Where is God in the deluge?

September 23, 2018

 

 

 

Where is God in the deluge?

Genesis 9: 1-17.

23/9/18       

Last Sunday the family went out for a meal with James my son. The reason we went out was because he was moving to Essex with a new job and it was like a farewell to the old life, wish you well in the new life, deal. And with us was James’ girlfriend Victoria.

As the afternoon went on, more and more stories were told.

Stories that we had told many times before.

The story of when Duncan proposed to Iona.

Stories of Jessica and her trying to stand and crawling up the stairs.

Stories of Roseanna and I.

Stories of Cairy and Ian

Stories of James and when he was young.

I didn't think anything of it at the time.

But it dawned on me as I was preparing this service that what happened was spontaneous, but also deliberate.

 

What we were doing was remembering.

But remembering for a reason.

Part of what was going on, subconsciously, was that we were telling our story to Victoria and reminding James of our story.

To Victoria we were saying, ’This is who we are. This is what we do. This is how we act.’

To James we were saying something similar. ‘When you go off to that place far away remember who you are, that this is how we act, this is how we behave, this is our values.’

 

And it dawned on me that one of the biggest mistakes we often make with the Bible is that we think it is just a book with facts.

And it is not, this is God’s story book, this is God saying to us, ‘This is who I am, this is how I act. This is who we are.’

 

So every time I read the Bible I should be saying to myself, ‘What is this saying about God, what is this saying about me?’

 

Another wee tip when it comes to the Bible...size matters. The bigger the story, the more important it is. And the Noah story is huge.

 

Lastly, why we tell the story is usually more important than the story.

So in the context of family meals, often stories about me are about my fallibility, laughing about some mistake I had made. Why?

Because all the people my children have gone out with tend to be non church folk, and their ideas about church folk tend to be quite hostile because church folk in the media and in soaps and films tend to be hard and judgemental. And ministers portrayed in the media tend to be the worst of the lot. So when they are meeting me for the first time there is a lot of baggage that they need to let go of. They need to be told that I am a normal human being. Because if they can’t do that then they might loose their girlfriend of boyfriend.

Who wants to go out with someone that every time you visit the family they are judging you and attacking you for what you do or don't do?

 

So that got me thinking. Not about the story, but when the story was told, who it was told too, that might give me an idea of why it was told, why this story was important.

 

So I did my research and it seems that this story was finally written down when the people were in exile in Babylon. The story would have been passed on from generation to generation before that. But it was finally written down at the time when the people were exiles in Babylon.

Why is that important?

 

Because it explains why the story is so important, why it is so big.

Here is a people that have been decimated by the Persian Empire. Their city destroyed. Their temple, the one place that people went to meet God has been razed to the ground.

Their leaders killed or taken into slavery, the playthings of the kings of Persia.

Now they are in a strange land, a strange language, strange customs.

What are they supposed to do?

Where is God in all of this?

How do you give hope to the people, or is there no hope?

 

Well you tell them one of your old stories of the past.

One they know, one they remember.

Of a time when the world was devastated and few survived.

Noah and his family.

Tossed and turned in a boat with no control over where he was going or what was happening.

But in the end things quietened down.

And when they did Noah realised that God had brought him to this strange land.

And when God had brought them to the strange land God told them to start afresh.

Noah had to understand that God hadn’t given up on him.

God had saved him for a purpose. To grow and multiply and do well.

When Noah looked up to the sky and saw storm clouds he should remember that God was with him in the storm, and he need not be afraid.

When Noah looked up to the skies and saw the rainbow he should remember that God was seeking a blessing for him.

 

And now this people in Babylon needed to be reminded of that story.

This was a people decimated by a flood of war that had come down and crushed them nearly to oblivion. They were taken into exile with no control over what was happening or where they were going.

But in the end things quietened down.

God had brought them to this strange land and was now telling them to start afresh.

God hadn’t given up on them.

God had saved them for a purpose. To grow and to multiply and to do well.

And when they looked around they would see God was there with them.

To both Noah, and the people in exile, the message was clear, don’t forget that God is near.

 

We may think that it would be tempting for God to give up on us.

The people had been evil.

The people had been unfaithful.

That’s how they got themselves in their messes in the first place.

God had a choice to give up on folk, he didn't.

Maybe it was the most important story the people needed to hear, that’s why so much space is given to it.

And if God stuck by the people through the storm then, why wouldn't he stick by us through the storms we face?

 

Why is that story so important.

Because we need to hear it too.

And not just for our sake.

If this story was told during the Babylonian exile then it would have been told to a disbelieving people.

And people who disbelieve don't go to God for help. And they don't go to God for help at the very time they need to go to God for help.

So the chronicler of the story choose this story of all stories so that those who could catch on would, and they would seek help, not just for themselves, but for all those that needed it.

 

I know you think that I do Zones on a Friday night just for a laugh.

But I want to tell you that it can be a tough theological gig.

A couple of weeks ago I was telling the story of Paul being arrested and this 9 year old shouts out. ‘I don't believe in God.’

What are you supposed to say?

What are you supposed to do?

Because to me that matters.

But I want to respect his belief system.

I also want to tell him about the way I think the world works, and how he could need God.

 

As it turned out the very next week was the story of Paul being shipwrecked.

How the crew in a storm want to leave on the lifeboats and Paul tells them that if they do then they will die.

That God has told him that the boat will be wrecked, but that everyone will be saved if they trust him. That everyone has to tie themselves to a big lump of wood. And if they do then when the boat is wrecked then the wood will float and take them to the shore. And it all works out.

 

So I start the story by getting them all on the parachute and I tell them that this is the boat that Paul is on. The storm is raging and they are all scared that the boat will fall apart and they will die.

Then I tell them that this is not a story about how they don't believe in God. This is a story about how God believes in them. And because God cares he wants to help.

 

Now if Paul hadn't been on the boat then God would want to help. But because no one on the boat believes in God they don't seek his help. They don't listen to his advice. Those that can fight for the lifeboats get on the lifeboats and their small boats are destroyed in the storm and they die. Those left on the ship when it is destroyed by the storm also die.

 

But that’s not what happened.

Paul was on the boat. Just one person who believed in God.

And because he believed in God when the storm hit he didn't panic.

While everyone else is screaming and shouting and panicking Paul sought God’s help. He sought God’s help because he knew God cared.

He sought God’s help because he knew God was there.

And God told him that everyone should tie themselves to a bit of wood and it would float to the shore in the storm. And everyone was saved, because God cared for everyone. But they were also saved because one person believed and trusted and listened to God.

 

We need to read the Bible more.

Not because it makes us more holy.

Not because it is some kind of ritual that we need to go though.

We need to read the Bible more because in it, it reminds us about what God is like.

And even well-known stories like Noah.

We need to really read them.

Not glance over them and think, ‘Oh I know this story.’ and move on.

 

We need to read these stories and remind ourselves of the deep, great truths that they say to us.

When the storm hits, and it will hit, God is there.

He hasn’t abandoned us, he hasn’t forgotten about us, he hasn’t washed his hands of us.

God is there because he cares deeply for us, for everyone.

And when we find ourselves facing something so different from what we have had to face before, something way beyond what we expected, God is there.

He hasn’t abandoned us, he hasn’t forgotten about us, he hasn’t washed his hands of us.

Wherever we find ourselves. He wants us to be blessed, he wants us to be a blessing for others.

 

That’s the story of Noah, that’s the story of the exiles.

And truth be told, that’s God’s story for us too.

We just need to believe it.

 

 

 

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