Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Bible Background Narrative lectionary recognizes that in our culture we begin again with the school year and so here we are. Back in Genesis for the beginning of the beginning of the year. For the next two months we see a strand of narrative flowing through the Old Testament and highlighting the new covenants made with God. Over and over again, I think we will see God creating new relationships and re emphasizing relationships with the Israelite people. They get selfish, they mess up, God shows up, creates new relationship, sets things right and the story continues.
For this week we begin our narrative with Noah and his ark. There are a couple of ways to tell this story. Many of us know the story of Noah but know it told light. We know the children’s version. Noah builds an arky…arky. There are animals by twosies and then God says God won’t flood again. The other way to tell the story is about death and destruction. God floods the earth to destroy all because the world is so messed up. Neither way is totally a right way to tell the story. Neither really tells us what God is really doing in this narrative.
A truer way to tell this story may be in looking at harmony verses disunity. The creation that God created in Genesis is fighting against one another. People are destroying each other. This story is about God undoing creation by bringing the waters back over the land and pushing people and animals to have to deal with one another and then setting things right. Perhaps the dry land isn’t the salvation in this story, perhaps the boat just might be. Harmony is established when we face each other with a need for each other. While on the boat, humankind and the animal kingdom had to come together.
When Noah and his crew finally reach land, God puts up the bow, the rainbow, an arc that could possibly be seen as a war bow. God hangs up the bow and promises to not undo creation again. To hang up one’s bow in this culture is to retire from battle. God is done fighting with us. God re-parts the seas from the land. And then makes a covenant. The covenant signifies that God is in sacred relationship between all of creation. This is the first covenant with humans and animals in the bible. God desires their flourishing. Destruction is off the table. This is the first time that God reestablishes relationship in a new way with God’s own creations. God promises to not wipe us out again. God promises to restore all of creation. What a great mission! In turn, our part of the bargain is to maintain space for all to flourish. We still have some work to do in this category. The good news? God doesn’t seem to give up on this one.
“The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God – if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.” –Maya Angelou
“My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky.” – William Wordsworth
“People tend to resist a change into something new and different. But after it’s succeeded, they easily say that the change is a must.” ― Toba Beta
Genesis 6:16-22, 9:8-15 (Message)
“Build yourself a ship from teakwood. Make rooms in it. Coat it with pitch inside and out. Make it 450 feet long, seventy-five feet wide, and forty-five feet high. Build a roof for it and put in a window eighteen inches from the top; put in a door on the side of the ship; and make three decks, lower, middle, and upper. I’m going to bring a flood on the Earth that will destroy everything alive under Heaven. Total destruction. But I’m going to establish a covenant with you: You’ll board the ship, and your sons, your wife and your sons’ wives will come on board with you. You are also to take two of each living creature, a male and a female, on board the ship, to preserve their lives with you: two of every species of bird, mammal, and reptile—two of everything so as to preserve their lives along with yours. Also get all the food you’ll need and store it up for you and them.” Noah did everything God commanded him to do.
Then God spoke to Noah and his sons: “I’m setting up my covenant with you including your children who will come after you, along with everything alive around you—birds, farm animals, wild animals—that came out of the ship with you. I’m setting up my covenant with you that never again will everything living be destroyed by floodwaters; no, never again will a flood destroy the Earth.”
God continued, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you. I’m putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth. From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life. When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth.”
Questions for the Week
How will we continue to strive toward unity rather than disunity?
Where do you see signs of God’s promise with us?
When are you forced to interact with God’s creation?