Sermon - 2nd Sunday in Season of Creation – Genesis 6-9
Grace to you and peace in God our Creator, amen.
Sing with me if you know this one:
God told Noah to build him an arky arky
God told Noah to build him an arky arky
Build it out of (clap) gopher barky barky
Children of the Lord…
The story of Noah’s ark is probably one of the first Bible stories that we teach children, isn’t it? Why is that? Because it’s got animals, right?! We can imagine old Noah with his floating zoo – giraffes and elephants and ostriches and peacocks – what could be more fun right?
But at it’s heart, the story of the flood is anything but a children’s story. It’s a story of global catastrophe, a story of the annihilation of every human and animal on the planet – except Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark.
The story of the flood is almost universal. There are ancient flood myths found in cultures across the globe – stories of a great flood told in ancient Babylon, Persia, India, and China. Variations of the flood story are even told amongst many Indigenous peoples across North America - Cree, Ojibwe, Mi’kmaq, and Inuit. It is an ancient story.
Last week, we heard the story of Creation, and how God looked upon creation and saw that it was good. But at the beginning of the flood story, God again looks upon the Earth, and this time what God sees is not good. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” “The LORD regretted making human beings on the earth, and God was heartbroken.”
This was not the good creation that God had intended. God had created human beings in God’s own image, and had given them the task of caring for the Earth. But instead, humans began to exploit the earth. They began to destroy the creatures God had created. And they even began to murder other humans. God saw that violence had consumed the human race. And God was heartbroken.
I used to imagine the Flood as an act of divine retribution – an angry God deciding to exact the ultimate punishment on humanity. But the Bible perhaps paints this in a different light. God was heartbroken. The human race had been consumed by violence. They were not only destroying themselves, they were destroying the planet. Perhaps the Flood was God’s way of saving the Earth from the violence of humanity.
When I think of the flood today, I think of the flooding that we have seen around the world this past year. The current flood in Pakistan, which has claimed over 1200 lives, and affected over 30 million people. The atmospheric river in British Columbia last December that swept away highways and fields. And even the six Colorado lows that seemed to dump an unending amount of snow and rain on us here in Manitoba.
Many scientists are linking these floods – which seem to be increasing in frequency and severity – with human-caused climate change. And perhaps this is just the beginning. As the planet warms, glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates. As the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets begin to melt, we expect that the oceans will rise, perhaps by one to three feet by the end of the century. Not enough to flood continents, but certainly enough to affect hundreds of millions of people living in coastal cities around the world.
Perhaps this causes us to ask the question: will human sinfulness – will our exploitation of the earth and our dependence on fossil fuels – be the cause of another Great Flood? Certainly not a flood that would cover the whole earth, but perhaps a future where flooding and rising oceans continue to threaten more and more people. And if so, would this be an act of divine judgment? Or simply a consequence of our collective actions… a consequence of our collective decision, as a species, to ignore the science, to refuse to do the hard things, to refuse to work together for the sake of the planet and our fellow human beings.
We know, however, that the story of the Flood does not end with the destruction of the Earth. The rains stop. The flood waters recede. The Ark comes to rest on dry ground. And Noah and the animals are returned to the earth. There is a new beginning.
And with this new beginning comes a promise. God makes a covenant with Noah, and not only with Noah, but with every living creature on Earth. This is the most wide-ranging covenant in the whole Bible: a promise to all living creatures, for as long as the earth endures. A covenant marked by the rainbow.
This covenant is God’s promise to be faithful to the Earth, and to all of its creatures, as long as the Earth endures. So the story doesn’t end in despair, it ends in promise. It ends in hope.
And perhaps we can find hope in God’s promise of faithfulness to the Earth, even in the face of something as immense as the climate crisis. Perhaps God’s promise of faithfulness can instill in us a hope that is deep and enduring, a hope that looks beyond despair, a hope that can imagine a future that we cannot yet see. A hope that moves us to take the risks, to make the sacrifices, and to lay aside our differences for the sake of our fellow human beings, and for the sake of this planet that God loves.