Flood and Promise

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Flood and Promise, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday September 9, 2018. The Reading was Genesis 6:5-22, 9:8-17, and 8:1-12.

This sermon was given as 3 separate messages given throughout the meeting.

Message 1: Going Deeper in the Story

This is a familiar reading, but we know the Sunday School version. Have you ever gone a bit deeper into this story – and thought about how that initial conversation God had with Noah might have gone?

God: (standing on a chair behind Noah, he rings a bell once) NOAH.  
Noah: (Looks up) Is someone calling me? (Shrugs and goes back to his work)
God: (Ding) NOAH!!  
Noah: Who is that?  
God: It’s the Lord, Noah.  
Noah: Right … Where are ya? What do ya want? I’ve been good.  
God: I want you to build an ark.  
Noah: Right … What’s an ark?  
God: Get some wood and build it 300 cubits by 80 cubits by 40 cubits.  
Noah: Right … What’s a cubit?  
God: Well never mind. Don’t worry about that right now. After you build the   ark, I want you to go out into the world and collect all the animals of the   world, two by two, male and female, and put them into the ark.  
Noah: Right … Who is this really? What’s going on? How come you want me to   do all these weird things?  
God: I’m going to destroy the world.  
Noah: Right … Am I on Candid Camera? How are you gonna do it?  
God: I’m going to make it rain for a thousand days and drown them right out.
Noah: Right … Listen, do this and you’ll save water. Let it rain for forty days and forty nights and wait for the sewers to back up.  
God: Right…  

Bill Cosby

It’s a bit of a humorous look at that situation, but it’s a worthwhile point. We often read the words, but don’t think about what is happening, or what is happening around the story.

And a big part that we often overlook is God’s role in the flood. When we think about Noah building the ark to protect all the animals from the flood – that is, the Sunday school story – we often forget that it was God who caused the flood because he wanted to destroy the earth. That the only way to redeem what God had made was to destroy it all.

Does that make you uncomfortable?

Or what about if I was to point out that as Noah locked up his ark, with all the animals inside, and the waters began to rise, there would have been a large number of bodies floating around the ark – a constant reminder of what God had done.

We’re not in Sunday School anymore with this story, are we?

But there is something that I want to go a bit deeper still in. In verse 18, God says to Noah, “I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.”

Now, a covenant was a reciprocal promise of sorts. It would generally take the form of “If you do this, then I will do that for you”. And when normal people would make a covenant, they would often invoke a higher power – that is, God – as a witness to that covenant. But God can’t invoke himself in order to keep this promise. And the promise that he makes is somewhat different to what a normal covenant would be. There is no reciprocity. God isn’t expecting Noah to do anything – just that God will let him and his family on the ark. And maybe that is the covenant – that Noah and his family will be allowed in the ark. Or maybe this isn’t the covenant, and what God is saying is a promise that there will be a covenant established.

We’ll come back to that – I promise.

Message 2: God Remembers his Promise

It’s amazing how Davey can show me just how awful my memory is. He can remember things that happened to him ages ago like they were only yesterday. I have trouble trying to remember what I did last week. Why, even on Thursday, between talking about my day with Liesl before leaving about 8:30am, and just after lunchtime, I had managed to forget something I had on that night which threw the rest of my day out. Some may claim baby brain, but I guess now that Micah is 1, I can no longer claim that.

Our memory is an interesting thing. At times, we can completely forget about something, and then all of a sudden, we have remembered it. Where did it come from? Where did it go? What made it come back? Have you ever had those experiences, where for some unknown reason you’re remembering some event that happened to you years, or decades ago? At times, it can seem like it is a switch – when we have forgotten about something, it’s switched off, and when we are reminded, it’s switched back on, with seemingly no in between ground between the two.

And when used in that context, this passage seems a bit odd. Almost as if God had completely forgotten about Noah and the ark, and one of the angels reminded God about it. Or maybe, as in Genesis 1, God was hovering over the waters, and all of a sudden saw this strange looking boat on the waters and went, “Oh, that’s right, Noah. I had completely forgotten about that! Guess I better do something about them now.”

