For those who want a change from the Gospel
Easter 4 – Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18, 8:6-18, 9:8-13
At the moment I am in the middle of facing one of the greatest challenges of my entire life. I refer, of course, to coving. Not Covid, although that has been a bit of a challenge too. No, coving. That polystyrene curvy stuff which goes round ceilings. For the last year we have been engaged in an almost complete renovation of our daughter’s house, and now it’s coving time. Having watched the jaunty YouTube video from B&Q, nothing seemed easier. What could possibly go wrong? If you live in a house with perfectly right-angled corners and straight lines everywhere, that is. But a 1900s Sheffield terrace isn’t quite like that, as we soon discovered. Many a time we would have had to rip the stuff off and start again, had it not in fact fallen off of its own volition. I’m sure nailing it up isn’t the right way to do it, but in the end it’s the only way which has worked. Here’s a tip: buy shares in Polyfilla!
Actually, I keep telling myself, there’s no shame in pulling stuff down and starting again if it isn’t working. In fact it’s the only intelligent course of action. It’s much better than bodging it up and hoping for the best. And that is what is going on in todays reading, the edited highlights of the Flood narrative. We tend, when thinking about this story, to see it as a story of destruction, of God’s anger, of his ruing the day he ever made the world. But it is also possible to read it in a different light, that of God realising that things just aren’t working, and so starting all over again.
The chapters from Gen 3 to 6 tell of the gradual decline of the world, from the first murder to the point in Gen 6: 5 where ‘The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.’
And so a remake is required, and it is possible to see within the flood story an account of a new creation. What God had constantly called good in Gen 1, he now calls evil (in the verse above and in 6:12). He is deeply troubled about what the word has become – the Hebrew words means grieving, aching in his heart – almost as grieved, I’m sure, as I am about my coving. So he sets about a remake.
Creation, according to Gen 1, had begun when God separated the waters. Now he lets them flow back together again, with disastrous effect, before separating them again as the mountains begin to appear. This echoes forward to the future when again there will be the need for a remake, as the waters are separated to allow a rabble of slaves to find freedom and a new national identity.
God’s command to Adam and Eve to be fruitful and populate the earth (Gen 1:28) is repeated to the flood survivors three times, in 8:17, 9:1 and 9:7. The original deal is still on, and God’s original purpose for the human race remains unchanged. And above all, the story reaffirms that humans, however imperfect and fallen, are still made in the image of God (9:6). These deliberate echoes of the creation narrative are not there just by chance. Clearly the story is written up deliberately to show the flood as a starting again of the human race, and with it comes the rainbow, signifying that God promises that the way of complete destruction by water, in other words the allowing of the waters of chaos to overwhelm the world again, the very opposite of creation, is no longer an option which God is allowing himself.
Today we give thanks for a God who is willing to begin again. As we continue to live through the Easter season, celebrating the destruction of Jesus by human evil but God’s raising of him to new life, we are aware of how much God has had to start again in our lives, to give us second chances because he is deeply grieved at our mistakes. And we look forward to the new heavens and earth, when all creation will be perfected, never to go wrong again.