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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Today’s Reading | Genesis 9:8–17

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (NRSV)

Sonali Deranyagala’s Wave is a memoir about the author’s experience of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in which 230,000 people in fourteen countries died; the dead included Deranyagala’s parents, husband, and two young sons. The images from that bleak and beautiful book play as movies in my head when I read “that there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”

OK, so a tsunami is not the same thing as a flood. And no flood, even the most devastating in China or Pakistan or the United States, has destroyed the whole earth. Shall I let God off on a technicality? Or should I cynically think, “Yeah, right” every time I see a rainbow?

No, and no.

Genesis stories are unfathomably rich in detail, drama, and character. But if we get too caught up in the literal, we can miss what the stories are really trying to do, which is tell us something about what God is like.

These verses tell me at least three things about the one who creates, redeems, and sanctifies. God is in relationship with us as creatures. A relationship has a life of its own, and the two parties, even when one of the parties is God, learn about each other and grow in that knowledge as patterns shift and new paths are forged. Because God is in relationship with us, contracts will not do. When promises get made, covenants—agreements made in the context of love—are called for. Finally, no matter what the natural world comes up with, or what humanity stumbles into, God intends life. Grace can sustain us, even as we feel utterly unsustainable.

God, who makes and keeps covenants to a thousand generations, flood us with wisdom and faithfulness. Help us to see the signs of your love in our lives and respond in ways that imitate your creative generativity. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator, Center for Life and Learning

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