However, the way that the Hebrew verb is constructed, it is indicating an action that happens in the past, but is continuing to unfold in the present. So, perhaps a better way of explaining this phrase was that God had remembered and continued to remember Noah and the promise that was made.

We’re still early in the book of Genesis. We don’t even have the name of God at this stage – that doesn’t come until the book of Exodus with Moses. Through these stories we are learning about the nature of God. We are learning that God is a God who is remembering. A God who doesn’t forget the promises that were made.

We’ll come back to that – I promise.

Message 3: God’s Covenant – then and now

I have my computer in the living room at home. It means that I can work on it while the kids are watching something and I can still keep half an eye on them. But it also means that sometimes, they will come over to the computer, and start hitting keys. Sometimes, I’ll get to the computer and there will be a whole heap of nonsense in the middle of my sermon. And that’s easy enough to delete. But sometimes, they’ll have done something that I have absolutely no idea what they’ve done, and the computer is doing something wrong. I have no idea what to do to fix it, so the general solution is for me to reset the computer – turn it off and on, and start again.

Sometimes, it’s like that with the various projects that we do. I know there’s been times where Liesl has been doing some crochet, and has got most of the way through a project, only to realise that she made a mistake somewhere along the way and now it’s all wrong. Sometimes, the only way to fix something is to take it all apart and start again.

And that’s effectively what God did with this Flood. The creation that he had made had become so out of hand, so corrupt, that the only way for him to fix it was to turn it off and on again. And we see that in the command that God gives to Noah to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” But you can also see that God was hurting from having to destroy his creation.

It’s never easy to start over. It’s never easy to change what you thought was going to work. In doing so, you have to recognise the mistakes that you made. Maybe God destroying the whole world was the right thing to do. Maybe, it was a mistake. Either way, I think we see God’s heart grieve the loss of life that he inflicted. And so we get this covenant.

This is the covenant that was promised to Noah. Known in theological circles as the Noahic Covenant, this is the true covenant that follows the standard form. Noah, and his descendants, will be fruitful and multiply, and will respect the sanctity of life in all things. In response, God committed to never destroying the world again. And to remind us both of this covenant, God adds some meaning to the Rainbow. The rainbow was already in existance – the text reads “I have set my bow in the clouds” not, “I will set”. The bow was already there, part of God’s magnificent creation. But with it being a regular sign, God uses that to remind us – and to remind God – about the covenant that was made.

But, as we’ve already established, God doesn’t forget. God isn’t going to destroy the world again. But us humans – we forget. We forget often. The Jews would find more and more ways to break the will of God, to grow hard in their hearts. And us as humans, we would find more and more ways to destroy the sanctity of life. We keep finding new ways to destroy life – there is a whole industry that seems hell bent on getting stronger and more powerful weapons in to the hands of the general public. We’re finding more and more dangerous ways to go to war. We’re finding new words that can be used to destroy a person and break them down so that we don’t kill them, but they kill themselves. We’re finding new and harsh ways to torture the people that we don’t like. We have forgotten the sanctity of life. We have forgotten that humankind was created in the image of God.

Now normally, if one party was to break the covenant, the covenant would be invalid. But as we have established, God is a God who remembers. He has been constantly remembering the covenant made with Noah. And since the world couldn’t be destroyed again, there had to be a new plan. Jesus. Jesus is the answer to all the mistakes in our world. The answer to all the death and destruction that we have created. When God said “For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning”, it wasn’t to institute the death penalty. It wasn’t to say, if you kill one person, then you will be killed likewise. No, the reckoning, the blood that was to be shed was the blood of Jesus. God’s ultimate reset. For in Jesus offering himself up as this sacrifice, he took on the sins of the world – both the ones that had been made and the ones that will be made, and said “God, this is that reckoning. Remember those sins no more”.

God knew that in hitting the reset button, that humanity wouldn’t change. We were corrupt before, and in Genesis 8:21, God acknowledges that “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth.” So instead, God sets in place a plan that will allow God’s mercy to win. God blesses Abraham and Sarah in order that they will be a blessing. God calls the Israelites to be a “priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” God calls prophets and priests, shepherds and vine-dressers, to proclaim God’s judgement and God’s mercy, and call people back to this covenantal loyalty.

