A Sad Situation

A Sad Situation

Pentecost 14 (NL1) John B. Valentine
Genesis 6:5-22; 8:6-12; 9:8-17 September 11, 2022


The adventure begins anew! Today. Really. It does!

Today we begin a journey that will last us until next Memorial Day ...

A journey through some of the most significant stories in the Bible ...

Through Genesis and Exodus ... and Kings and the prophets ... and then the Gospel according to Matthew and finally through Paul’s Letter to the Church in Rome.

You see ... from what I can tell ... we ... in our day and age ...

• We don’t much KNOW the key stories of the Bible ... and
• We don’t have many points of connection WITH the key stories of the Bible ... and
• We don’t much LISTEN to the key stories of the Bible.

And because we don’t KNOW and CONNECT WITH and LISTEN to those stories ...

• We don’t ALLOW OUR LIVES TO BE SHAPED by the key stories of the Bible ...
• And thus we have no right to call ourselves “People of the Book.”

But rather than just throwing our hands up in surrender along with the rest of post-modernity ...

We take this journey through the Scripture so as to be truly ‘counter-cultural’ ...

And dare to connect with and listen to and heed and be shaped by this Word!

So let’s get on with it!

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The story we’re looking at today is the story of Noah and the Ark ... one of the earliest stories in the Bible ...

From the Book of Genesis ... chapters six, seven, eight and nine.

We read just parts of that story as our lesson a little bit ago ...

But I trust a few of you have heard that story before ... or maybe think you’ve heard it before!

The story of Noah ... who built a boat ... and filled it full of animals ... and sailed out a storm ... and found himself a rainbow ... right?

Anyhow ... I took a little time this week to do some study of the interpretation of the story of Noah and the Ark in the 21st Century.

Which is a fancy way of say “I went online shopping on Amazon.com” with Noah’s Ark in the search engine.

And ... mostly what I discovered is most modern interpreters of the Noah’s Ark story paint it all in pastels!

There’s Noah’s Ark crib bedding and Noah’s Ark nursery decorations and Noah’s Ark piggy banks and Noah’s Ark action figures and Noah’s Ark stuffed animals and even Noah’s Ark water bottles.

Honestly ... the only thing on Amazon that even remotely HINTS that there’s more to the Noah and the Ark story than just cute animals and a crowded boat is ... wait for it ...

• Noah’s Ark emergency food supplies!

(Though I’m not quite sure whether the implication is that we’re also supposed to be building boats or just hoping we can make it to high ground when the flood waters rise again. Really ... I’m not making this stuff up!)

But what is the story of Noah and the Ark about ....... really???

Is it really about cute and cuddly animals on a maritime menagerie ... or is it about something else??

I mean ... if you do the math ... the whole of the Noah narrative in the Book of Genesis covers live a hundred verses ... and less than a dozen of those verses are actually about the animals on the boat at all!

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Actually ... if we want to wrap our heads and hearts around the story of Noah... we’ve got to go back to the beginning ... back to Genesis chapter one and the story of Creation.

Any of you remember THAT story?

How God successively creates light and day and night ... and the sky and dry land and seas and plants ... and the sun and moon and stars ... and birds and fish and animals ... and all of that was GOOD ...

And then ... at the end of Day Six ... God creates humans beings ... and only then does God pronounce that it is VERY GOOD.

And all of that talk about God deeming Creation “good” and “very good” leaves one with the impression that God is very proud of ... that God LOVES ... what it is that God has made.

It’s like at the end of Genesis One ... there’s a sense of contentment and joy all around ... “Congratulations, God, your baby is just beautiful!”

But ... somehow ... between Genesis chapter two and Genesis chapter six ... things go horribly wrong.

Whereas that infant version of Creation is grand and glorious and beautiful and lovable ... the adolescent version is not so much so.

In no short order ... there’s sin and suffering and the first murder and ... by the beginning of Genesis 6 ... we have this assessment:

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.”

And God ... who had such “high-apple-pie-in-the-sky hopes” for this amazingly good Creation ... is ........ wait for it ........ acutely SAD.

“And the Lord was SORRY that he had made humankind on the earth ... and it GRIEVED God to his heart of hearts.”

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I don’t know about any of the rest of you ... but I’ve felt an echo of that divine sadness myself over the course of the past few weeks.

I mean ... with a couple of our grandkids moving into the neighborhood ... there’s been plenty of time for catching lizards ... and looking for owls ... and noticing hawks ... and listening to coyotes and the like ...

And we’ve gotten to show them the stand of redwood trees out at the end of Canyon Road ... and look up and up and up .... and imagine just how tall those trees might actually be.

It’s been an opportunity t once again look at the wonder of Creation through the eyes of a four and a six-year old ... to find oneself just saying“Wow!”

