Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lent 2012 - The Covenant Journey: The Covenant with all Creation

Genesis 9:8-17

The whole flood story makes me think of
that sermon by Jonathan Swift, called Sinners
in the Hands of an angry God. We had to read
it and analyze it in my junior year of high
school. We looked at the picture of humanity
it painted and the view of God that it
presented, all as a way of understanding the
mindset of the puritans of the 18th century. I
don’t remember much about it other than that
it presented a bleak unrelenting view of God
where there seemed to be no grace, no mercy,
no love. I also remember being highly
thankful that preachers don’t preach like that

The image of evil sinners in the hands of a
vengeful, angry God who can’t stand the very
presence of them anymore seems just about
right when you come to the story of the flood.
It seems that at this point God is so frustrated
at the perverseness of all of humanity that God
is done with the, and seeks to destroy us all.
That we are nothing but dirty nasty sinful
creatures and there is nothing left to do but
have a good go a destroying us all. But that of
course is not actually what is happening here.

As we come to understand the flood and
this covenant promise God makes after the
flood why don’t I give you a brief history of
humankind up to this point, or at least a brief
history of how sin filled the earth to such an
extent that everything is destroyed to give us
all a fresh start: So in the beginning there was
nothing, absolutely nothing, except God and
God made everything, the earth, the sky the
whole universe, everything. Last of all God
made a couple of humans whom God filled
with the very life/breath of God. God gave
them a beautiful garden to live in and they
were friends with God.

God had a pretty close relationship with
them until they decided one day that they
wanted to be like God and know all the things
God knows and in attempting to do so did the
one thing that God had asked them not do.
And by doing this and in attempting to be
who they were not, they introduced sin and
evil into the world. This is called the Fall.
God did not take kindly to this and kicked
them out of the garden and because of their
actions sin became apart of their lives and evil
became a part of the fabric the world itself.
If you work your way through Genesis
from the time of the fall through the time of
the flood each event given shows us that sin
was spreading and continually getting worse.
The first two people have two sons and one
kills the other, and things just go down hill
from there. Until we get to the point in
chapter 9 of Genesis that the forces of sin and
evil bring nature crashing down on itself. God
sends a flood in an attempt to wash things

When humanity sinned all of creation
suffered alongside of humanity. One of the
themes which runs through most of the Old
Testament is the fact that all of creation suffers
because of humanities sin. The flood is an
example of all of creation suffering because of
humanities’ sin. Sin started in the garden and
continued in the lives of all humans who
followed. Sin had become so rampant that the
forces of nature come crashing down in on
itself. The flood is the natural consequence of
humanities’ sin infecting the world, infecting
all creation. The sin of humanity floods all of
creation and so the world is covered in the
watery consequences of that sin. Humanity
drowns all of creation in their own sin, so to
speak. In many ways the world is washed
clean of sinful humanity and the infectious
nature of their sin. Only Noah, whom God
sees a righteous and unblemished by the
effects sin, and his immediate family are saved,
rescued from the consequences of humanities’
sin. Only Noah and his family remain safe
and dry inside the ark which God told him to

Following the flood, God makes a covenant
not only with Noah, but with all creation. At
the point when we walk into the story this
morning, the flood waters have receded, the
land had dried out, and the world was once
again in habitable. Noah and his family step
tentatively out into the new world.
When Noah and his family get off the ark
God comes to Noah and makes a promise to
Noah, his descendants and the whole earth.
God makes a promise to not allow the world
to be flooded in this way again. The covenant
God makes is a promise made not only with
Noah himself but with all creation as well.
God makes a covenant with every living
creature and the birds of the air. God says that
never again will they be cut off from earth;
never again will the flood waters rise to
destroy the earth and all that lives.
This is a promise in which God says that
God will never allow humanity to be
destroyed by the waters of a flood again. God
will never allow the world to suffer as it did
with the flood. God will stay God’s own hand
and the world and nature will not collapse in
on itself in this way again and God places the
rainbow in the sky.

