Date: February 18, 2018 ()

Bible Text: Mark 1:9 - 15, 1 Peter 3:18 - 22, Psalm 25:1 - 10, Genesis 9:8 - 17 |


“I don’t remember what it was that he did, but I didn’t like it… Jason blew it and I had told him to stop it over and over again and when he didn’t, I let him know he was in trouble. I said some things and in a way that was hurtful. I know I am not only supposed to be my child’s friend, and yet even more than a being his friend, I am my child’s biggest advocate. I am a father… One given responsibility to teach right from wrong… But a bit later God began to stir within me… to let me know that I had been a bit strong, a bit over the top. I began thinking, how does God my Father react when I blow it?

During these next few weeks in Lent, we will be exploring how our Heavenly Father reacts to us, God’s wayward children.

Our first Bible reading is about the flood; about Noah and God’s covenant with Noah. In Genesis 6:5-7 we hear about God’s assessment of things before the flood. These verses say that the Lord saw the external wickedness of humanity and that the Lord saw the internal evil in the hearts of people, hearts that were evil only and evil all the time. What was God’s reaction? It grieved God. God’s heart was filled with pain. The remainder of chapter 6 and all of chapter 7 and 8 tell us about Noah’s preparation before the flood and then the relenting rain. At the end of chapter 8, the waters subsided and we are given God’s assessment of things. In verses 21 and 22 of chapter 8, here is what God was thinking after the flood… the Lord said, ‘never again will I curse the earth because of man, even though every inclination of his and her heart is evil from childbirth.” The inner thoughts and words of God…. The diary of a Father… God’s conclusion and evaluation of the situation after the flood is that every inclination of human hearts were still evil from childhood… Almost exactly the same wording to describe what humanity was like before the flood… Genesis 6:5—‘every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil all the time.’
8:21—‘every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.’

Though the water had indeed brought changes. No longer were their packs of wolves, there were only two-male and female. No longer were there pods of whales, there were only 2 whales. No longer were there flocks of seagulls, there were only two.
Humanity that God created in his own image was exactly the same progress report. No improvement. Though the landscape had changed, literally, humanity did not. Though neighbors changed, humanity did not. Though all the the eye could see had changed, what lie beneath the eye under the surface, was the reality that the human heart was inclined, bent toward, and was committed to evil. There had been no change in human beings, but instead, something else changed…
God. God changed in the dealings with the people.

If you were to identify the words God uses over and over in these nine verses… three words that rise to the top: First, ‘I.’ This pronoun is repeated eight times. Each time it is used, God reveals who He is and what He intends to do for Noah and his descendants. When God observes the evil hearts of humanity, God does not lash out with ‘YOU!’ “You didn’t’ learn anything” “YOU don’t understand” “what are you thinking?” But (I.) God commits to and becomes even more involved with Noah and his family. It is God who takes the first action after the flood to assure and give hope to Noah and all remaining of this new hope and new beginning.

The second word— is COVENANT… The primary way God commits and becomes even more involved is to establish a covenant… a promise. This word is used 7 times in this scripture reading. That covenant now gets vocalized inGenesis 9:11. “Never again will all life be cut off by the water of the flood, never again will there be a flood to destroy the entire earth. God made a covenant, a promise to Noah, a relationship promise. I am… and I will be in relationship with you and with your descendants. Noah hadn’t approached God with this idea. It was God’s idea. Noah didn’t seek out this good news, God desired it and delivered it. To make certain that God was committed to this covenant and would remember it. The third word is RAINBOW. I will put a RAINBOW in the cloud. A sign, a covenant, a promise for a new beginning…

Now what does this story teach us today?

We are human beings. Though my heart is evil, God desires me… turn toward your neighbor and say, ‘God desires you.’ In our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has claimed you. Turn toward your neighbor and say, ‘God has claimed you.’ It was God who pursued Noah. It was God who committed to Noah. It was God who re-entered Noah’s life. God desires and claims all people for a relationship through his Son, Jesus Christ. Though my heart is evil, God opens up and tells me that nothing will be able to separate us from his love. Though my heart is evil, my attitude negative, my disrespect toward others, my words, my thoughts and my actions are not always so good, God STILL desires you and God claims you and all people and all creation. When God entered the covenant relationship with Noah, God gave Noah a certain future. Noah’s future was now safe. God acted through Christ’s suffering and death to bring us to himself and save us from a terminal sinful existence. God has secured for you a hopeful future as well.

