Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 11 2022

Posted on September 12, 2022, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 


September 11 2022

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost 

Genesis 6:5-22; 8:6-12; 9:8-17
Matthew 8:24-27

Worship Service Video Worship Bulletin with Announcements Sermon  Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Grace and peace to you from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

So I have to ask, which animals do you think should not have been allowed on the ark?

Typically when we think of Noah’s Ark – the story of the flood and the rainbow – it gets what I call “cutesy-d up.” We make jokes about it. It’s a common theme for nurseries and babies’ rooms. Plush animals, rainbows, toy arks with animals. All of that.

Even when I’ve presented it to preschool kiddos, I play up the smells and the sounds that must have been in the ark during the rain.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. The parts of the story that come before the rainbow are kinda scary, and definitely not material for a children’s story. But that doesn’t mean we hold it at arm’s length or don’t talk about it with them. Because when we tell this story, we offer a message of God’s love and hope. Because for all of us, this story is a reminder that God is with us even in the midst of the worst chaos.

In our reading today, we get the high points of what happened. And I encourage you to read the story in its entirety. Because in this story, we learn that God was grieved. Not angry, but grieved – sad, hurt, unhappy – and that’s an important distinction. Because in this story, God wasn’t angry at creation. God was deeply saddened by what it had become.

When God created the world, God called it “good.” It was a place of peace and order. All of creation – plants, humans, animals – lived in harmony together. There was unity between creation and God. But it wasn’t too long after that, that things began to change. Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; Cain killed his brother.

And instead of creation correcting itself and going back to what God intended, things became more and more chaotic – or “not good.” And in sorrow, God said, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s time to start over.” And then came Noah.

We aren’t told what it was about Noah that made him find favor with God, but there was something about his character and his integrity that was pleasing to God. That isn’t to say that he was perfect. But whatever it was, from that moment God became committed to preserving living creatures.

So God told Noah to build an ark. And Noah did. [1]There’s no conversation here between them. God instructed, and Noah obeyed. Inside the ark are the human family, animals, provision of food for them all, and work. Humans and the rest of creation are to be saved together.

And then God made a covenant. And unlike all of the others that were made, this one is a completely one-sided promise by God to never destroy the earth in this way again. Creation doesn’t have to do anything in return for God to keep the promise. The hanging up of the bow, a weapon, is a sign of disarmament that limited God’s freedom – and only God’s freedom – from that moment on.

In this covenant, God is the one who repented. [2]God is the one who changed their ways – who turned from vindication and toward forgiveness, patience, and steadfast love for creation. God promises to be the one who remembers us and to be with us no matter how chaotic things might get.

This story is hard for us as Christians, thousands of years after this event. Even though creation didn’t change after the flood, we don’t like to think about God being grieved to the point of wanting to destroy the earth and everything in it.

We like the image of God that we see in Jesus – welcoming, loving, forgiving – and holding all the right people accountable for their actions, hoping we’re not among them. We like grace and the promise it brings.

[3]But this story was written down by the people of Israel during the exile – a time of extreme chaos for their community. They had lost everything – their homes, their livelihood, their place of worship, families were separated. They’d been sent away from everything that was familiar to them and had to learn how to live and be a community of God’s people in a foreign land.

They had a sense of God’s omnipotence and justice. So for them, the outcome of this story – the covenant – was a reminder to them that God was fundamentally self-giving, and willing to enter into a relationship that put limits on God’s privileges. A relationship that opened God’s heart to hurt and disappointment. It made God vulnerable.

And the bow was their visible, tangible marker of that relationship and of God’s presence even in the midst of the worst chaos. It helped them hold onto hope even when it looked like they had no reason to.

We know chaos in our own world through things like terrorism, war, ecological disaster, and inequitable distribution of resources.

In our personal lives, we know chaos through relationships broken by death, estrangement, divorce, illness, and addiction of all kinds. Some of this we bring on ourselves, through our resistance to living in God’s way. And some of it is completely out of our control.

But in all of it, the bow is also our reminder of God’s relationship with us. It invites us to reconsider our relationship with each other and all of creation. Because it gives us a sense of God’s character, God’s self-giving love and faithfulness and tenderness and presence in our world and in our lives.

[4]None of the other covenants are like this one. The ones God made with Abraham, Moses, David, all the way through to the baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection with all who call on God’s name – each of those covenants require something of creation in return.

But in this covenant, the one with Noah and creation, God is subject to the hope and disappointment, joy and grief that are part of all relationships.

[5]When we consider God’s relationship with us from that perspective, we find that it takes us to the cross – to its weakness and vulnerability. The place where we confess that God in Jesus lived into the relationship with humanity most fully by embracing all of our experiences, even death.

That hope, that promise of God’s presence and self-giving love, is what we offer when we share this story with children and with others. The knowledge that every time we see the bow – the rainbow – hanging in the clouds, we can be assured of God’s promise to always be with us even in the midst of the worst chaos.

Thanks be to God! Amen.

[1] https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/narrative-lectionary/flood-and-promise/commentary-on-genesis-616-22-98-15-3

[2] Feasting on the Word Year B, Lent through Eastertide.

[3] Section on chaos adapted from Feasting on the Word Year B, Lent through Eastertide.

[4] Feasting on the Word Year B, Lent through Eastertide.

[5] Feasting on the Word Year B, Lent through Eastertide.