Monday, September 1, 2014
“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).
I have always enjoyed writing but I never liked those times in English class when the focus was on diagraming sentences, memorizing the rules of punctuation and conjugating verbs. Now decades later I’m beginning to see the reason my English teachers were so insistent that I learn the rules. Take for example the semi colon between “generation” and “Noah.” That is a powerful piece of punctuation.
A semi colon helps connect closely related ideas. In this instance the semi colon connects the fact that Noah was a righteous man with the observation that he walked with God. How do you picture Noah if you only read that he was a righteous man and blameless, and stop at the semi colon? Do you see a teacher’s pet who is constantly raising his hand and knows all the answers? Do you envision Noah to be some type of pre-historic whistleblower who put an end to deep seated corruption? Perhaps you conjure up the notion that Noah must have been a devoted husband and doting father, who took out the trash without being asked and attended all of his children’s soccer games and dance recitals. All could be possibilities (though admittedly rather far out possibilities) because without the semi colon we have a tendency to link righteousness with earthly actions.
The semi colon changes everything. Noah was righteous, not because of what he did but because of who he knew–his relationship with God; Noah walked with God. When righteousness is based on actions, life becomes burdened with an unending striving to do bigger and better good things; righteousness’ demand is insatiable. Righteousness that is based on God’s relationship with us becomes the foundation of who we are and the motivator of our words and actions.
O Righteous Lord, thank you for allowing us to walk with you through this journey of life. May your Spirit empower our words and actions so that they demonstrate the relationship you have with us and share your love and grace with those around us. Amen.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11).
A popular video that is circulating around the internet shows a young Albert Einstein disputing with a teacher who claims that God created evil and therefore God is evil or does not exist. The young Einstein points out that cold does not exist (according to physics), rather it is the absence of heat. Darkness doesn’t exist because it is the absence of light. It is then reasonable to assume that God did not necessarily create evil, but rather evil is the absence of God’s love in the heart of people.(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjSNp7PuIkY)
This might explain why things had so drastically changed since the end of the first chapter in Genesis when God looked on God’s handiwork and proclaimed it very good. Now the entire earth was corrupt. Only Noah walked with God and was righteous. The rest of humankind had declared their independence from the God who created them. Their distance from God affected not only their lives and that of human society, but also all of creation.
Violence and corruption were the symptoms that revealed the disease. Intervention was needed. To take a “boys will be boys” approach to the situation would not bring health nor life, but only prolong the suffering. It was not the loving thing to do. Similar to chemotherapy and radiation, or major surgery, the path to health and wholeness sometimes includes pain and suffering. The presence or absence of love is not the issue. Life and health is.
In a world where people increasingly reject the notion of God, it is important for followers of Jesus Christ to remind ourselves that we are God’s presence; God’s hands and feet in the world. Violence and corruption are still a part of life, but so is God’s love and grace through the words and actions of God’s people.
Loving father, empower us to stand against violence and corruption, and to stand with and minister to those who suffer under their influence. Amen.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
“Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above” (Genesis 6:16).
The young couple faced a bill of over $15,000.00 for needed equipment to care for their sick child. There medical insurance wouldn’t cover it and they didn’t have the financial resources to deal with such a debt. Their congregation decided to hold a fund raiser for the couple.
Most of the people in the small congregation got involved in the project. Some solicited gifts from local business for an auction, others worked on publicity, food preparation, procuring extra tables and chairs and a work crew to set-up and take-down. The project took time, planning and a lot of hard work–and many would say the power of God, too, but when all was finished the congregation raised funds over their goal.
The violence and corruption of the world had caused God to act. God was going to send a flood. Yet, God decided not to act alone. God approaches Noah and instructs Noah to build an ark. God partnered with humankind and together God and Noah worked to prepare for the time of destruction and rebirth.
The Lord hasn’t changed God’s ways. God still works with humankind to bring in the kingdom of God. God could have decided to use angels, burning bushes, heavenly visions, or even a talking donkey. Instead God chose to use ordinary, everyday people–yes, people who were righteous because of God’s relationship with them, but still ordinary. It is humbling and a privilege to think that God chose you and me to work with God in order to accomplish God’s will.
Gracious Lord, you have blessed us with talents and abilities. Help us to use these gifts in partnership with you to share your good news and accomplish your will.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
“For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth” (Genesis 6:17).
Humans have messed up–royally, and God is majorly ticked off. Watch Out. That’s how most people interpret the story about Noah and the flood. That’s not the only perspective, however, from which to view this story.
Water is featured in several Biblical stories. Of course, there’s Noah and the flood. There is also the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites when they fled Egypt and the crossing of the Jordan when they entered the promise land. Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist highlights the use of water and was a precursor for the water of Christian baptism. In all of these stories with water, an end and a beginning is featured.
