Many years ago a little girl was critically injured when she accidentally pulled a deep fat fryer down on top of her. As the child’s father picked her up and rushed to a sink to cool the burning oil a face appeared just over his shoulders. A golden face that said “hush I promise everything will be alright” and the little girl believed it was so. Through years of pain, ridicule, and self-doubt, the little girl remembered that promise and learned promises are kept and life can be good.
Promises, we make them every day of our lives, some we keep, some we have no intention of keeping, and some are just too important not to keep. In this morning’s scripture we learn God, too, makes promises and God goes so far as to place a marker in the sky, a rainbow, to remind God, not humans, but God, that a promise was for keeping.
What is interesting about this beautiful bow placed in the sky is it’s not about a promise that humans keep, but one kept by God with all of creation, humans, animals, everything that lives, grows, walks, swims, and fly’s to never again destroy the world by flood. It is not a sign that humans changed after the flood, it’s the sign that God changed.
Oh, I know, I’ve heard the arguments of the unchanging God that rules the universe, but here in these words I’m telling you that God adapted to a creation that just wasn’t going to fit into the box God wanted.
The story of the flood is the tale of a broken heart, God’s heart. God’s creation has not turned out as God expected and the reader of the flood story is invited to look deeply into the heart of God and recognize there is no anger there only grief at how God’s beloved creation has separated itself from its Creator. It is God who says “I failed” and it is God that is troubled by the evil heart of humankind. This is a heart to heart look between humankind and God and how what happens between humans and God touches both hearts.
But our story today is not about the flood it’s about after the flood, the waters of chaos have subsided, the animals have returned to the earth. Noah is wondering what to do next, especially with all of those rabbits he now has since he failed separate the two he started with, and then God speaks.
I’m going to make promise to you, all of your descendents, and all of the Earth for all time”
“A promise God, to us, what could you promise us? Aren’t we supposed to promise you?”
“No this is my promise. I am going to promise that I will never again destroy the earth with a flood, and to show you that I will keep my promise I will disarm and hang my unstrung bow in the sky. This bow will appear after every rain storm and when I see it I will remember my promise to you and all creation. This is my everlasting promise that I make between me and all creation and never again will I send the waters of chaos to destroy the Earth.”
God the great all-powerful, all-knowing, divine being, puts a boundary on the God self and makes a promise. At the same time makes this promise God binds God’s self to an imperfect creation in a way that depends on God developing a relationship with creation. God has changed from an all-powerful God to a protector, a patient, and loving self-giving God. A God who has invested everything God has in a creation that God recognizes will most likely never be the creation of God’s dreams. This is a God who takes an interest in the lives of the created and prays that someday all creation will be co-creators with God in a universal cosmos.
Yet even knowing creation is not what God expected God doesn’t abandon the creation God loves so much. Instead God becomes the guide and patient teacher. Intervening when necessary to pull the beloved creation back the path God hopes will lead it back to the Garden God once planted.
Throughout history God has cajoled, threatened, punished, forgiven and blessed the creation made in God’s likeness. What happens to the people God cares so much about God knows happens to all creation but God offers forgiveness, blessings, and grace all in the hope that someday God’s greatest creation will finally wake up to the presence of life freely given.
God’s self-giving reached its climax 2000 years ago in the life of a poor carpenter. In Jesus life, suffering, death, and resurrection is the renewal of the promise that new life is possible when we Re‑member with God. Lent is our journey in that process, a time to remember God’s vulnerability along with our own. A time to remember God wants a relationship with us. And to grow that relationship all we have to do is care for each other and all of creation. I know that sounds simple to do, but this will the hardest journey you will ever make, for you will have to break open your own hearts and recognize your part in the separation from your Creator. It is a long journey and it will take many Lent’s to accomplish, but it’s a trip worth taking.
The burnt, scarred little girl has been making that journey all her life. Sometimes she gets close to breaking open her heart to God and sometimes she walks away. But she’s not giving up, the stakes are too high. What keeps that little girl moving is the knowledge she isn’t alone on the trip. She has had many travel companions who come and go in her life-giving her support and comfort on the path. But, most of all she knows that a promise was made many years ago that “everything would be alright” and she believed.
God made a promise to Noah and all of creation for all time, God has kept that promise. God made a promise to a little girl, and God has kept that promise. God keeps promises, to Noah, his descendents, all of creation, a little girl, to each of you and to us all. Forgiveness, Blessings and Grace are the results of those promises. The path to God is there, and God waits for all of us to follow it.
Ruth A Jewell, ©February 26, 2012