This is the story of Noah – a story about a God who always remembers, sets in action a path that will allow God to forget our sins. A promise, a covenant with us that God will never forget.

You’re invited to come into that covental relationship. To come in and be remembered by the God who will never forget. To be re-membered as a part of God’s creation, made in God’s image. All that is needed is what we find in Romans 10: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” If you haven’t done that before, then I invite you to come and be a part of God’s covenant. To be party to that incredible mercy that means our all-remembering God will forget your sins. And if you have confessed that Jesus is Lord, and you do believe that God raised him from the dead, then I invite you to remember that amazing Grace that transformed your life.

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Unity in Diversity

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Unity in Diversity, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday August 5, 2018. The Reading was Ephesians 4:1-16.

One Body, One Spirit, One mind?

This past week, Liesl and I have been at Officer’s Fellowship – the first Officer’s Fellowship of the unified Victorian division. Now you may be wondering what we do at Officer’s Fellowship. Do we get away for a week of frivolity, where the rules are somewhat relaxed? No. Do we spend the week in deep and rigorous bible study that enriches the mind and spirit, but leaves you physically tired? No. The reality is somewhere in the middle.

Of course, this year was somewhat different. This was the first year we have had one Victorian Division. In past years, there would be a fellowship for each division – so last year, there was a retreat for officers in Western Victoria Division, Eastern Victoria Division, Central Victorian Division and the State Social Command. This year, all of those came into one – with the result being 178 officers in attendance. So it was massive. Continue reading “Unity in Diversity”

Come Away to a Deserted Place

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Come Away to a Deserted Place, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday July 22, 2018. The Reading was Mark 6:30-34, 53-56.

The many things we need to do

What’s your standard response to the question, “How are you?” Do you say “I’m Good” or “I’m Well”, or “Fine” or something else? In a couple of weeks, Liesl and I will be at Officer’s Fellowship, which will be the first one for the whole of Victoria division. Apart from being much larger than normal, and fairly crazy as a result, I suspect that with a number of catch ups, there will be the question asked “How are you” and more than a few responses of “I’m Busy.”

In today’s society, “Busy” is almost becoming a default response. Our default responses are the way that we want to be seen. How often have you responded “I’m Well” when you have a cold? And as such, “Busy” is seen as something we want to be. If we are busy, we have many things on the go. If we’re busy, we’re doing lots of things. “Busy” seems to be the ideal, much better than “oh, nothing much” Continue reading “Come Away to a Deserted Place”

Grace Through Our Weakness

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Grace Through our Weakness, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday July 8, 2018. The Reading was 2 Corinthians 12:2-10.

Young, Old, Weak, Strong

Who here is celebrating a birthday today? No one? Are you sure? I have a list of Birthdays here, let me see who’s on it.

Well, I don’t have everyone, but you get the idea – we are all celebrating a birthday, because every day is another day since our birth. I heard someone once say that today is the oldest you have ever been, AND it is also the youngest you will ever be again. I don’t know whether that’s a good or a bad thing to realise, but it’s true. Continue reading “Grace Through Our Weakness”

Who is Jesus?

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, A Most Unlikely Hero, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday June 24 2018. The Reading was Mark 4:35-41.

Expect the unexpected

I know that there might be a bit of a feeling that Liesl and I preach very differently. That when I’m preaching, you will get a bit more of a standard sermon, that hopefully teaches, inspires and puts a new spin on the reading for you. Where as Liesl…. Well, anything can be expected. You might even expect the unexpected. And that’s ok, we need both, and I know Liesl and I are both glad we don’t preach exactly like the other, because my style will connect with some better than hers, and she will connect better with others. So if you’re one who connects more with Liesl’s preaching, I apologise but you have me again. I’ll try not to put you to sleep.

One of the shows that I watched a lot of in my teenage and early adult years was Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I loved the weird, British humour, and the older I’ve become, the more I appreciate what they were doing through their skits. One of the skits I remember well was the Spanish Inquisition. Now I bet you didn’t expect me to bring up the Spanish Inquisition.

Continue reading “Who is Jesus?”

The Kingdom of God is like a Seed

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Kingdom of God is like a Seed, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday June 17, 2018. The Reading was Mark 4:26-34.

