Saturday, February 18, 2012

B, Lent 1 – Genesis 9:8-17 “With or Without Water”

Where would you be without water? Without food you might last some time; perhaps three weeks! But without water you're dead in just three days. 

The majority of your body is made up of water. Each healthy cell is about 70% water. Water is also everywhere around us. It's in the air we breathe, it's in the soil, it falls from the sky as rain, or one can sink a well and hopefully find water. It's everywhere and it's an ingredient of life.

Controlled water gives life. For water to work well for us it needs boundaries. Without boundaries water is unpredictable or if one does something to break or trespass the boundaries of water, water can take on a whole new nature. It can turn from peacefully tranquil into a terrifying torrent in no time at all.
Examples of water's terror are not hard to find. Think back to the recent Tsunami in Japan, the floods in Queensland, or more recently cyclones and floods here in Western Australia. Then there are the shattering events of drowning deaths, stopping life when it stops air from entering the lungs. Despite us being majorly made of water, too much is not good for us either.
Noah lived in a time when there was chaos on an unimaginable scale. The blessings and boundaries of creation had been badly broken by those who no longer cared for the order of God's creation. Nor did they see God as worthy of giving thanks for what he had created. God was grieved he had given the earth to humanity.
So God opened the boundaries of the heavens, and the earth. Water gushed forth from above and below, leaving only one thing left on the water – an ark. This boat now sustained life above the chaos of drowned and decaying animals, people, and plants below.
What God had done, was allow the chaos of pre-created order to return. God rebirths the earth, and gives a new creation to Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark.
After the ark settles on dry ground, Noah gives thanks to God by building an altar and sacrifices some of the clean animals and birds on the altar. Noah sees that creation is given to humanity so he might rest with God. And then God makes a covenant with Noah.
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, "Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth." (Genesis 9:8–17 ESV)
God cuts the covenant with Noah and sets the rainbow as sign for us and as a cause to remind God of the covenant he made. This is not because God is forgetful! It is so when we see the rainbow we know God is always thinking of us and the life he gives to the world, despite the chaos we create and sustain in this world.
Amazingly, the rainbow that reminds us of God's love and covenant with us is made by two primary elements of life. Water again is used and controlled together with sunlight.
But a brighter light shines from God; shining brighter than a beautiful rainbow. There is One greater than water and light that gives light and life. He is the Son of God, the Light of Life, and he shines brighter than all the stars in the sky. He is greater than all the boundaries and elements of creation, yet he came down into what he created, born into this world, so we might be reborn and daily raised to life from the waters of baptism into the light of eternal life and hope!
Not unlike Noah, right now we have been gathered into God's presence, into the moving vessel of his church. Saved from eternal chaos and death, afloat on the water and the word, we now can give thanks to God, for the life he gives in his Son Jesus Christ.
We may still struggle with droughts and localised floods, but despite this we have been drowned in the tranquil waters of baptism, and God promises these waters drown us in Jesus' death so the Holy Spirit might raise us and float us in faith. God will give us our daily bread despite famine or flood. God loves you too much to let you sink and die alone.
This is why he has given us an ark even today. His church where his word is given, allows us to enter in and receive the Holy Spirit through the word, so we might receive faith, and trust the far from perfect ship of God's human church. But this church has a risen Saviour within, at the helm, sleeping in the hull, calling us to trust him, despite the rough seas around.
We've been though rough weather, but we're still here! Let's trust God and give him thanks as he carries us home. And when he's had enough, he will take us out of the ark, out of this life, and give us a new creation, one that is eternally washed clean of chaos and corruption.
In this world water can give or take life. With the water and the word, our sinful lives are drowned and God rebirths us through his Son, our Saviour. So let us give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever, Amen.