2/22/2015 2:21:48 PM
A Reflection on Genesis 9
Today's text (Genesis 9:8-17) is the first in a series of Old Testament lessons where we're going to hear about covenants. When Genesis was being compiled, it's important to know that covenants were actual legal documents. People made covenants all the time. They were typically contracts from one person to another where one of the parties held most of the power. For example, a king who lost a war could still retain his throne if he "covenanted" with whoever defeated him. That king could retain his territory but he would be obligated to supply soldiers, supplies, and tribute to the one who defeated him. Covenants were documents detailing a series of mutual obligations between two parties of vasty different power dynamics.
But there's an oddness in our Genesis reading today because the covenant that God makes is incredibly one sided. The great flood where God flooded the earth, killing everything except for the people and animals stored in Noah's ark, is over. As the water recedes, God makes a new covenant. But this covenant isn't just to Noah and his family. Instead, God makes a covenant with all of creation. And where most covenants required a series of obligations between the parties, God doesn't ask creation for anything. There's no requirements put on creation. Instead, God focuses the covenant on God. The "bow in the clouds" (i.e. a rainbow) is a reminder to God that God has made a covenant with all creation. God puts limits on God's own power, choices, and responsibilities. To quote a Lutheran professor, Cameron Howard, "God reaches out to the world, and God does all the heavy lifting."
We're just starting our journey into Lent but I believe this reading helps frame why these 40 days matter. As Lutheran Christians, we're all about God's grace and God's continual reaching down to us. Even though we sin, screw up, and forget to take God as seriously as we should, God keeps making a covenant with us - reaching out - and doing the heavy lifting. That's the focus of the Jesus story and, we pray, that this focus will become part of our story too.
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