Promises and Puddles

Promises and Puddles

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 9:8-17 (NRSVUE)

Friends, this morning, we heard just a piece of the Noah’s Ark story, but I’m sure you have all heard the story before. Basically, God is upset with the behavior of the world, so God tells Noah to build an Ark (a very large boat) and to put in it his family and two of every living creature on earth. Then it rains for forty days and forty nights, flooding the entire earth. Eventually, the water starts to subside, and Noah finds land. Then we hear today’s scripture reading about the rainbow and God’s covenant or promise to never again destroy the world.

The story of Noah’s Ark is one of those BIG Bible Stories–a story that most people have heard, whether they consider themselves religious or not. Now, the story of Noah’s Ark holds within it so many themes: judgment, salvation, obedience, disobedience, new beginnings, trust, blessings, rainbows, animals, family, water, and covenants or promises. And the story brings up so many questions that we could probably reflect on this story for several weeks or even months. But don’t worry; we’re just going to take a few minutes.

Friends, be assured that today, we are not going to try to prove the ark’s authenticity. We’re not going to argue about how big a cubit is, or where Noah found all that cypress wood. We’re not going to worry about the number of days that it rained, or the number of animals that were on the ark and how Noah fed them all. Because whether the story truly happened, or it’s simply a story or a parable, that isn’t the important part. What matters is the message that it brings us and what it teaches us about our faith. So today, we’re going to look at the story through the eyes of faith, asking what message the Noah’s Ark story might be bringing us today.

Okay, as I was reflecting on today’s scripture during the week, three things immediately jumped out for me because they connect today’s scripture story of Noah’s Ark to the sacrament of baptism that we just celebrated.

First, we hear about that beautiful rainbow that appeared in the sky, and we are told that the rainbow was a reminder of God’s Covenant–or promise–to never again destroy the world. And today, during our sacrament of baptism, we all made covenants or promises, too, didn’t we? Today’s baptismal parents, Brendan and Shannon, Godparents Megan, Andy, Kelsey & Kevin, their families and friends, and all of us as a congregation and community of faith, we all made promises to love and support Brooks and Tate and to give them opportunities to learn more about their faith as they live and grow in Christ. But folks, it’s not just these adorable little baby boys that we’re supporting–it is their parents and godparents, their families, and our entire community, too.

One of the most amazing things about being a child of God and a part of God’s family is knowing that you are never alone. And that not only is God always with you, but as a member of God’s family, you are surrounded by brothers and sisters of faith who walk the journey with you. As human beings, when we make promises, we try our best to fulfill them. Right? But does that mean that we are always perfect? No! And Brendan and Shannon, I am sure there will be times over the years when Brooks and Tate will make mistakes or poor choices or do things they shouldn’t. But that is one of the ways that we learn and grow as human beings. We all make mistakes sometimes and say and do things that we shouldn’t. And that’s okay because, as children of God, we are loved unconditionally, just the way we are, mistakes and all. As followers of Jesus, we are given the gift of grace, which allows us always to begin again and again, no matter what mistakes we’ve made. Now that doesn’t mean that our choices and our actions don’t matter, on the contrary, our faith encourages and inspires us to be and to do our best, always remembering who and whose we are.

Another theme that the Noah story and our sacrament of baptism have in common is water. Now, the water in the Noah’s Ark story was the problem, wasn’t it? Because it was the water that caused the flood and the destruction. Just like we have experienced in many of our homes and even here at the church over the last few months. But water is essential to life because no plant or animal can live without it but it needs to be in moderation. Too little or too much is never good. And to be honest, most things in life are best held in moderation, aren’t they?

Okay, so we know that water can be dangerous and destructive if there is too much, and communities also struggle if there is too little, but what makes the water of baptism different? Some people call it holy or sacred, but what is the difference between the rainwater outside and baptismal water here in the sanctuary?

Well, I can tell you that the water in our baptismal font this morning, though it was poured by a deacon out of a fancy blue pitcher, it simply came from the tap. It’s regular old North Attleboro water, and yet it is also far more than that. Because what makes this water holy…is us! Did you hear that? What makes this water holy is us!! When we gather around the baptismal font as a community of faith and ask God’s blessing on the water, it becomes something more. Something special.

Friends, the truth is that over and over again in the Bible, we hear stories of ordinary things like bread and wine, and water, and even people becoming extraordinary because of the community of faith that surrounds them. Friends, it’s about the support that we give to and receive from one another on the journey. It’s about the assurance that we are never alone, because as children of God our family stretches beyond our wildest dreams. And the possibilities for us are endless!

Now, you might remember a few minutes ago that I told you that there were three themes that the Noah’s Ark story and today’s sacrament of baptism had in common. We talked about the importance of covenants or promises and the amazing gift of water, but the third theme was the one that jumped out to me first when I knew that we would be baptizing Brooks and Tate today. Because the animals came onto the ark, how? Two by two, right? Just like Brooks and Tate came to be baptized today, and just like I imagine they will journey through life together. But friends, whether you are biologically a twin, or you have a sibling or siblings of different ages, or maybe you’re an only child, in the family of God, you are surrounded by siblings who walk the journey with you!

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, think about the promises you’ve made, and take time to look at the world around you as you see the ordinary things that become extraordinary through the eyes of faith. And finally, remember that as a member of God’s family, not only are you loved unconditionally just the way you are, but you are never alone. Because not only are you held loving in the hands of God, but you are surrounded by siblings to love you and support you on your journey!

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!


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