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posted Oct 7, 2018, 10:59 AM by Cameron Hubanks   [ updated Oct 30, 2018, 5:19 AM ]

Excerpts – Genesis 6-9




“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

What I’ve just read you is a quote from a very famous work of literature for adolescents – it’s an excerpt from the first book of the seven-volume work by C. S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia. If you’ve never read these books, don’t let the fact they were written for young people put you off – they are as much for those of us who are older as they are for those who are younger!


In “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” – the first of the seven books in the Narnian cycle – a trio of siblings are inexplicably transported into Narnia through a wardrobe in the home of a professor who was a friend of their family.  Many things are strange in Narnia – including the residents (mostly talking animals), and the weather.  When the children first visit Narnia one of the occupants sadly informs the children that in Narnia, “it is always winter, but never Christmas.”  A sad state of affairs, wouldn’t you say?


Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that the God-figure in Narnia – the representation of Christ, to be more precise – is a lion named Aslan.  It is this lion – Aslan – that is good – but not necessarily safe.


C. S. Lewis didn’t spell out the precise Biblical stories which caused him to characterize God as a untamed lion, but it isn’t hard for me to imagine that the story of Noah might be one of them.  


In Sunday School you and I likely learned this story.  But perhaps we didn’t learn it quite right.  For example, I learned that while Noah was building the ark, he had to endure the merciless ridicule of his neighbors.  Would it surprise you to know that not a word is to be found in the Biblical texts of any of Noah’s neighbors and what they might have thought about the boat he was building? 


What the text DOES say, and which was less emphasized in my Sunday School, was God’s reason for directing Noah to build this massive barge/barn (for that’s what it was – a floating barn).  The text is clear:  Humankind had become relentlessly evil and God rued the day of human creation.  The language of the text strikes my ears as odd – what it literally says is that God repented of creating humankind.  We typically associate repentance with remorse for sin – but to repent literally (and merely) means to “change one’s mind” or “to turn around.”  The English translation of what was going on with God is poignant:  “God saw that the wickedness of humankind was great….  The LORD was sorry that he had made humankind…. It grieved him to his heart.”


And so, God decided to start over.  The decision of God to start over should give us considerable pause.  There are two dangers to avoid here:  The first is to imagine that God was outraged – out of control – and in God’s anger God decided to pursue a plan of mass destruction.  By this way of thinking, God is given to blind and destructive rage.  But that isn’t what the text says – what the text says is that God was sorry… that God was grieved to his heart.  


The other error, of course, is to dismiss this cataclysmic decision of God as some sort of mythical overstatement.  The danger here is to domesticize God and to imagine that a God of love would never – could never – take serious action against evil.  Remember Aslan – he’s no tame lion!


I think we must handle this story with care.  We must be careful not to make it say more than it does, but neither must we be inclined to have it say less than it does.  The text says that God was grieved to God’s heart and that God consequently destroyed all life save Noah and his family.  The text does not say that God acted in out-of-control rage – but the text does say that God acted resolutely and with horrific consequence.  


Like the stories we have already considered in this series – Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel – this story is myth.  Not until we get to Genesis 12 and meet Abraham do we encounter a story that clearly contains elements of literal and historical reality.  


But that admission is not to say that this story is consequently untrue.  I am convinced that this story – like the ones we’ve considered for that past three weeks – is profoundly true.  There are countless examples of instances where the human community has come to understand a profound truth and has created story as the vehicle by which to teach that truth.  No human knows the mechanism by which God created, but we are convinced that God did create.  No human knows whether two humans named Adam and Eve ever lived, but we believe that somewhere along the line of divinely directed evolution, our ancient ancestors learned the difference between right and wrong and unfortunately often chose the wrong.  We sadly acknowledge that jealousy and rage too often control the human spirit, resulting in murder and war and class-violence of many sorts.  


Similarly, there is every reason to nod our heads knowingly and sadly at the suggestion that human wickedness might be so profound as to tempt God to start over.  


At least I find no surprise at that concept.  Here’s what I find astounding:  that God would survey the wreckage of “starting over” and vow never to do it again. That’s amazing, at least to me.  I would think that in the wake of genocide after genocide – most notably in recent history, the holocaust of Jewish genocide in Nazi Germany – that God would be tempted over and over again to start over and over again.  But the story – the true myth of Genesis 6-9 tells us that God started over once and vowed never to do it again.  Noah and the animals were released from the floating barn and God placed a sign in the sky by which God would be reminded of God’s promise to find a new and different way to call humankind to repentance and new life.  Instead of destruction of the creation, God would give God’s self for the redemption of humankind.  


Now to be clear, our text today doesn’t draw the conclusion I’ve just drawn.  The text merely tells us that God is done with wholesale destruction. But God has continued to speak and eventually – in the fullness of time – God sent God’s son – Jesus – to invite humankind into a new and restored relationship with God.


It seems to me that the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – that story symbolized by this table (gesture) – is a continuation of the story of Noah and the flood.  It is a subsequent chapter in God’s determined intention to bring humankind back into the kind of relationship with God that God has always desired from the day of creation.


So next time you see a rainbow, keep this story in mind.  The rainbow – according to the story – is only partly for us.  The rainbow is mostlyC for God.  The rainbow reminds God that God has foresworn destruction as a means by which to reform humanity – and that God’s decision to become human and live among us is the evolution of God’s passion to call humankind – you and me – to a right and loving relationship with God.


I think that’s amazing. I think that’s Good News.  Thank you, God.