A world of violence and corruption ends and a new covenant with Noah and his family begins. Slavery in Egypt ends and a journey to the Promised Land begins. When the Israelites cross the Jordan River, their lives as nomads end and they begin to settle into a new life in the Promised Land. Jesus’ baptism is the beginning of his ministry, and Christian baptism signifies the end of a life apart from God and the beginning of life as a child of God.
Endings are rarely pleasant. More often they are fraught with the unknown and tinged with the grief of losing something precious. Yet, for every ending there is a beginning–a beginning filled with hope and the promise of something new and better. Faith is closing the door of the ark, riding out the waves, eventually landing on dry land and beginning over again. All this comes with the assurance that God is present.
O God who brings new out of old and life out of death grant us the faith and courage to endure the end and step forward into the new. Amen.
Friday, September 5, 2014
“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you” (Genesis 9:9).
Ken and Monique deeply and passionately loved each other. Their marriage though was fire and ice. Two strong–slightly stubborn–personalities would clash with strongly held positions, reasoned arguments and finely tuned repartee. Often after their “heated discussions,” and “forceful conversation” ended they would fall silent and the mood of their relationship would be like ice. Both would wonder if they had gone too far, and if the love and commitment to each other was resilient enough to withstand the onslaught of their words and contrary opinions. After a time, Ken or Monique would light the fires of their marriage with words and actions of love. Soon the ice would melt and the fiery glow of their love return.
Having endured the forty day downpour, raging waters and over seven months in the confines of the ark, Noah probably wondered if God’s judgment on creation would ever end. Yes, he walked with God and he was a righteous man, but would his relationship with God endure the waters. Perhaps the anger of God would be unabated and would overflow to Noah and his family.
The first thing that God did, once all the animals along with Noah and his family were out of the ark, was to make a covenant with Noah. God will never again respond to human sin with such a destructive judgment. The covenant was God’s gift to Noah, to all of humankind and to all of creation. The assurance of God’s love, grace and forgiveness is a covenant that we can live with today. Such a gracious covenant is cause for celebration, praise and humble service.
O God of covenants, thank you for your unconditional forgiveness, overwhelming grace and steadfast love in our lives. Empower us to live in the reality of the covenant that you have made with us with both boldness and love. Amen
Saturday, September 6, 2014
“I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13).
My best friend’s mother would occasionally put notes in his lunchbox. They were a few words of encouragement, praise or love, but something no teenager wanted anyone to know that they received. I saw one of the notes one time when we were eating together. He was totally embarrassed. I promised I wouldn’t say anything to anyone. He thanked me, but before he tucked the note into his shirt pocket, he glanced at it and a grin creased his face. I think he really liked receiving the notes.
Symbols that someone thinks about us, cares for us, and perhaps even loves us, are gifts that ground, excite and refresh us. They may be a greeting card on our birthday, flowers on our anniversary, a surprise “I love you” text message,” or a hug and kiss on the way out the door. Life would be empty and dull without those symbols.
After the storm and the flood, God provides Noah with a sign of God’s covenant and love–a rainbow. Every time, when the sun broke out after a storm, Noah could look up and be reminded of the covenant God made with him and the love that God had for him. After the storms of life that symbol gave strength and renewed hope.
Later God added another sign of God’s love–the cross of Jesus. We look to the cross and remember the depth of God’s love and the extent of God’s forgiveness. A grin creases our face and we offer a prayer of thanks, because we really like receiving such assurances of God’s love.
Loving God, Thank you for your love that accepts us, forgives us, a love that enables us to face whatever will confront us today with courage and to use our talents in loving service. Amen.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
“I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh” (Genesis 9:15).
My calendar is filled with birthday and anniversary notations. I’ve come to the point in life that if I don’t write it down I’ll forget it. There have been times when I have inadvertently missed sending a card or making a phone call. I have seen the disappointment on the faces of the people I forgot and I’ve heard the pain in their voices. There have been times when I have been forgotten and I identify with the disappointment and pain.
God doesn’t need Post-it notes, or marked up calendars in order to remember. God assures us that God will never forget the covenant that God has made with us.
We gather together to worship the God who remembers, and to sing praises and thanksgiving to God for God’s perfect memory. No matter what our situation in life may be; through the good and bad, in sickness and in health, or success or failure God remembers God’s covenant. With that memory, God moves in our lives with unconditional forgiveness, overwhelming grace and steadfast love. Alleluia!
Almighty God, we thank you that you walk with us through all of life, and as you do so you not only empower us, but you also remind us of your forgiveness and love. Amen.