Noah – another Sermon, the rainbow

Genesis 9: 8-17 (Briarwood, October 2012, Noah {‘I’)

Good morning.

When this story was written the main weapon of destruction was the bow and arrow.  Armies carried them when they marched.  Soldiers arched them, waiting to attack the city under siege.  To this day, we can pull up 4000 year old modern art that shows the perfect, strong, fit citizen, pointing a bow at an enemy.  Even the mythical gods of the Ancient Near East used this weapon in the clouds.  In the cosmic realm.  Where big battles were fought.  Where there was destruction in the heavens and the earth.

And so for a bow.  A rainbow, to be in the sky in this story.  For it to be in the sky, no arrow notched, but just secured up there in the clouds in the hands of no one.  Unused.  Locked away beyond reach forever.  For a bow, a rainbow to be in the sky in this story, after the Flood, is a statement.  It is a statement by God that what has happened in the flood will happen never again.  It is a statement that chaos and destruction no longer have the last word.  It is a statement also, this rainbow, that something profound has changed in God.  Never again.  The break between creator and creation has been replaced with a covenant that’s is wide, wide reaching.  A covenant of unqualified grace.  It’s not going to happen again, says God, and that bow in the sky is a sign of this covenant between you and me and every living creature.  Never again.  There is evil, yes, lots;  but in this story, there’s now no more debate:  destruction is not root in God.  Never again.

You’ll remember that when the World Trade towers came down in the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, you’ll remember that a few days later some Christian leaders spoke out.  One of them, a famous radio show host in the south, Gerry Falwell, went so far as to say that these attacks were from God, that this destruction was from God, as a judgement.

Not if we read this story.  Never again.

In this story, God proclaims again, God’s complete ownership and love great and desire for the health and wellness of the world God has made.  God’s the gracious Creator.  And we are God’s creatures.

And that’s one of the strange things about this passage.  Of all the other covenants that God makes with Israel in the Hebrew Bible.  With Abraham and Sarah, with Moses and Miriam, with Solomon, with the servant in Isaiah — this one, this is the only one where it’s all about God, with no requirement from us.  Something is certain.  Something is not changing again.  We are God’s creatures and the Creator upholds, heals, loves.

This weekend Briarwood hosted the 138th meeting of the Synod of Quebec and Eastern Ontario.  A huge thank you, to everyone, especially the-called-back-into-service-out-of-retirement Women’s Guild(?) and their friends, who helped to serve two meals and refreshments.  And thank you to Nabih for this sound.  And a huge thank you to Margaret Bryson, executive director of synod operations, here at Briarwood, who put the whole event together from our side.

On the Friday night, one of the delegates shared about the youth drop in center at their new church development site in Rockland, Ontario, just outside Ottawa.  He said that eventually, after 4 months of patient work, a good number of youth started dropping in.  35-50 each night.  It was great.  But their parents were no where to be seen.  They would drop them off in the parking lot and pick them back up again later.  The organizers were trying as well to plant a new church there so really wanted to connected with the parents to invite them, but the parents never really showed up.

Until one night one of the men came up the stairs to the hall to pick up two 13-14 year old girls.  He got speaking with the organizer a little about them.  Turned out he was the fifth acting “Dad” those girls had had.  The fifth man to be living their mother in their 13 years.  The man got sharing with the minister about how challenging is was, and what girls were like at that age, challenges especially with how they acted around boys.  And the man said something that broke the organizer’s heart.  He kind of threw up his arms, and said over his shoulder on the way out – O well, they’re not my kids anyway.

Not my kids.

And God said, I make a covenant between me and you and every living creature.  I make it says, God.  I am the creator, and I have a creation.  Friends, we have a creator, we are God’s creation.  God’s.

Sons and daughters of God.

Just look at the rainbow.

It is this ownership in, this protection, this blessing of other human beings that we as Christians are called to embrace.  Even as we are embraced in Jesus Christ.  And as the church, we are a people caught up in the loving action of this covenant God in the world.  This God who loves the world, all humanity and every living thing.

You want to hear a great story.  I’ll tell you a great story, from Tony Campollo.

During the second world war Bulgaria was allied with Nazi Germany, but not a single Jew was executed.  The story goes that in Sophia, the capital, one midnight into the war, the SS gathered together all the Jews and brought them down to the central rail station to be loaded into box cars and sent directly to Auschwitz.  There was a laneway down alongside the station where they had been rounded up, walked, and put behind gated fence, with guards, waiting to load them in.

At that moment, they hear a noise, and look down the laneway to see coming around the corner of the station and towards the gate a tall man in robes.  He was the leader of the Christian church in Bulgaria.  A man 6’5”, and with all the clergy vestments flowing, and especially the mitre (or bishop’s) that he was wearing, he would have looked over 7’ tall.  Down he walks, Metropolitan Karol, with hundreds of his flock behind him.  He walks right up to the gate.  As he approaches, the guards point their guns at him, and yell at him to stop, saying, “You can’t go past here.”  Metropolitan Karol turns around to his congregation gathered behind him laughing from his belly, saying, “You hear that.  They say I can’t go past here.”

He turns and walks past the guards, in the center of crowd of Jews waiting by the railway track.  And he quotes this verse from the book of Ruth.  “Whither thou go, I shall go.  Wither thou lodge, I shall lodge;  thy people shall be my people and thy God shall be my God.”

Never again.

The story of Noah’s ark and today’s passage from 1 Peter have something in common:  they are first written for a people whose very existence is threatened.  They’re not sure if they’re going to make it.  Israel is exiled in far away Babylon, where everything is done differently, and where they sing, “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and weep, and weep for thee Zion.”  The community of 1 Peter is a group that has been dispersed into different cities around the Mediterranean.  Wondering if they will survive.  If they will make it.

And in both scriptures today the promise is that they will.

For the community of 1 Peter, it is a promise that centers on Jesus Christ.

He is their Never Again.

Their anchor.

His work on the cross.  His death.  His resurrection.  His ascension.  His place at the right hand of God.  His place, says Peter, of power.

And in Jesus there is power.  Power to stem destruction.  Power to give life.  Power to heal.  His death on the cross for our sins, and victory over death, is God’s ultimate Never Again.   Trusting in Jesus, there is always life.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

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