Genesis 6:13-22, 9:8-17, Matthew 24:36-44
September 1, 2013
About a month ago, a number of us went to the Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster county. And we saw their production of Noah. And it was amazing, of course! If you’ve never been there, it’s worth going at least once! They create huge sets on three sides for all their shows. And in this case, they had you inside the Ark, with animals all around you, some live, and some very “life-like.” They rode horses up and down the aisles. Other animals were walking (or flying!) back and forth across the stage. It was incredible!
Well, I was thinking about that for today because the story of Noah is the next stage in this story we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks. First the world was created. Then God created a place for his people to live and to share life with him. Then there was that “unfortunate time” when his people rebelled and strayed from the paradise God intended for them. And now we move to this time when there was, what is essentially, a re-creation of the world.
As we think about Noah, I think we have to recognize the horrific nature of this story. I was thinking this week that I may not ever have preached a sermon on Noah before. And maybe that’s why. I mean, sure, the story can be presented in a wonderful way. We can think of animals and doves and the new earth emerging. We can focus on the salvation part of this. We can feel great about all the animals and people that were saved. But, for all the rest of the earth to have perished, that part is tough! That part leaves more questions than answers.
So I think we need to recognize that. And it is hard for us to imagine! This was relatively early on in God’s relationship with the people he created. And after they rebelled in the garden, we’re told it got worse. (You can read about it.) And finally, it got to a point where God felt the need to take this drastic step. And that can be a very uncomfortable thought! Can’t it?
You know, there are many people in this world who are just fine with a God who creates, and then sits back and does nothing. And there are some who are quick to take God’s power away and explain away miraculous acts as being “natural phenomena.” But when it comes to this story, they seem content with acknowledging the power of God, but then laying the blame on him! “How could God do this?” “This is why I don’t want anything to do with God!” Well, I’m not going to try to “second guess” God here. He is the creator and we are the creations. And we may not like it, but this is how it happened. And we must somehow come to grips with it. But it isn’t easy!
So, as I said, after the creation came “The Fall.” Then came the first murder with Cain and Abel. (Frankly, I can never remember who killed who!) Then apparently things did go downhill from there, until it got to the point where God was so grieved that he decided to start over. And whether we like it or not, that is the motivation for this story! So then, let me say a few things here.
First, isn’t it interesting that this destruction was to be through the power of water? Think about that. In Genesis one, it was water that was there in the beginning. It says, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” So the waters were there before God acted. “And the spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) Water is what God had to work with at the start. So then, after creating light, (So he could see what he was doing!) God created a firmament – a separation between the heavens and earth. And it was a separation from (what?) the waters. And of course it went on from there.
So the waters were there. And if you think about it, they were, and still are, the force of chaos, out of which creation took place. The oceans of the earth still are that force. They are primeval. They represent unspeakable power.
Almost a year ago, we felt that power, did’nt we? Last October, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean generated the incredible storm called Sandy. And those waters were pushed ashore as the storm made landfall in South Jersey. We’ve all seen the pictures! We remember what it was like around here. (Well, Patty and I were trying to get home from Tennessee!) The power of that storm was incredible. It was a category one hurricane, and I think people didn’t think much of it. But it was over 1,100 miles wide. And its power was felt far inland. Kirkwood is still cleaning up from the damage of Sandy. And if you don’t know it, Kirkwood is farther inland than Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania!!
Water is indeed a powerful force! And those waters of chaos were there at creation, and now, in the story of Noah, they have returned – with a vengeance! So in a sense, God has then re-created the earth out of that chaos once again.
I think at the very least, this story reminds us of the power of God. The waters are the most powerful force on earth. Yet, God is more powerful! God told the people through the prophet Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you.” (Isaiah 43:2) Those are comforting words. And they were spoken to a people who were well aware of the power of the winds and waves having been saved by God through the waters of the Red Sea! Later, when Jesus was on the sea with his disciples, he calmed the deadly, raging waters, and these men, who thought they knew this guy, were forced to say, “Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?” (Matthew 8:27)
So, this story reminds us of Gods power. It also reminds us of the ongoing nature of creation. As I said before, there are a lot of “Genesis One people” out there. They’re the ones who are fine with God being the creator as long as its in the past. But Creation is ongoing, and in this case in a big way! God allowed the waters to destroy, and then he re-created the world. God can and does create all the time! I don’t think the growing, changing nature of the earth today is totally “on its own” any more than I think the universe came into existence “all by itself.” The many living things we see all around us every day, the changing of the seasons of the earth, the warming of our planet by the sun. All those things radiate with the creative power of God – every day!
So, this story reminds us of the power of the creator who is still creating. And this story of re-creation also reminds us of description of the end of time in Revelation, when the one sitting on the throne God says, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5) In a very real sense, the New Heaven and the New Earth that is to come, will be the culmination of all of Gods creative work and power. And I think we aint seen nothin’ yet!
The last thing I want to talk about is the last part of this story. This Re-creation came with a covenant. Chapter 9 is all about the promise of God. He said,” I set my bow in the sky as a promise a covenant that I will never again destroy the earth by waters.” (Genesis 9:13) “The chaos of that time will not return,” he tells us. This is the first of a number of covenants God would make with his people, including “the new covenant sealed in my blood” as Jesus described it. Yes those good Jewish boys knew exactly what he was alluding to in that moment!
So that’s the promise in this. But Jesus did speak of another similar time to come. In our New Testament reading for today he said “When I return, it will be like it was in the time of Noah.” (How many times have we read those words without thinking of them?) “Like that time, people will be going about their business, unaware, and I will return unexpectedly!” (Matthew 24:37) I think that brings us back to a “less than pleasant” part of this. Are the days we live in anything like the days of Noah? Tha’ts a sobering thought to me! Are we living like they were? Will we be caught unaware? At the very least, we need to heed the words of Jesus who said to be ready.
So where does that leave us? We are still the pinnacle of Gods creation. But we are also children of Adam. And we have within us his rebellion. And we are children of Noah. God gives us a second chance, just like he gave the earth a second chance. (For some of us its a third chance, and a fourth, and so on) And he has re-created us. There’s a hint of this in Paul’s words to the Corinthians. “If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation a re-creation. The past is finished and done, behold the new has come.” (II Corinthians 5:17)
That’s us! We are part of Gods re-creation of the world and of his people! He re-creates us all the time! Think about your life. Think about how God re-created, and continues to re-create, you. Be open to that. Seek his transformative power. I believe indeed, that “God isn’t finished with us!” And, “We aint seen nothin/ yet!”
Eternal God, you have created all things, and your power is greater than we can imagine. Help us to know that. Help us to acknowledge that in our relationship with you. Help us to see your power in the world around us, and to know that your Spirit is re-creating us every day. For we pray in our Savior’s name, Amen.