The Covenant Making God — Sermon for the First Sunday of Lent – 2-21-21

 

Reminder, by Mike Moyers

 

Genesis 9:8-17

 

We serve a covenant-making God. As we journey through Lent, we will encounter some of the covenants present in the Old Testament. We’ll reflect on what these covenants say to us as a congregation and as individuals.

We begin this morning with a unilateral covenant that God makes with all creation. It speaks of God’s faithfulness but it doesn’t impose any specific requirements on us. This one applies to God and God alone, but this covenant offers us a word of hope. That is because it guarantees God’s faithfulness to the covenant. While this covenant doesn’t require anything of us, if we take the word we hear this morning to heart, perhaps we can embody its message in our own relationships.

This first covenant provides the foundation for every other covenant, including the one that binds us together as a church. When the Disciples of Christ restructured itself as a denomination in the 1960s, the denomination chose the biblical concept of covenant as the glue to hold everything together. That’s because our bonds are not legal, they’re spiritual and relational. They’re rooted in our common confession of Jesus as the Christ and Son of God.  Michael Kinnamon and Jan Linn remind us that a covenant is not legalistic. It’s not simply a list of things to do or not do. Instead, a covenant involves a commitment “‘to walk together,’ seeking to conform ourselves as community—through prayer, study, and conversation—to the mind of Christ” [Disciples, Kindle Edition, loc. 350].

This morning we hear the story about God making a covenant with Noah and creation itself to engage in a rebuild. God essentially wiped the slate clean and is going to restart things with Noah, his descendants, and the animals Noah brought on the ark. So, when the flood subsided, God made a pact with creation itself to never again destroy the earth. God sealed this promise by placing an unstrung war bow in the sky as an eternal reminder of this promise. We call this a rainbow, but to the ancients, this was an instrument of war that was being set aside by God. Yes, when God set the bow in the sky, it said to creation that the war was over and peace was at hand.

We find this story about the covenant-making God in a book that was brought into its final form during a time of exile. It offered a word of hope to these exiles who had lost everything when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. This story reminded them that God is faithful to the covenant promises. They may have lost their government and their religious foundations.  They may have wondered what the future held for them, But when they saw the bow in the sky, they knew they were not alone.

We hear this word about God’s faithfulness to the covenant during our own time of exile. We’re nearing the one-year mark of this pandemic that has taken so many lives, disrupted our economy, and kept us in isolation from one another. If you’re like me, you may on occasion wonder when things will change. This word about God’s faithfulness to the covenant also comes to us while we as a congregation navigate a time of transition. We ask what the future will look like? Although we can’t know the future in its entirety, we can find hope in the promise that God is faithful to the covenant, even when we’re not faithful.

The promise God makes with creation in Genesis 9 is an everlasting one. God promises that “when the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth” (Gen. 9:16-17). Diane Bergant writes that the exiles would have heard this as a promise that “though their world had been destroyed, God provided them opportunities to start over, and assured them that they were still bound to the compassionate and merciful God” [Feasting on the Word, p. 130]. The good news is that this promise extends to us.

This symbol of the rainbow has taken on new meaning in our time. We fly a pride flag out by our sign as a symbol of our commitment to being an inclusive community that is safe for people who have felt excluded from Christian communities. So, it offers an invitation to come and visit and perhaps join us in living out this covenant relationship that God has made with us.

It also symbolizes God’s commitment to the well-being of creation. While this covenant is unilateral, since God doesn’t lay out any stipulations on us, if we’re to live in covenant relationship with the God who cares about this world, then surely we should do the same. The rainbow reminds us that our own well-being is tied up with the well-being of creation. So, it’s important that we take seriously the realities of climate change and its impact on our lives and on the future of this world.

The rainbow offers us a sign of hope because it is an unstrung war bow. Therefore, it serves as a call to peace. So, as we navigate these challenging times, may we find in this promise a call to pursue a more just and peaceful world in covenant relationship with God, with one another, and with creation itself. Then when we see the rainbow, let us boldly sing: “Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided—Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

Preached by,

Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor

Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Troy, Michigan

lent 1B

February 21, 2021

 

Moyers, Mike. Reminder, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57154 [retrieved February 20, 2021]. Original source: Mike Moyers, https://www.mikemoyersfineart.com/.