February 26, 2012
Sermon text: Genesis 9.8-17
“Nevermore … Forevermore”
The story of Noah’s ark has been a favorite of children in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School for years. There have been several children’s musicals written and performed, usually a sign of a story’s popularity. Furthermore, it’s probably one of a handful of Bible stories that both children and adults know very well. However, for me that idealistic view of the story was drowned forever in the 2007 floods. Unfortunately, that also happened for Ryan, young son of Curt and Abbey. Soon after the flood, Curt approached me, telling me that Ryan had a question: “I thought God never promised to send a flood on the earth again,” he said looking up at me. Of course, that’s not exactly the promise God made, but try making that distinction to a young child.
Ryan put his finger on the heart of the story, which we conveniently overlook in the flood story. The waters of a flood are devastating, and the waters of The Flood destroyed almost everything. The creation God made had gone badly wrong, so God decided to take out virtually the lot. This realization leaves us in a bit of a pickle: do we hang on to our romantic, sanitized Sunday School version of Noah and the ark or do accept a vision of an angry, vengeful God who scatters the chessboard when things go wrong? Fortunately, a closer reading of the story and today’s text give us a better alternative than these two.
The heart of the story is found in the very heart of God, but it’s not a heart that ignores son or seeks vengeance. Rather, the heart of God is one full of grief, grief that the creation God loves has gone so wrong. God grieves over the suffering and pain and darkness and brokenness that permeate the world. If God is angry at all, it is anger at how far short creation comes to what God intends for it. God is angry at the effects of the brokenness that run rampant in the world causing death and decay. But mostly, God is grieved at the heart, and decides to give all creation another chance, a “rebooting,” if you will.
So, in the midst of that devastation and destruction, there exists a shred of God’s grace. Where there is great grief there is also great love. God spares a remnant to repopulate the earth and, although God recognizes that even this remnant will continue to manifest the effects of sin, God passionately declares, “Nevermore.” Nevermore will God engage in wholesale death and destruction, no matter the amount of brokenness in creation. All flesh, the birds of the air, the animals, and humanity, will not have this hanging over them. Instead, there will a bow hanging in the sky, a perpetual reminder to us and to God of this promise.
It gets better, because in the midst of the nevermore exists a forevermore, a promise of future grace and hope. Of course, God is not going to give up on sin and brokenness; God loves us too much for that. God is going to continue to be grieved, because for God to endure a wicked world while continuing to open up the divine heart, means that God takes suffering into his heart. Yet, instead of grief, grace is going to lead the way with God working within the world to save it. In other words, God is going try anything and everything to love us back into relationship with God and with each other.
It is in Lent that we peer into God’s heart and see not only the grief of brokenness, but also the grace that led to God experience the suffering and grief on the cross of Jesus, God’s Son. Isn’t that a better story than the Pollyanna-like one that ignores the real and present danger of our brokenness, and isn’t it a better story than the one that tells of an angry, vengeful God who wreaks havoc on the earth? The story of a God who loves and grieves enough to enter human suffering in order to redeem it, of a God who will go to any lengths to love us back, even to die on the cross, is a good story. It’s one we need to hear, but more importantly, it’s one we need to tell to a hurting world. Nevermore … forevermore, thanks be to God. Amen.