etc.  But this is not a very pleasant story, and it is not suitable for children on many levels.   First, it involves the destruction of all but a handful of living things; that is the stuff of childhood nightmares…

For all that, we never get tired of hearing about a brush with extinction at the hand of God.  It is a story that finds ways to be retold in modern films and books – from Tom hanks and his volleyball in “Cast Away” to a boy and his tiger in “Life of Pi” – we are still drawn to stories that use isolation (and water) to think about ourselves and our gods…

And in the end, the Genesis story is just that – a cautionary tale about sin and the delicate balance that is built in to our relationship with God.  “The Lord saw the wickedness of humankind…and the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth…”

Here we are first introduced to the idea that God might have “second thoughts” – if God is perfect, and all God does is perfect, why is it necessary to take such drastic measures?

Sin, you say; Sin is the answer/the reason that God is moved to make such awful decisions – and so the story goes.  Our sin is revealed as ancient and constant, and it “grieves God to his heart.” It is on those terms that I engage the text – not arguing (as some do) for the literal truth of the story as being necessary for our understanding of it.  For I am not interested in finding the ark in the mountains of Turkey, or arguing against evolution on the basis of how many animals the ark might have held.  I want to know how to live in a way that does not “grieve the heart of God” – I want to know more about this promise making God of ours, and for us, the promises start with Noah.

Not just the rainbow – that is how we remember the story – but the promises start before the rain.  Having seen the wickedness, and having decided to “make an end of all flesh…” (Gen 6:13), God reveals to Noah the plans for his salvation.  “Make yourself an ark…”

The details and dimensions are given – plans are provided  – but the most important thing God gives Noah is a promise.  “…everything that is on earth shall die.  But I will establish my covenant with you…”

God’s choosing/God’s will is the key to all this – God’s will is a considerable thing, able to create and destroy; able to counsel and save – and when you combine the faith that enables a person to imagine the consequences and benefits of the incredible will of God, anything is possible. Large wooden vessels, prodigious animal husbandry, and the act of floating about for half a calendar year – all these things are child’s play – for by faith, God enables us to accomplish even more that we might imagine.

This is important, because, as you know, the flood does not bring an end to all wickedness.  No single threat, or story of disaster, or moment of misery is enough to cure us of our willingness to sin.  But God continues to pursue us with promises.  God’s disappointment no longer brings with it the threat of our destruction (we are more than capable of destroying ourselves, thank you very much…) Instead, God offers covenant, and in those promises, seeks to save us.

It is a compelling story – this story of a man and his ark – a story that vividly outlines the consequence of sin, and the benefits of grace.  It is a story for the ages, and it helps prepare us to hear the story that brings us to this table this morning.

For here we recall that God has never relented in God’s promise to save us.  Here we are reminded that as often as sin finds a way in to our lives, love has a way of turning the tide.  Here we find the promises of God made real – drawing us together – remaking once again this broken world.

 

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