The rainbow in the sky above the ark,
Noah and all the animals is probably one of
the most iconic images of the Old Testament,
oddly enough it seems to be the favored image
for most children’s Bibles, but analyzing why
that is so, is a topic of idyll contemplation and
not this sermon. But instead I want us to think
about what the rainbow means. Why did God
put a rainbow in the sky? Why is that the
symbol of the covenant promise God makes
here in this passage? What is that rainbow
doing there?
First of all what exactly is the rainbow. The
rainbow was not something God created after
the flood, but God uses the rainbow as a
symbol of the covenant that God makes here
following the flood. The rainbow is a symbol
of God’s great war bow, you know as in bows
and arrows; the kind that archers would have
used in battle. God’s war bow could be the
bow which God has raised against humanity
and all the earth by bringing the flood. The
idea being that the bow that God uses to
bring the flood is a rain bow, a bow that brings
rain. The rainbow is a symbol of God’s rain
bow being placed in the sky as a sign to
humanity and all creation of the covenant that
God made when Noah and his family stepped
off the ark that day.
There are two understandings of what the
bow in the sky means. First of all it could be
that the bow in the sky is the rain bow which
God has laid down never to raise in battle
against humanity and all the earth again. God
is placing it in the sky so that we can see that
God has laid it down, that it is no longer
raised against us. It is placed in the sky so
that we know that God will never again raise
the war bow up again against humanity and
bring the waters of a flood down upon the

It could be that the promise of the rainbow
is a promise of protection. God picked up the
rain bow and placed in the sky to protect us
from this happening again. In this case it can
be seen as a bow of protection. God had
raised up the great war bow to protect
humanity and the creatures of the earth from
the destructive forces of a future flood. In a
sense God is promising to protect us all from
the greatest consequences of sin. The flood
was an example of the worst that can happen
now that humanities’ sin has infected and
infested the world. God raised the bow to
protect the world from the worst that can
happen. God is moving to protect us from the
worst consequences that our own sin can bring
down upon us.

There are the two options and usually
when I see two options that are laying side by
side each other and not contradicting each
other I like look to see if perhaps we are to
come to the conclusion that both are correct.
Perhaps God is promising, by placing the
rainbow in the sky, to not only to not raise
the war bow against humanity and all creation
ever again, but ALSO promising to raise it to
protect us from the worst consequences of our
own sinful choices and the evil that affects the
world due to our sin. This is a promise from
God showing us that God will always move
on our behalf to mediate the consequences that
sin has in our lives and in our world.
That is really cool information. For many
of us it may give us a new way to look at this
story, but what does this mean for us today?
It means God loves us. This passage, first and
foremost, speaks of God’s love for us. God
loves us and does not desire for us to be
destroyed by our own sin and evil. God does
not desire for us or the entire world to be
completely destroyed because of the choices
we, as fallen humans, make to perpetuate the
evil that infects us and all of creation.
Secondly it tells us that God loves creation.
God loves the whole world. God cares about
this world, God cares about creation. God
does not wish for creation to be destroyed by
anything, much less by the consequences of
fallen humanity; either by our purposeful
actions, our actions that disregard creation or
by the unintended consequence our choices
and our actions have upon our world. God
created the world and everything that is in it.
As God created things, God stepped back and
saw that creation was good. God does not
desire that anything God created be destroyed.
Not by us, not by our sin, not by the evil we
have unleashed on this world. God cares for
all of creation because it is God’s creation after

Lastly it tells us that God wants the best for
us. God will not rise up against us; God
promises to not raise up against humanity and
all creation. God’s desire is not to destroy us.
God’s desire is not to harm us, or bring
calamity to any of us individually or to
humanity as a whole. God’s desire is for us to
live apart from sin and evil and the horrible
consequence they bring to our lives and in to
our world. We are told here that God will
protect us from the worst that we bring upon
ourselves. God promises to protect us from
ourselves, to protect us from the worst of sins
consequences. God will not allow our sin to
so effect the world in which we live that world
will collapse in on itself in this way again.

We can look around at our world. We can
see the consequences of sin all around us. Bad
evil things happen every day, all these things
are consequences the sin of humanity and the
evil that we have unleashed in this world.
When we see these things happening every
day all around us, the rainbow reminds us
that God is protecting us from the worst
consequences of sin. We are being protected
from the worst things that can happen. God is
protecting us. The great war bow of God is
holding back the most horrible consequences
of sin and evil. God love us, wants to protect
us and save us from our own destruction.
This is ultimately played out in God sending
Christ to save us from our demise, to rescue us
from the consequences of the sin in which we
insist on living.

We have a God who is willing to go to
extreme measures to protect us from ourselves,
to show us love. Even here in one of the
earliest stories of the Old Testament we see a
loving God who is willing to come to us to
show us exactly how much we are loved. So
in many ways instead of us being Sinner in the
hands of an angry God we are actually to
sinners in the hands of a loving caring God,
who not only promises to not allow us to be
destroyed but promises to protect us, to move
on our behalf to mediate the worst possible
consequences of our own sin.

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