Stories from The Night: The Flood – Reflections 4-26-17

 Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13

 This is the second lesson from the Easter Vigil service: Noah’s ark.

Bible storybooks for kids always have this story. The building of a big boat, the gathering of animals – lots of animals, the unremitting rain and flood, and then the rainbow offers a lot of great things for tots to point at and name. Whole nurseries are decorated with the Noah’s ark theme; rainbows let you use all kinds of accent colors.

I might have been an overly sensitive child; I cried every time I heard Puff the Magic Dragon (green scales fell like rain - yes, that still brings tears to my eyes). So, when a singing group called The Irish Rovers released The Unicorn Song, I had another tear-jerker to deal with…although, the release date of 1967 meant I was a junior high kid; those tears turned to righteous indignation. 

The song was about the flood. The perkiness of the tune and the happy chorus about green alligators and long-necked geese were a contradiction to the horror of the extinction of unicorns, who missed the boat because they were splashing around and having a good time in the rain:

The Ark started movin', it drifted with the tide,
Them Unicorns looked up from the rock and they cried,
And the waters came down and sorta’ floated them away,
That's why you'll never see a Unicorn, to this very day.

That made me stop and think about what the story actually said; it might have been one of my earliest “Seriously, God???” moments.

Even after my seminary classes, and years of ministry, I still don’t volunteer to do this story in the vigil very often. I would rather not figure out how to tell my audience that God killed all those people and animals and trees, etc. It comes right after the creation story, for the love of Pete.

So, the challenge from my Gail Ramshaw book (see last week) to answer these questions - What does this teach about resurrection power? What image for God does it give you? What metaphor would you claim for baptism? - is in fact, a challenge for my reptilian brain, which is what tends to guide my righteous indignation. Especially: image? Angry destroyer (of innocent unicorns and other creatures not to mention people).

Truth is, I do get it. You can’t get to Easter without Good Friday. There is always the Cross. My reptilian image of God can change if I look closely at the story – and let Walter Brueggeman, author of the Interpretation commentary on Genesis, show me what the story looks like through his learned eyes.

God loved the creation. And it was a big disappointment. OK that is not strong enough. Let’s add regret, disenchantment, disillusionment, frustration, defeat. The whole creation was turned away from God. God said every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground. Have you ever felt that hurt? Have you felt that utter sense of betrayal?

It is a grieving God that sends the flood…but a hopeful God that saves a small portion of creation to start over. And yet, off-stage you might say, it becomes apparent to God that destroying it isn’t going to help. The brokenness brought by sin is permanent; it won’t change. So, it is the God who so loved the world who changes. Hope for creation depends solely on God’s next move. And Love is greater than hurt and anger. 

Something happened to God – God changed - and life is radically changed (resurrection?). New relationship with God happens out of the flood (baptism?). That is the whole point of God putting down the weapon of war, the bow. There is too much love in God to use it again to destroy (image?).

So, what are your thoughts about this second vigil story? Can you see resurrection? Can you feel the turn from death to life? How would you characterize God? And do you see a metaphor for baptism? I do know some people are concerned about the concept that God can change.

Your thoughts, comments, and questions are welcome.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245