The Heart of God
From the Globe & Mail: RCMP charges SNC-Lavalin with bribery, fraud
From the NY Times: Greece’s Request for Loan Extension Is Rejected by Germany
From the BBC: Islamic State Gains Libya Foothold
From the Independent: Isis beheading of Coptic Christians: The Egyptian village wracked by grief
These headlines make you wonder if God looks out at the rainbow and regrets his promise.
The Heart of God – Audio Sermon
We have just entered into Lent. A period of reflection before Easter. Part of what we do in Lent is reflect upon our lives and prepare for the events of Easter. Lent is a period of reflection, prayer and preparation. Often during the period of Lent people will give something up. For some it is chocolate, for others it is alcohol.
Giving something up for Lent is viewed as a process of self-denial to bring oneself into closer relationship with God. We consider the things that we take for granted. Others will take on a special devotional during this time, again to reflect on their lives and to prepare for the events of Easter.
The headlines that I listed should also give us pause and be cause for reflection. There is much that is wrong in this world. There is much in this world which I believe breaks God’s heart.
We can start local and simply look out of the window. It is winter and we have experienced more snow this year than in previous years. We have also experienced some of the coldest temperatures in recent years. The most vulnerable in our society, those who are homeless, are fighting for their lives right now. I have no doubt that when the Spring arrives we will discover that there were record deaths of homeless people. Yet, we are unable to allocate resources to protect other people.
We live in a political landscape which is more interested in painting the other party or candidate in a poor light than on governing. The self-interest of political parties seems to trump the best interest of the nation and its citizens. Perhaps a gross generalization, but with an election scheduled for the Fall it won’t be long until the attack ads are back out in full force.
We live in a world that is torn apart by war. With conflicts in the Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Libya just to name a few. Radical terror groups have emerged in the power vacuum left in the wake of a decade of war in the Middle East. Wars that our government and other western nations willingly participated in. Though we may argue that those wars needed to be fought, when the fighting was done and our soldiers came home the situation in the Middle East wasn’t much improved.
We routinely hear about ISIS and how it is systematically killing Christians and other religious minorities throughout the Middle East. The killing of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt this week is only the latest in a series of barbaric killings.
In Nigeria Boko Haram continues operate with impunity. Last year’s attack and kidnapping of young school girls is only one example of this groups disregard for human life. Yet, the International community has done very little to help.
C.S. Lewis once observed, in times of peace and prosperity, only the truly wise can see that all of human life is lived on the edge of a cliff. But in hard times of war and recession, everyone sees this truth.
Friends, we live at the edge of a cliff. The world today exists at that point and much sober reflection is required by a variety of different global leaders about what we should do about things. A voice that also needs to be heard is the church, because we have much to say, much to share and much that we can do to help.
Our lesson from Genesis this morning is the conclusion of the flood narrative. A story about Noah and his family and all the animals which were brought onto the Ark and saved. It is a well known stories, kids sing songs about the animals and many artists have painted paintings depicting the events of this early biblical story. However, if we focus on the cute children’s aspect of all the animals being saved we actually miss the point of the story.
There are others who question how God could have kill all those people and all those animals who weren’t saved on the Ark. Were all the people who died bad? Surely they weren’t all bad? Surely some of them were innocent? However, once again I think we miss the point of the story.
It isn’t that these narrative elements of the story are not important. The flood, the ark, the animals, the raven all of these things are important. However, when we focus in on them so intently we miss a very important aspect of the story. We miss what the lectionary points us at today, which is the heart of God.
Did you notice that in today’s reading Noah doesn’t say a word? God does all the talking. The entirety of this reading is God talking to Noah and his sons.
God talks a lot and we are given a glimpse at the thought process of God. God changes during this dialogue. God makes a promise during this dialogue. God promises that never again will the whole earth be flooded.
God does not decide this because left with only Noah’s family he thinks that sin has been wiped out. Read the next section of the story and you will see that is not the case. God is still aware of how humanity can sin and harm one another. So if the flood doesn’t change humanity we can only assume that the events of the flood force God to change God’s own mind.
Consider the words that God speaks. “I am making a covenant with you and your descendants and will all living beings. Everything that came off the boat with you.” So this is a covenant that applies to you and to me. It applies to our pets and all the other creatures we see in creation.
God continues, “I promise that never again will all living beings be destroyed by a flood; never again will a flood destroy the earth.”
Notice what God does not say. God does not say that I am doing this because you have learned your lesson. God does not say this because the waters of the flood have made you pure. God makes this promise because God wants to make this promise, nothing we have done has earned it.
However, in making this promise God limits Gods-self. God places limits on what God is able to do. In entering into this covenant God places no conditions on Noah or his descendants.
The only conditions are placed on God.
The flood narrative represents God’s grief at what was happening in creation. About how man had become sinful and was pulling away from God. God reacts with the flood to start over again and then God is overwhelmed by grief. It is an act of grace that sees God impose limits on God.
God places his bow in the sky as a reminder of this promise. The rainbow. When we look at the rainbow we are reminded of God’s love for us, a reminder of how God would not punish us in such a way again, but instead would be our protector.
When I consider the world today I wonder if God looks down at the Earth and is overwhelmed with grief? Then God sees the rainbow and is reminded of his promise.
Travelling through Lent we recognize that God rather than punishing us decides to share in the consequences of our collective decisions.
Friends, rather than destroying creation God found another way. Instead of sitting high and set apart, God came down to dwell with us. Jesus’ resurrection points to new life. It is the fulfilment of the rainbow.
As we travel through Lent we are reminded that God is with us. We know there is much to reflect on and that there is much work to do. Remember where we are going. Remember the journey that we are on. The hope that is found on the other side of Easter. That is God’s promise to us, it is the message of hope we need to share with the world. A message that the church offers, the hope that we find in this story about the heart of God. About God’s love and grace. Amen.
Text: Genesis 9: 8-17