Context is King

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Context is King” – it’s this idea that without knowing the context surrounding a passage, you aren’t fully understanding what is happening.

As you all know, I love Star Trek. I recently finished re-watching The Original Series on Netflix. And one of the things that I love about Star Trek, and Sci-Fi in general, is that it reflects the current day issues in a futuristic context. Without understanding the context that the sci-fi was written in, you’re not fully understanding the meaning.

For example, watching The Original Series today with modern eyes is slightly jarring. The role of women in the series is often portrayed as helpless, or as administrative assistants, which did reflect the role of women in the 60’s when the show was produced. While the men wore a uniform fit for work and battle, the women were often in very short skirts. If it was made like this today, it would be decried as out of date and out of touch. Continue reading “The Kingdom of God is like a Seed”

Sabbath Living

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Sabbath Living, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday June 6, 2018. The Reading was Mark 2:23-3:6.

Improving on what God has made

We have to admit that God is pretty clever. Humans have been trying to emulate God for years, but there are not many things that we have improved upon what God has made. We have tried making humans – both through cloning and through robotics, but both have presented us with either ethical or technological problems that we just can’t solve. We have tried creating new ways at creating plants, and light, and all sorts of other things. But they all result in more problems. Even something that I might be willing to admit that we did better than God – the Tablet… still has it’s issues. I don’t think that Moses ever had issues with the ten commandments freezing, or getting addicted to playing Candy Crush on the stone tablets. He did break his stone tablets though, so maybe ours are still just as fragile.

But there is one thing that we have improved upon what God created. Continue reading “Sabbath Living”

Hope Where It’s Needed Most

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Hope where it’s needed most, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday May 27, 2018. The Reading was Luke 10:25-37.

Elizabeth Ballard of Chesapeake, Virginia, tells the story of a school teacher named Miss Jean Thompson.
Miss Thompson would greet her new students every September with the same words: “Boys and girls, I love you all the same. I have no favourites.” Of course, she wasn’t being completely truthful. Teachers do have favourites and what’s worse, they sometimes have students they just don’t like.
Teddy Stallard was one of these. Continue reading “Hope Where It’s Needed Most”

The Great Banquet

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Great Banquet, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday May 13, 2018. The Reading was Luke 14:12-24.

It’s 6:30am, and the temperature is in the single digits. I’m sitting on a picnic blanket on the lawns of Parliament House. To the left of me are two sisters and a friend who have travelled there from Adelaide. Next to them, a native Hawaiian who now lives in Sydney. Someone from Canberra. A couple from Newcastle. Behind me is a man recently arrived from Syria. And on the other side of the group, another man who originates from the Congo but arrived only last week into Australia from a refugee camp in Burundi. Prior to today, I had only met these people the night before as we watched the budget and shared in prayer and worship. Yet today, these people, from varied backgrounds and faith traditions, today we are family. We meet together to learn from scripture, and to be a voice for the unheard.

Over to our right, the news crews stand in readiness, ready to interview a range of politicians as they discuss this latest budget. And in front of us, a banquet table, jam-packed full of goodies to illustrate how the blessings of our abundance means that we have plenty to share with all who need it. Continue reading “The Great Banquet”

A Most Unlikely Hero

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, A Most Unlikely Hero, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday April 20, 2018. The Reading was Acts 8:26-40.

A Most Unlikely Hero

Unlikely Heroes

Steve Rogers, pre serum (from Captain America: The First Avenger)

Steve Rogers was always fighting… and always losing. He was a short, scrawny little kid, who tried to enlist in the United States Army after being appalled at Nazi Germany’s horrific atrocities. However, because of his diminutive size, he failed to pass the physical requirements. His frustration and desire to serve attracted the interest of one Professor Abraham Erskine. He convinced Steve to sign up for a program he was involved in called Operation: Rebirth, which would enhance US soldiers to physical perfection through injecting and ingesting a “Super Soldier Serum” and controlled bursts of “Vita Rays”, which left Steve a perfect 6’2 and 220lbs, with very high intelligence, agility, strength, speed, endurance and reaction time. This scrawny little kid – the most unlikely of heroes, became Captain America, the first avenger and the group’s long time leader. Continue reading “A Most Unlikely Hero”