The story of Noah and the Ark is a universal story in the Hebrew, Islamic and

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1 Lent 1 2/22/15 Judy Davis Lord, bless us this Lent. Lord, let us fast most truly and profitably, by feeding in prayer on the Spirit; reveal me to myself in the light of thy holiness. (Lent, Eric Milner White) The story of Noah and the Ark is a universal story in the Hebrew, Islamic and Christian traditions. Adults and children love this story. It is the subject matter of countless books and art work and toys. We keep this in our parlor you open this up and see the animals two by two. Children have play with this for many years at St. Andrew s. Most people no matter what their level of religious instruction know the story of the flood, the building of the ark, the animals and the rainbow. It is a story filled with symbolism and signs - each pointing to a new revelation. This revelation is the nature of God. There is something wrong with the world. Man is wicked, creation is corrupt. God is unhappy - God is sorry for his creation and decides to wipe it off the face of the earth - wash it all away. The flood, the ark, Noah and the animals and the rainbow. As clear as the story might seem it is anything but clear. It reality is it s a dark scary biblical retelling of common ancient flood myth. This is not just about a cute ark with animals and a few chosen humans all snug as a bug. This is a flood

2 that covers the earth water that destroys everything in its path. I don t know about you but when I pause to think about that devastation and the fear that that could generate. It is pretty awful. But this is the back story - Our reading is about what happens after the water has receded. It is part of Genesis 9 and the section is titled in most texts The Covenant with Noah. We know what a covenant is it is an agreement very common today and in the ancient world in this context it is usually between the conqueror the winner and the loser. The victor agrees to not destroy the village and in return the loser agrees to give homage and pay taxes. I do this (or I don t do this) and in return you will do that it is justice. A more modern and family based model would be a teenager who misbehaves and is grounded. If she does it again she will be once again grounded. There are consequences. The teenager makes the decision to not misbehave based upon those consequences. But this covenant with Noah is a dramatic departure from ancient beliefs around judgement and justice. First of all this first covenant is not really a covenant. It is not a bilateral agreement God says to Noah and his sons and every living creature that this will never happen again. But in return Noah gives no concession - nothing. Noah doesn t even speak. This is a story of God s grief and God s grace

3 and how in the light of that grief and grace God responds. I think that if I could name this passage with would be God s Promise. When the waters dry up we might expect God to say something like well now you see that your actions have consequences you better straighten up and fly right because you know I can always do it again don t try my patience! That is what we expect past performance dictates future behavior. Seems pretty clear to me! But that is not what happens. Mankind does not change people still hurt each other. Sin and temptation continues to plague mankind. It is God who changes. God changes God s heart and mind. God chooses grace. God makes an unconditional promise and so how we live with God our relationship with God changes. Most Christians see God as benevolent, Jesus after all is the ultimate selfdisclosure of God. But to the people for whom this story was written, Jew s having lost everything and living in exile, this is unheard of. This is a changed God that is more than creator, distributing justice with a vengeance. Rather than threatening another annihilation, God chooses to be self limiting. Yes God is still powerful, but

4 now God is just and loving and merciful, God is self-giving. God is changed, God is faithful, in relationship with his creation. What is God going to do about this violent world? God blesses it. God makes a promise to have a different answer. God had to create a sign not for creation to remember the rainbow, the sign of the covenant, is to remind God of his promise. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember Scripture tells us that God needs this sign and he puts the rainbow in the clouds to remember his promise. God puts a bow in the sky to remind himself that God has changed. God puts a rainbow in the sky to remember who he is and reveal the promise that he has made. How does God continue to respond? God becomes incarnate in Christ Jesus. God puts the bow in the sky and a child in a manger. What about the cross - where do we put the cross? How do we remember who we are? Who do we want to be? What signs do I need to reveal me to myself? This points us to a Holy Lent to ask these questions of ourselves and our God to remind us of who God is and God s ultimate promise to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Lent is a precious time of reconciliation, restoration. and revelation. It is a time to look for and find signs that remind us who we are in relationship to God.

5 If you haven t figured out what to do for Lent don t worry you are alone and it is not too late. It think its better to start a little late with intention than not to start at all. Sometimes people give up something or you can take on a new discipline or prayer practice. We are invited into a holy Lent to remind to remember to reboot, reveal and yes to repent. Where will this lead us? How can choose to prepare what are the signs to guide the path? Will I choose to respond in relationship and go with Jesus? The point is that we can use this time to walk with Christ and know we have nothing to fear. In the face of total devastation - God chose to change the very nature of God-self. God chose to say I will never do that again. The evidence of that change - the signs are all around us - do we see it? We think we know what happens after all this is familiar territory. We know the scribes and Pharisees and even the disciples will deny and betray. In four weeks we will call from the pews Crucify Him We will wash each others feet and we will pray at the foot of the wooden cross. And on Easter morning our celebration will explode with trumpets and flowers and triumph. We will witness the empty tomb and the bare cross our completely new and timeless signs of the new covenant, God s promise that is Jesus Christ our Resurrected Lord.

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