But then again ... we’re confronted by the news in the paper ... and that “Wow!” becomes a “Wow ......”

I mean ... betwixt:

• The news of a record breaking heat wave brought on ... apparently by climate change ... and

• The news of the war in Ukraine ... and of the potential damage that could arise if that atomic power plant is compromised ... and

• The news reminding us that today is the 21st anniversary of that infamous day called 9/11 that revealed the depths of human hatred ... and

• The news of how the news itself is going to effect global food supplies in developing nations ... and not in a good way ....

• Not to mention all the latest rigamarole to come out of our nation’s Capital ....

Don’t you occasionally find yourself just wagging your head and saying "Wow ......"???

Let’s be honest ... folks ... it was an ugly news week out of our nation’s capital this week ... was it not???

I don’t care which side of the aisle you find yourself on ... it was an UGLY week!

Taken all together ...

We ... together ... all of us folks ... have squandered our legacy ... our heritage ... our promise ... our history ... the sacrifice and selflessness of so many ... our abundant natural resources ... our very future ... the gift that is this nation ... in a wanton fit of selfishness that makes me wonder if the verdict which the Almighty rendered back in Genesis chapter six might not well be said of us:

“And the Lord was SORRY that he had made humankind on the earth ... and it GRIEVED God to his heart of hearts.”

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You know those so-called ‘high tension’ lines that run from hilltop to hilltop around here? Those ones that PG&E has gotten awfully antsy about in recent years???

It seems to me there’s a high tension line that runs through these opening chapters of the Book of Genesis. (Really it’s a high tension line that runs through the whole of the Bible!)

There’s this one tower that is labeled “God’s care for all creation” ...

And there’s another one we might call “God’s care for human beings” ...

And between those two towers runs this high-tension line ... this question ...

“What does one do when one thing that you care about ever so much is at odds with another thing that you care about ever so much?”

But before we consider how God answers that question ... think for just a moment as to how WE answer that question.

Seriously ... When one person that you love is at odds with another person that you love ... how do you decide betwixt the two?

• Be it between a couple who’ve long been your family friends who now are getting divorced?

• Or two long-standing, long-trusted co-workers who’ve come to odds with one another?

• Or two children who are both insistent upon their way or the highway over some burning family issue?

Really ...

• Do you go with an “impartiality” approach ... try to hold them both close ... and maybe end up making more of a mess out of things than there was before?

• Do you try the “guilt and innocence” approach ... side with the innocent ... affix blame to the guilty ... and sever one of those relationships entirely?

• Do you go with a “preference for the powerless” ... presume that whoever had the most power is the one who is most to blame ... and side with the weaker?

• Or maybe do you just opt for “avoidance” ... deny that there’s a problem ... and just let things fester all the more?

Let’s be honest ... folks ... our answers to those sorts of questions may not be “one size fits all” ...

But questions like that are among the most difficult questions many of us ever face.

Choosing between two people or ideas or things which we both hold dear is hard.

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“Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight ... and the earth was filled with violence ... and God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark.’”

Given the choice between God’s care for all Creation and God’s care for human beings ... it seems God chooses the former ....

In part ... it seems ... because the Creation is powerless ... and ... in part ... because human beings are the ones to blame ...

So this Flood is sent to cleanse God’s beloved Creation of the cause and effects of sin and evil.

But ... even then ... God won’t give up.

• God’s hopes won’t die ....
• God’s care won’t quit ....
• God’s love won’t cease for humanity.

And this story is about God speaking a clear and resounding “NO” to human behavior ... while still saying “YES” to human beings.

You see .... the story of Noah and the Great Flood ends with a rainbow in the sky ... right??

But that bow in the sky isn’t just for Noah and his descendants ...

• It isn’t just a reminder for you and me ...
• It’s a reminder to Almighty God of a Promise that God made.
• It’s a symbol of self-imposed obligation

• that God will not deal with evil with evil ...
• that God will not respond to wickedness with wickedness ...
• that God will not respond to destruction with destruction.

It’s a reminder of grace ... a reminder of a God who responds

• to our evil with love ...
• to our wickedness with grace ...
• to our violence with redemption.

You see ... there’s only one other story in the whole of the Bible wherein God commits to confronting the totality of evil ... all in one fell swoop.

But the next time God moves to redeem the world ... God doesn’t send a flood ... but picks up a Cross.

For which we can only say “Thanks be to God!”

“A Sad Situation” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine  on the 14th Sunday after Pentecost 14 — September 11, 2022.  The text upon which it was/is based is the story of Noah, as recorded in Genesis 6:5-22; 8:6-12; 9:8-17.  To access a copy of the worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 0220911