Do We Need a Flood?

given on Sunday, May 3, 2009Are you as tired of the rain as I am?  I watch the weather, and I just groan.  I look out the window and feel myself droop.  The backyard is a mud pit with a few patches of green growing wildly.  The old phrase keeps replaying in my mind: Rain, Rain, go away; come again some other day…
This week as the rain kept coming and the forecast never showed a break in it, I struggled.  I am not good without sunshine and I just kept thinking the days were dragging on and on and on.  Finally I asked if anybody had an idea for the sermon, and they popped out, “How about Noah’s story?”  Naturally the rain seemed to almost assign that topic, so I spent some time researching and reading about it.
Just why did God decide to flood the world?  The Old Testament story is in Genesis, the first book.  By finding the story in the first book, the temptation is to conclude that the world was so new and the people, who were given free choice, just went wild doing whatever they wanted to do.  They failed to listen to God.
Here it is thousands of years later and we are getting rain day after day and you hear comments like:  Well, I wonder if God is trying to start another flood?  Or you might think God is trying to tell us something.  The temptation is to think that the weather is connected to human behavior when it sends some type of natural disaster, but that is dangerous.
Noah’s story is one told generation after generation as the Israelites tried to remain faithful to God.  One web reference, About.com, discussed the mythological basis of the Great Flood and how it was in other cultures such as the Chinese, Romans, and Babylonians that caused me to turn to the Archeological Bible for a second opinion.  As cultures throughout the world tried to explain what was happening around them, each one includes a flood narrative.  This can really mess with our contemporary thinking and the need for a logical explanation.  In the Archeological Bible, the notes added a deeper insight:
Bible readers will immediately recognize the similarities between the Mesopotamian and Biblical accounts.  But there are significant differences, too.  According to the Bible God was not simply irritated by the din of humanity; he was profoundly grieved, to the point that “his heart was filled with pain” by the magnitude of human sin (6:5-7).  Nor was his plan thwarted by the cunning of another deity; God himself chose to preserve both humanity and animal life through Noah (vv.13-22).  Genesis also attests to a longer flood period and, although God made a covenant with Noah, he did not grant him immortality.  (p.13)
Another problem that develops is how can we take the stories in the Bible as sacred scriptures when research can show similar patterns in different cultures around the world.  Personally, I have never had a major problem with this because of a college course in folklore.  The history of our people began as an oral history.  The development of written documents to preserve the history in one permanent form came later.  Fortunately, the history was preserved orally during those early generations or we would not have the Bible today to guide us in our daily lives today.
Understanding Noah’s story is difficult for some, but the message in the story does not change:  be faithful to God.  Today’s rains may be one means to remind us of the lessons learned thousands of years ago.  The author of the flood myths on About.com, N. S. Gill, wrote this dated July 29, 1997:
These days we’re suffering floods of epic proportions.  In April the Red River Valley flooded entire cities along the border between the Dakotas and Minnesota.  This month floods deluged those along the banks of the Oder River in Central Europe and those in the Southeastern United States.  Here, in Southeastern Minnesota, the land is so waterlogged that a short summer shower means it’s time again to bale out the basement. … It makes me wonder what we’ve done.  …
Again, the question is asked:  Do we need a flood?  I certainly hope not.
The message, or the lesson, behind Noah’s story is that he was the one faithful follower of God:  Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.  When everybody was ignoring God’s laws and living life for their own comfort and purposes.
In The Message translation, we can learn just how unhappy God was:  God saw that human evil was out of control.  People thought evil, imagined evil –evil, evil, evil from morning to night.  God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart.  God said, “I’ll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep:  people, animals, snakes and bugs, birds—the works.  I’m sorry I made them.” … As far as God was concerned, the Earth had become a sewer; there was violence everywhere.  Good took one look and saw how bad it was, everyone corrupt and corrupting—life itself corrupt to the core.
The parallels are just too similar.   We do live in a world that seems so full of corruption and violence that it might be easy to just wipe everything out and start all over.  The rains we have remind us that we must remain faithful.  God does know what we are doing and he knows who is faithful.  The story of Noah is not that he listened and built an ark.  The story is not about how the world was flooded.  The story is not about saving all the animals in order to restart the world.  Noah’s story is about how one man and his family remained faithful to God.  God always remains hopeful and looks for ways not to destroy this world.  God loves us and really wants us to have our own Garden of Eden, so to speak.
Do we need a flood?  Probably we do.  We need to have a flood to remind us that we need to remain faithful to God.  We should go back to the Bible and read, search for the truths, remember the lessons recorded for each of us to review.  We need a flood to remind us that each one of us needs to remain faithful.
Going back to the story, look at the hope it offers us.  If we remain faithful, God is for us.  I think I hear other lessons, too.  We are responsible for the condition of this world.  We need to take ownership in sharing the message with others.  We need to do our part to keep the world peaceful, to fight violence and evil.  We may think we have no power as just one person among many, but Noah remained faithful and God worked through him.
Noah’s story ends with success:
God blessed Noah and his sons:  He said, “Prosper!  Reproduce!  Fill the Earth!  Every living creature—birds, animals, fish—will fall under your spell and be afraid of you.  You’re responsible for them.  All living creatures are yours for food; just as I gave you the plants, now I give you everything else.  … Then God spoke to Noah and his sons:  “I’m setting up my covenant with you … that never again will a flood destroy the Earth. …This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you.  I’m putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant…
A rainbow.  The most glorious sight we have in nature.  It is a sign of hope, a sign of new life, a sign of God’s love     and a promise that despite all the evil in this world, as long as there is even one who remains faithful the world will never be destroyed again.
Do we need a flood?  I know after all the April rains and forecast of even more rain yet today and this week, I am tired of the rain and the mud; but I know we do not need a flood.  I also know that God will never send a flood to destroy the world again—as long as we remain faithful.  For me, the rain should remind me that I must remain faithful.  I must remember that when the news includes floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and wildfires, God is there.  God is there to provide guidance, hope, and renewed life.
Let us use these wet, gloomy days to find our purpose.  On these many, many days of rain, let’s read Noah’s story to our children and our grandchildren so they, too, can remember that it took only one faithful man and his family to save the world we now live in.  When the sun is peeking out behind those rain-filled clouds, let’s search for the rainbow.  When we sit inside with the rain hitting the windows, let’s have the children draw the rainbow, color it in, and remind them how God loves us so much that he promised never to destroy the world again.
No, we do not need a flood.  We do believe and we do follow God’s teaching to love one another.  We need to see the rain and find the rainbow among all those raindrops.  Then, as the rain stops, the sun comes out, and the mud dries up, we can take joy in the beauty of this earth we live in.  We can see God’s love as the flowers blossom and the birds sing and the new animals are born.  We know God’s love and God’s promise of life eternal as long as we remain faithful and work to transform this world by loving one another.
Dear Father of all Life,
Thank you for your rainbow.  Thank you for loving us.  We know the value of the rain, but we also know the destruction.  Let us remember that with the flood comes new life.  Help us remain faithful and to do whatever we can to battle the destruction of evil in our lives.  Help us not to lose faith when devastation seems to take over.  Help us to work to transform this world by loving one another.                –Amen

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