“And God remembers….. and the Rainbow Covenant! - Genesis - Chapters 8 and 9
In our survey of the opening 11 chapters of the book of Genesis we have seen that a couple important themes have emerged: 1. God created the good creation and set everything in balance – thereby establishing perfect well-being or Shalom; 2. This is broken because the humans displace God and place themselves in God’s place. This results in the consequence of wandering and ultimately death; 3. God grieves the brokenness of creation and longs to restore it to balance, to Shalom.
In the first half of the Noah story from last week we experienced God’s grief and resolve to set creation in balance by re-doing the act of creation. This then leads to God’s opening the heavens and unleashing the forces of chaos to take over the earth again. All is destroyed, except Noah and his family, who have also (at God’s command) collected a pair of every animal and bird. Last week’s passage ended with Noah, his family and the animals in the ark seemingly lost and forgotten as they float upon the waters.
But then God remembers Noah and all who are cooped up in the ark which is floating upon the waters. And when God remembers things happen. As is so often the case the Hebrew and Greek words which are rendered as “remember” are much more active than is connoted by the English word. In English, “remember” usually refers to an act of cognition – it is a mental exercise. We remember an appointment, we remember historical facts for our history test, we remember how to do certain tasks, and so on. But in the Bible to remember is much more active than that. “Do this is remembrance of me,” Jesus says at the Last Supper and by this he means that we are to not merely mentally recall that long ago Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples on the Thursday night before he was arrested. Rather, we are to reenter into the events of that night – in fact we are to “remember,” the reenter, to re-experience, to make the events of the last supper and indeed the entire Passion a part of our personal experience. We are to make these long ago events present now in our lives, in our time and in our place. That is what it means to remember. “Do this in remembrance of me” – and through Jesus, God is present NOW in our midst, and we experience his love and grace and forgiveness NOW and it renews us and strengthens us for our lives and our faith NOW.
When God “remembers” us God is profoundly present with us; God becomes active in our lives. We live in a fractured world, a world and society which forgets, where human beings sometimes are just numbers and abstractions. But not to God. God remembers each of us – by name - and is thus actively present and involved in our lives. And so the Sacraments of the church (those acts through which we formally experience God’s presence) lead to a myriad of “Sacramental” experiences in our lives (experiences where we experience God’s presence through our interaction with others and through the events and encounters of our lives).
Finally, a word about the Sacrament of Baptism: Each time we celebrate a Baptism we “remember” Noah (see the “Thanksgiving” on ELW page #230). Why, because God brought Noah and his family through the waters of the flood, God “remembered” Noah and his family and God promised to never again destroy creation in an effort to restore the balance of creation. Rather, God will find a new way to bring about Shalom, to restore balance and this way is through God’s involvement in human history, through God’s calling of Abraham and the people of Israel and ultimately through the birth of a baby boy, born in a dark and lonely cave. Through this baby, God Himself, enters into our world and brings us Sacramental experiences of Shalom as God works to restore the entire creation to perfect balance. The rainbow is a reminder of this “covenant” or the promise. And the “remembering” in Baptism of Noah and Moses through the Red Sea and the Baptism of Jesus all bring those events into our lives in the present. As the child is baptized she experiences all of those events and as we remember them with her, we also reenter those events as well.
“God remembers…” What a wonderful promise. What an amazing God we have who remembers each and everyone of God’s children and who is active with them throughout the ups and downs of their lives.
Art by HeQi