Genesis 9: 8-17; Mark 1: 9-15
Talking to a suntanned resident of New Mexico about the weather in Albuquerque, the tourist asked, “Doesn’t it ever rain here?” The native replied, “Mister, do you remember the story of Noah and the Ark, and how it rained forty days and forty nights?” “Of course, I do,” the man answered. “Well,” drawled the Southwesterner, “we got half an inch that time.”
The Old Testament lesson records God making covenant with Noah, his sons and all the creatures of the earth and all future generations. Water shall never again destroy all the earth and its creatures. The rainbow shall be a reminder, not to humankind, but to God to never again destroy the earth with a flood. The covenant was made between God and all flesh on the earth. Other covenants in the Old Testament are made between two unequal partners who promise to an oath made and related stipulations. God made this covenant to all creatures now and for future generations. Only God speaks in this agreement. Noah and his sons are not asked to agree. It is an act of a free and gracious God on behalf of a world that did not have to ask for it or earn it, or even respond to it.
The lesson from Genesis has some similarities with the gospel lesson from Mark. Water is included, the voice of God is heard, the creatures or wild beasts of the earth are mentioned, and God’s grace is involved.
When water is not contained or controlled, it has a tendency to wreak havoc when rain abounds. Rain for forty days and forty nights was what God brought to the earth when “the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. (Gen. 6:5)” God regretted making humankind and chose to destroy them by flood, but Noah found favor in the sight of God. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus went to the Jordan River to be baptized. Here, water is not an instrument of destruction, but as a sign of the redemption to come to cleanse all from sin by the work of God’s son.
The Lord spoke to Noah and his sons of the covenant God chose to make with Noah’s family, all their descendants and with every living creature. It was a revelation from God to all the creatures emerging from the ark after the waters receded. The voice was heard from heaven when Jesus came up out of the water declaring God’s love and his favor for his son. Everyone came out of the ark after the flood and heard the covenant. Jesus came out of the Jordan and heard the blessing of the Lord from heaven.
All the creatures that survived the flood were promised the Lord would never destroy the earth again with water. There were creatures that provided company to Jesus when he was in the wilderness for forty days. Remember the dove sent out of the ark by Noah? There was a dove which descended on Jesus after the baptism. Remember, it rained for forty days? Jesus went to the wilderness for forty days and was tempted by Satan. And it was God’s grace that brought about the covenant with all his descendants and all living creatures for all generations. It was in the fullness of time when God sent his Son to proclaim the good news of God; therefore, repent and believe the gospel!
There are obvious parallels between the story of Noah’s ark and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Divine judgment came upon the earth through the flood. If there was divine judgment to come to the earth with the advent of his Son, the judgment was to come upon the Son for the sake of the world. He was to be the sacrificial lamb that took away the sin of the world. There was divine judgment, and that is what happened. The ark saved a remnant from the flood and the covenant promised there would not be a flood to destroy again. The time was fulfilled, and Jesus had come to proclaim the good news of the God’s kingdom being near. There was not to be a flood to destroy all the earth, but a blood sacrifice to redeem the world. The only one to die will be the Son of God.
What does this teach us as the season of Lent begins? Destroying all the world because of the evil inclinations of every heart has already been done. That’s not the church’s message to the world. The church’s message is the good news is at hand in Jesus Christ. He’s the only one who died for our redemption. That was by virtue of God’s grace and mercy. Believe the good news.
Martin Niemoller, a German Lutheran bishop, was called upon to negotiate with Hitler during World War II, in an attempt to save the Church of Germany from being closed down by the Nazi dictator. Toward the end of his life, Niemoller told of a recurring dream he had in which he saw Hitler standing before Jesus on Judgment Day. Jesus got off his throne, put his arms around Hitler, and asked, “Adolph, why did you do the ugly, evil things you did? Why were you so cruel?” Hitler, with his head bent low, simply answered, “Because nobody ever told me how much you loved me.” The bishop would then wake up in a cold sweat, remembering that during the many, many meetings he had with Hitler, he never once said, “By the way, Fuhrer, Jesus loves you! He loves you more than you’ll ever know. He loved you so much that he died for you. Do you know that?”
The Lord does not regret making humankind again. The Lord already went through that. The Lord does not regret making us. On the other hand, God so loved the world he gave his only Son so that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life. The message to our world, our community, our friends, family and neighbors is not God’s regret and God’s judgment. God already went through that. The message to our world and to us as we start the Lenten journey to Jerusalem is that God’s timing is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has drawn near for Jesus has drawn near; therefore, repent (think and act differently ’cause how you’re thinking and acting isn’t working) and believe the good news of God! Alleluia.
Preached at Lincoln UMC in Lincoln, AL, February 21, 2021