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This has been one of the wettest years on record here in Minnesota.
Do you remember how much it rained at the end of May?
On one particular Saturday night it poured and poured and my sump pump would not stop pumping water, until it did. Yeah, that was an interesting Sunday morning. I come bopping down the stairs into the basement…bop, bop, bop, splash!
The sump pump had stopped during the night and the tile drains around the foundation started leeching into the basement. Most of the carpet and the padding underneath it was completely soaked. That happened right before I had to come and preach three services!
The next couple days were a whirlwind. I did not not inherit my Dad’s Mr. Fix-It gene, so when things like this happen, I’m like, “Ahhhhhhhh! What do I do?”
I got on the internet and learned how to change a sump-pump, so I was able to stop the inpouring of water. The next morning a company came out and told me it would cost $2000 to dry it up and fix it. Then the insurance company told me that it wasn’t covered. Apparently having a “sump-pump rider” doesn’t cover this type of sump-pump crisis.
So, I got on Facebook and said, “Help! I need fans and dehumidifiers.
By the end of that day I had ripped out all my soaking carpet pad and had a basement full of fans and dehumidifiers, and an impromptu cookout with all the folks who came to our rescue.
A few days later the basement was dry and another family came over and graciously helped me install new padding. It was a beautiful thing.
Now, in the midst of the chaos of peeling back soaking wet carpet and ripping out saturated padding, I had to make an emergency slice through my carpet so I could roll it back along this hallway and down the other hallway.
When it was all dried and put back together, the carpet had shrunk a little and the gash I made through that carpet was, well, not pretty.
So, what did I do? I duct taped it, of course!
Now, every time I go downstairs to go to my studio, I walk over this wall-to-wall strip of duct tape.
Do you know what that duct tape does for me? It reminds me of two things.
First, it reminds me that stuff is just stuff. I mean, stuff happens. When you build a room that is surrounded by dirt and is in a water table, you are bound to get water in it. Right? And the stuff that got damaged is just stuff. I need to let it go.
The second thing it does is remind me of the amazing way that friends rallied around us in a time of need. We could never have recovered so quickly and with such a relatively low cost if it weren’t for the generosity of caring people.
That gross strip of shiny silver duct tape is a sign. It is a symbol that represents something very meaningful to me. Yes, it is duct tape, but it is so much more than that.
When I think about my story it seems so puny and insignificant in comparison to big stories like what hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans. Or what superstorm Sandy did to the East Coast. Or what the Tsunami and earthquake did to Japan and Haiti.
Those were stories of massive destruction and loss. And yet, even in those stories it was not a total loss that was worldwide. When that devastation happened the rest of the world flocked to those places to bring aid and rescue. In the midst of tragedy there were stories of hope.
In the same way that my story pales in comparison to those stories, those stories pale in comparison to the flood story that we encounter in our reading today.
Today marks the beginning of a new journey for us at Grace.
It is Rally Sunday. We’ve seen all the children come together to begin their new season of SONday school. Students and teachers are back to school for a new season of learning and activity.
And we begin a new Journey through the Bible as we follow the Narrative Lectionary.
Each year the Narrative Lectionary takes us through the sweeping story of God at work in the world from the book of Genesis all the way through the sending of the church in Acts.
Each year the story is told through the lens of one of the Gospels.
This year we will look through the lens of the Gospel according to Matthew and the emphasis that Matthew has on the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven.
We usually begin the story with an account of creation.
This year the Narrative Lectionary has us starting not with creation, but with recreation.
Genesis chapters 6-9 tell us the epic story of a worldwide flood in which all life on the planet is destroyed except for a small sampling that is preserved on the ark through the faithful work of Noah and his family.
This is a cosmic story. It is a huge story. It is our story. A story that we all share.
We can learn some things from this story.
The first is this. Bad things happen in God’s good world.
It’s like my basement. Stuff happens.
This is a really important point, because many times we can think that God created a perfect world and then was really surprised when humans messed it up. So, God was like, “bummer. I need to kill everybody and hit the reset button. oops.”
I don’t think it works like that. Let me tell you why. God creates out of love for love. God is love because God is community. The three persons of the Trinity—the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer—are the community of life and love that created all things in loving community. Human beings are created in the image of God, male and female. The image of God is not the individual, but is the fact that humanity itself is a diverse organism that comes together in difference to produce life and that life is sustained in other-oriented love.
The thing about love is that it only exists in freedom. If we are not free to love or not love, then it isn’t really love. But, if we are free to love then we are also free to not love, which means we are free to hate, kill, and destroy.
Well, that’s where humanity went. Look how people are described in chapter 6, verses 11-12.
“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth.”
It was corrupt and given to violence. Does that sound familiar?
Now, here’s what’s really interesting. Look in verse 17. God says,
“I am going to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life;”
The word translated destroy in this verse is the exact word translated corrupt in verse 11. Their corruption led to corruption. The fact that they were given to destruction led to their destruction.
The Hindu religion calls this karma. It is a general pattern of life that even the apostle Paul acknowledged. He said, “You reap what you sow.”
Here’s my point. I don’t think the flood was as much about a vengeful God destroying everything because he was really mad. I think this is a story of a pain-filled parent-God who watched all that was intended for good be destroyed by its own self-destruction.
Here’s why I say that. If God really wanted to wipe everything out, then it would be gone. What did God do? God saved humanity, in spite of humanity’s bent on self-destruction.
Not only did God save humanity and all life on this planet. God made a promise.
God rescued us through that water, and God promised to humans and to all animals that the earth would never be destroyed like that again. In spite of our propensity toward self-destruction, God would work for our redemption and invites us into the way of peace.
That is the promise God made, and God sealed that promise with a sign. God said that whenever you see the rainbow in the sky, you will remember that promise I have made to you.
Do you know what that rainbow is? It’s a really pretty piece of duct tape.
This year we are going to journey together to see how God has kept this promise throughout history.
Each week we will see a different sign that he has given.
With each sign we will see a new layer of God’s promise to redeem the world. We will also discover how we are invited to participate with God to fulfill that promise.
I look forward to taking this journey together.