Friday, March 20, 2009

Noah Sermon

I thought I would share a sermon I preached a couple weeks ago. Not the best one i've preached, but the Gospel nonetheless which is always a good thing. :) I will attempt to start posting more if you would like.

It is the typical Sunday school lesson. I sat and watched as a class of preschoolers learned about Noah and the ark. They sang and did motions to the “Rise and Shine, Arky Arky” song. They marched two by two throughout the classroom pretending to board the ark. They also finger painted together an ark, then adding different animals to it. It remained displayed in the classroom for the rest of the year.

I think many of us here today can remember such Sunday school lessons. It is one of the first stories children learn when they begin attending class. For many years, Noah and the ark has actually been one of the top selling nursery decorating kits. I remember when a good friend of mine was pregnant, it was her top choice. When we went to Baby’s ‘R Us, there was a huge section just for this design. There were cute animals, all two by two lining the shelves with beautiful rainbows and arks as the backdrop. It was sweeter than a chocolate chip cookie.

I remember the first time I heard this story as an adult. You see, even as a child who never went to Sunday school, I still new the story from television and my children’s books. But when I heard it as an adult, it seemed a very different version. It was dark, violent, scary to say the least. It perplexed me as to how such a difficult Bible story could become so soft and sweet.

Our lesson from Genesis is this dark and difficult story. It is one that is violent, God’s near genocide of the human race. It is one that calls us to see our sin, to recognize the dirt and filth of our behavior and our hearts. It is also, however, a lesson of how even in the midst of that, God chooses to offer us hope.

When we hear the story of Noah, it can make one uneasy. God is portrayed as an angry God, seeing good only in one family, in essence one man. God desired to wipe away the rest of the human race as we were full of sin and were useless in the eyes of the creator. The idea that the God we know now, the God who sacrificed himself on the cross at one point felt it necessary to cleanse the world and start over is something that is almost uncomprehensible. Yet it is what happened.

The focus of this story however, is not on the violence that can become so central. It is not a story to liven up fear in our hearts and minds, knowing that if God chose to do it again God could. No, the focus is on the covenant. It is on the fact that God chose to reject the ways of violence, giving up the method of flooding the world as a way of dealing with the evil that was so prevalent; instead giving us a covenant for all people.

The word covenant in the Hebrew language is berith. It is a word that means a contract, or better suited for this context to mean a promise. God gave us a covenant promise which was binding and would not be broken, stating that the ways of violence had ended in dealing with human sin. Rather than washing us through the waters of a flood God would wash us through the redeeming waters of baptism.

We see this promise lived out in our Gospel lesson. Jesus is first baptized with the Holy Spirit and proceeds out into the desert for forty days and nights. It is during this time that he is tested by Satan. Time and time again in the desert, Jesus is given opportunities to live out being the Messiah people expected. We hear more of this in Matthew. Jesus could have been the warrior Messiah, living for himself, commanding the world to do exactly as he chose. He could have ruled with power and violence, ridding everything of evil and making things exactly as he wanted. He could have given in to temptation, but he did not.

God would rather grieve the sin in this world than break the covenant promise given. Instead of wiping out sin in ways I could imagine would be easier for God, we are given a God who suffers death on the cross for our sake. Jesus embodies a new way of dealing with evil, one that is sacrificial, redemptive, and demonstrates to the world a suffering love. All for our sake.

The rainbow and the cross are truly intertwined. They demonstrate to us the covenant promise of God; one that chooses to take on the suffering of the world for our sake. We are blessed with a loving God who chooses us, who willingly grieves our sin and yet loves and forgives us nonetheless.

In this season of Lent, we live in the tension between the two: the rainbow and the cross. On Ash Wednesday, we began this journey. We entered with a promise of what is to come. It is the covenant promise that is the rainbow, guiding us along this forty day journey. On Ash Wednesday, we were reminded of why God flooded the world. We were reminded of our sin, our mortality, of our need for repentance. Even in that reminder, even with the ashes smudged on our foreheads, we still had that light, we still had the rainbow. We had the reminder that indeed, even as we walk this journey through the wilderness the covenant promise remains. God does not care for us through violence but through sacrificial love.

We are on this journey from the rainbow and to the cross. A journey that takes us through a time to walk through the wilderness, smudged with ashes remembering why we need a loving God. As we cross through this desert, we are to take time to meditate on the grief that God experiences for our sake. God chose to shed tears on our behalf giving us the flooding waters of baptism instead. God chooses us out of love; a love deeper, wider, greater than anything we can imagine.

This is why it is imperative for us to know the story of Noah. Not the story we see on the walls of nursery’s or hear in the words of the children’s songs. No, it is time we hear the story as it is meant to be; with the violence, with the heartache. It is time to hear it for its redemptive power. The rainbow’s significance is far more important than its visual beauty. For it is a reminder that God chooses not to take the easy way out. God chooses to grieve, God chooses to love, and God chooses to redeem. Thanks be to God. Amen

1 comment:

Brown Family said...

There are so many wonderful stories with SO MUCH to learn! I often think of Noah and how hard it must have been to stand "alone." How daunting it would be to be asked to build an ark and gather animals. How scary it would be to watch the rain flood the earth ... and so many other lessons!

Thanks for sharing!

Hey, can you let Jamie know I can't comment on her blog? I don't know if it's a setting problem or something, and I don't have her e-mail address ...