There was a reason for the flood. In Genesis 6 it says…The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
And so…in grief, God destroys everything. God sends the flood as an attempt to wipe away evil and hatred and violence…and start everything new. But then, when the flood waters recede, God makes the promise…to all the earth….people, animals, plants…every living thing…that God won’t ever do it again. Why? Because, frankly….the flood didn’t work. The truth is that wickedness and evil had stowed away on the boat with Noah and his family, and God knew it. After the flood, God says, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth..” It’s just who they are. Indeed, right off the boat, Noah’s family story continues with drunkenness and debauchery, curses and hatred.
I am so tired of the evil of our human hearts. The evil of fear and hatred. The evil of racism and violence. The evil of greed and selfishness. The evil that cares more about profit than people. The evil that cares more about how someone looks than what’s inside them. The evil that cares more about me than you. I’m all about the floodwaters. I’m up for the do-over. Bring on the rain, God!
But then…there’s that damn rainbow. God said Never again….never again. Because the sad truth is that floods don’t change us. We are too inclined to evil from our youth. And retaliation and destruction, punishment and violence….does nothing to end evil. It never has. It never will. Floods don’t work. Scripture says that God repented after the flood. Because after God saved humankind with the ark, we just turned right around and chose ugliness and wickedness again. So God repented. God turned around and chose a different course of action…a different way to save us all.
So how does God save us? Because we need saving…we desperately need saving. We need saving from our own arrogance and pride and bluster and defensiveness and fear and selfishness and hate. We need saving from our rabid determination to be god…to have power…to have unlimited freedom. We need saving because we are Adam and Eve, we are Noah and his family, because we are sinners, all of us.
How does God save us? By entering into our world, unarmed. By coming to us in ordinary flesh, that can be killed by our bullets and bombs, by our crosses. Ordinary flesh, like yours and mine, that can drown in floods and suffer dehydration in the desert wilderness when there’s no water to be found. God comes in ordinary flesh that needs the care of others…that needs to be ministered to …that needs to be helped in the wilderness. Ordinary flesh that grieves when loved ones are jailed unjustly and murdered by governments…like his cousin, John the Baptist. God comes to walk alongside us from birth to death, in the midst of our demons.
God saves us, by coming into the midst of our evil and injustice…and proclaiming that God’s kindgom is here. Turn around…turn around and believe. Trust God…who says “no” to floods and destruction. Trust God…who says “no” to violence and arms. Trust God…who shows love in the face of hate. Who seeks redemption, not vengeance. Who seeks healing, not death.
This is the way of God. This is the way God saves us. The way of gentleness and reverence and goodness. Turn around…turn around and BELIEVE this good news.
I want a flood. I want to wipe away smug politicians and corrupt law enforcement and drug dealers and white supremacists and child molesters off the face of the earth. But, the heartbreaking truth, is that even if we are the only ones left….they will still be here. The seeds of that kind of evil are in us. The seeds of fear and hopelessness, the seeds of selfishness and disdain. So God can only save us by loving us to death and back to life.
God can only save us by loving us to death and back to life.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. It begins reminding us that we are not God…our flesh is vulnerable to bullets and bombs, to cancer and other illnesses and injuries. We begin Lent by saying “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” We will die. I poured my mom’s ashes into the earth last July. Mom was dust. To dust she returned. Mothers and fathers will lay their children’s ashes in the ground today…and tomorrow…and the next day. They were dust and to dust they have returned.
But that dust, that frail dust is what God chose to inhabit. As Lent continues…on its way to the cross…we find the holy presence of God where we didn’t imagine it could exist. Jesus comes to be with us…at our birth and baptism…in our wilderness and temptation…in our grief and our death…in the midst of all that is wrong and all that is beautiful. Jesus comes…and proclaims God’s kingdom is here. Now. Where there is healing and redemption. Where there are angels and animals …children and adults…who show kindness and compassion. Where there is love and forgiveness. God’s kingdom breaks through. And God’s kingdom is where our hope lies. It is our only hope. And death cannot defeat it.
Frail flesh that we are…may we trust in God’s kingdom. Who chooses unarmed love in the face of all that is wrong.
Frail flesh that we are…may we strive to follow Jesus’ way. The way of unarmed love in the face of all that is wrong.
For that is the way God saves us…It is the way we are loved from death into life. Amen.