Pentecost 9, 2015
Genesis 9:8-17 (Zechariah 9:9-10 & 1 Peter 3:18-22)
"Bow of peace & forgiveness"
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When college students go home for the weekend or for a break they are sure to bring something with them...laundry! I was no different. I remember going home from classes with a huge duffle bag of laundry. It must have been at least a few weeks worth of clothes. I carried it down the stairs at my parents house slowly as I held the bag in front of me. Then I discovered something shocking. Something cold. Something wet. My parents basement had at least two feet of standing water. It was a mess.
Floods of any kind are a disaster. A flooded basement is bad news. But it could be far worse. It's devastating to see the effects flood waters have had on the crops around us. It's even more devastating to see the effects that flood waters had down in Watseka. You know that it is terrible when you read that the fire department has to use canoes to rescue people stranded in their homes. I believe I heard that over 60 homes and businesses were under water. As tragic as this is for many families...it could be worse. We can recall the tragedy that flood waters have had on the Mississippi river or the flood waters from Hurricane Katrina and the images of people standing on the roofs of their houses waiting for a boat to rescue them. Floods are disastrous. They destroy. They often kill.
Noah, his family, and an ark filled with animals survived the flood. The Flood! After seeing the damage that standing water has on crops or floods have on buildings...we could only imagine what the world looked like after the great flood of Noah's time. Every building would have been destroyed. All the plants would have been killed off. Plants, animals. and people suffered God's wrath. Everything was destroyed. Yet in the midst of that great tragedy Noah and his family built an altar and thanked God. That is great faith. Faith that would be tested by fear and doubts. Doubts of God's love. Fear of God's wrath. Fear of storms and flooding.
We understand those fears. Storms are still scary. Young children still go running for mommy and daddy's room in the middle of the night when the wind howls and the thunder crashes all around. And we, like Noah and his family, need reassurance of God's love and promises. For we are like little children that have been disciplined and sniffle, sigh, and cry even as we are held by our mother who rocks us, speaks gently, and soothes her child.
So God speaks gently to Noah, his family, and to us. God soothes His children and loves them. God would give the world a sign. A new sign.
What is the first word that comes to mind when I say "bow?" (Arrow, Rainbow) Throughout history the bow was a symbol of hunting and combat. But God creates a new bow. God created the rainbow to be a symbol that reminded Noah, his family, and all of creation that He would never destroy the entire world by a flood again. The rainbow is a constant reminder to us that even though He may punish the entire world, He loves us all. From that time on the bow became a symbol of God's peace and forgiveness.
That forgiveness is found in Christ alone. That forgiveness is found in the one that breaks the battle bow forever. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth." (Zechariah 9:9-10)
God gave a new meaning to the bow; from war and combat to peace and forgiveness. God does the same with the flood. The flood at the time of Noah destroyed the entire world...except for those on the Ark. God used the ark to save Noah, his family, animals, and all their offspring. If there was no Ark...there would be no people; there would be no Savior. But God loved His creation. God would save His creation. Even in the midst of severe punishment and wrath God loved us, forgave us, and saved us.
To this day God sends us reminders of His love through rainbows. They are His creation. They are His reminder. They are symbols of His love and forgiveness. God still uses the Ark to save us as well as floods.
"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him." (1 Peter 3:18-22)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Baptism is a flood that drowns our old sinful nature. God raises us up through the flood waters of Baptism to a new life. In Baptism we are united with Christ Jesus. And all of this happens in the Ark of God's Church. In fact this is why many churches look like upside-down boats. It is a symbol; a reminder that the Church is the Ark where God saves His people. This Church is our Ark. It is the place that God promises to be. It is the place we hear His Word. It is the place where He saves us through the floodwaters of Holy Baptism. It is the place where our Lord comes to us in His body and blood.
While the storms of this world, sin and rejection of God, continue to bear down upon us we have a place of refuge. While the world seeks to kill and destroy with the battle bow we have a place of refuge and strength. That place is God's Church. That place is here. And the gates of hell will never overcome it! Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.