If you’ve been here for the past couple weeks you’ve heard us working through these origin stories at the beginning of scripture. These mythological stories that are about our decisions to go against our created nature, and pull away from God. And they are about how God reacts to these choices we make. And having heard several of them now, you’ve probably started to gather that a lot of these stories are sad.
I love how Karen described this in her sermon last week on story of Cain and Abel, She said: “This is another sad story of our beginnings, another tragic story about sin… it paints a grim picture of the human condition. The beginning of the Bible goes to great pains to explain why the world is the way it is – and how things went so terribly wrong.”
And the story of today’s story of the Great Flood continues in that same vein… This is another tragic story about sin and our pulling away from God… except this time the story of sin and brokenness in God’s creation is seen on a global scale. And God’s reaction is also on a global scale.
Our story begins with the lines:
The Lord saw that humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and that every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil. The Lord regretted making human beings on the earth, and he was heartbroken. So the Lord said, “I will wipe off of the land the human race that I’ve created: from human beings to livestock to the crawling things to the birds in the skies, because I regret I ever made them.”
In God’s eyes, Creation had fallen so far, that the only way to fix it was to do away with it all together and start over. It sounds harsh but really God is reacting in the same way God has done in the earlier stories…
- Adam and Eve disobey God’s one rule, they ate the fruit, and they are punished. Evicted out of Eden, the garden of God’s provision and protection forever, and caused to toil and suffer outside of God’s care. They break a rule and God reacts by casting them out and abandoning them.
- Cain, their son, the farmer, kills his brother, the shepherd… and he is punished, kicked out of his home, forced to roam from place to face and only find dry un-farmable land. He does wrong and God reacts by casting him out and abandoning him.
In all of these first stories of Genesis… God responds to the wrong doing and brokenness of humanity with an equal reaction. Its as though God’s method for dealing with sin was just to get rid of it all together. A retributive act of Justice, if you do wrong… you will suffer for it.
So, it makes sense that here in this story God would continue by acting the same way.
When God sees that creation has become irreparably corrupt and distorted, God decides the only way to correct it is to start over. To abandon the project altogether and begin again, with one small family and animals that God deems acceptable.
So, God does exactly as God had done before.
God abandons what is broken,
God floods the world and destroys all that is wrong with it…
Except that this time it's different.
Something changes here. Something clicks that hadn’t before.
God changes God’s mind.
It's a switch in God’s mind that reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (Strength to Love, pg. 53).
The Flood happens and God realizes that answering brokenness with equivalent destruction will not repair whatever is broken. Retribution isn’t the goal, Darkness does not drive out darkness. God sees the tragedy and loss caused by the flood and in this story, God decides to take a different path.
God decides that the only path to restore creation, the only path to redeem humanity and the world is love. The only path towards restoration is to love all of it completely. To come alongside of creation in solidarity, and to love it so much that all of its darkness, hate, and sin begins to dissipate.
In the end, this isn’t really a story about Noah, its not about whether or not a global flood actually happened, and its not about the measurements required to fit every animal on earth on a boat…
In the end, this is a story that was passed down to tell us about God’s relationship with creation… This is a story to tell us about the time that God decided to love the world, and that God still loves the world now.
And, Ultimately this is a story to tell us that God decided to endure the ups and downs, the good days and bad, to be in relationship with us. To not abandon hope for us, and destroy us again, but to love us even with our brokenness.
And if you want to fact check this theory of the story… Look at how we believe God did finally redeem creation.
Not by flood or destruction.
But by love in human form.
Sent into a sin filled and broken world, to show it nothing but love.
Our world today is overwhelmed by and lost in its fractures. We feel as though our division and brokenness is growing deeper every day. No matter which idealogical side you may fall on, it seems we are all deeply grieved by the wrong doing of those we disagree with, those whom we see as being on the OTHER side.
and again and again our instinctual reaction is to to act as God did at first. To want to abandon any hope for change or restoration.
We wish the wrong would just go away,
We wish we could just destroy all that is wrong with people and within the world.
But because of this story, we’ve seen where that path leads…
darkness cannot drive out darkness, only love can do that.
So friends, faced with the sin and fractures of our world,
Let us do as God did… Let us change our mind and change the path of our response, let us choose to love!
May that continue to be the story of how God redeems our world and all of us, even now.