Monday, September 6, 2010

"But God remembered Noah…" (Genesis 8:1) - Some thoughts on the Sacramental...

This summer we focused on the stories of the pre-history in the book of Genesis. I preached on the two creations stories, Adam & Eve and the Serpent in the Garden; Cain & Abel; Noah & the Flood & the Rainbow and, finally, on the story of the Tower of Babel. I enjoyed getting inside of these stories and I hope you found this meaningful. (BTW - I would very much like to hear your feedback on the series.) These stories as a whole are pretty well known, but often misunderstood. Way too much time is devoted to arguing about historical details with the result that many miss the point of the stories themselves. These stories are stories of Grace. The God who created the universe, who created humanity and lovingly fashioned a garden for them, and then made clothing for them when they were expelled from the garden is a God of grace and love.

One of my favorite verses in the whole pre-history is the one quoted above - "But God remembered Noah...". Noah had built the ark, filled it with animals and his family, and then floated alone on the water during the rainstorm uncertain when or if they would survive the ordeal. And then the text tells us: …God remembered Noah… God remembers! God remembers God’s whole wonderful creation and God is engaged and present with, and at work actively with the creation. And when the bible talks about “remembering” it is not just a mental exercise. To “remember” in the bible is to actively engage with something; to bring something actively into the present. When God remembers Noah it prompts action on God’s part. The text of this story also tells us that God places a “bow in the sky” to symbolize a covenant between God and humanity. And this “bow” reminds us that God remembers – we are not forgotten – God is engaged with us – God loves us!

There was a popular song from about 25 years ago called “From a Distance.” It was sung by Bette Midler and the chorus went something like this: God is watching us, God is watching us, from a distance. Many found this song to be comforting, but this is not what Genesis or the Gospels tell us. God is NOT watching us from a distance. God is right here with us – in our midst! God stands with us, besides us during our times of struggle and illness and suffering and loss; God weeps with us; God loves us and is engaged with us, actively. This is the promise of the Gospel! And we need to constantly remind ourselves that God does remember us and is present with us - always. This is what we celebrate at Christmas when we celebrate the incarnation; and this is what each one of these stories in Genesis point to as well.

So, where to from here? Genesis chapters 1 through 11 are ultimately all creation stories and at the end God accepts the creation and begins the process of finding ways to be involved intimately with creation. Beginning with chapter 12 we will hear the stories of how God calls Abraham and Sarah and the patriarchs and matriarchs and ultimately how God, Himself, enters into our world through the birth of the baby Jesus in Bethlehem on a dark and lonely winter night.

Finally, God remembering us leads us to remember as well. And the principal way that we remember is through the Sacraments, which then gives Sacramental meaning to all kinds of other life experiences. I will continue this reflection next month with a look at Sacraments and the Sacramental. Blessings….

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