Sometimes you and I are asked to prove who we are so you can enroll in school, check out a library book, get money from a bank, or travel to another country… You need a passport, birth certificate…, and ID…

On sure way to prove someone’s identity is by looking at a finger print. Your fingers have ridges on them that form many patterns that are unlike any other person. A finger print may have swirls, loops, ridges. Even if a finger or thumb is injured, it will heal with the same pattern of ridges. At the time Jesus lived on earth, he was identified in a very powerful way. The Bible tells us that he was baptized by John in the Jordan River. Just as he was coming up out of the water the heavens opened and the Spirit of God came upon him like a dove. Then a voice came out of the sky, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus was identified by God as his Son…

On the news this past week, we heard of the school shooting in Broward County, Florida.
My good friend is a Police officer in Coral Springs, Florida. He shared the following this week on his Facebook post… “Our community witnessed true evil yesterday. The mass shooting that occurred at Douglas High School was a horrific tragedy that has deeply affected my department and my community. Many of our department member’s children attend that school and I have had the privilege of coaching some kids that attend Douglas High School…

The 911 calls came into our dispatch center, alerting us to the shooting. Within minutes of the call, my department had close to 100 officers on the scene. The actions of our officers and firefighters were nothing short of amazing. They immediately entered the school looking for the threat, while providing triage to the injured. They carried the injured to staging areas where they were stabilized and transported to trauma hospitals. There actions were selfless and heroic and saved lives. The scene was horrific and difficult to take. No amount of training can prepare you eyes for what they saw. No amount of experience can prepare your mind for what it must process. The students, families, faculty and first responders’ lives will forever be changed. We can’t ‘un see what has been seen. We all lose a little bit of our soul along the highway of our careers. There is nothing left to do but begin the healing… Blessed are the peacemaker, for they will be called children of God…”

Amidst this tragedy, this brokenness, broken promises, broken commitments, hurtful words and actions like this, we still hear of this good news. That God is with us in the real, lived out actions of love and compassion through people who make commitments to protect and serve.

Here is a poem by Lewis Smedes: ‘Somewhere people still make and keep promises. People choose not to quit when the going gets rough because they promised to see it through. People stick to help lost causes. They hold onto a love that has grown cold. People still dare to make promises and care enough to rush to the scene of evil and claim it in the name of Jesus Christ…

Life can be hectic. Life can be unsettling all by itself. And then there are pressures to raise children well, buy food, pay electric and gas and mortgage bills, find and keep a job. It can be so overwhelming. That is when we need to remember the great promise keeper—our God… God assures us of a future. God’s promise to sustain Jesus when he was being tempted by evil to do evil. Through our baptism we are assured a promised future.

Even in amidst evil that we cannot understand or explain, even when we may not know what the future holds, we know who holds the future. For those who were not expecting to be planning funerals last week, may the God of love continue to be present with these families and with the community. May we also remember that Nickolas Cruz blew it in a big way, but God, ‘I am’ continues to seek the lost and brings good out of evil…
Noah could have and may have said, “Where are you God in the midst of all this destruction and evil!!!” God brought salvation and a new people out of that destruction and evil…God was at the Douglas High School. God was there with the students and teachers working together to survive. God was there with the staff who jumped in front of bullets and died to protect others. God was there when parents reunited with their terrified and scarred children. God will continue to be alive and active in our world through kindness and compassion shown and through our willingness to serve in the name of Jesus Christ. That is our God, a God who is revealed in the servant Jesus. Though you blow it as a father, mother, son, daughter, and employee, employer, spouse or a friend, the promise from God assures us of a Father’s heart open and ready to receive, heal and restore… Amen.