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 (NRSV)
Friends, do you know how amazing you are? Do you actually know what a blessing you are to the world around you? Well, you are! And it’s my hope that you all went out last week, blessed to be a blessing to others.
Folks, look around the sanctuary for a minute. Each and every person—the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the democrat and the republican, the strong and the weak, the outgoing and the shy—each and every one of you has a different story and a reason why you bless the world through the things that you say and do. Maybe you are a writer, or you love to organize things. Perhaps you are good with your hands and can build and create things. Maybe you’re a doctor or a nurse, a teacher or an accountant, or perhaps you are artistic or athletic or imaginative. Over the next several weeks, we are going to be talking about who we are as individuals and as a church and how we are called to best live our lives, not focusing on our own success as society sees it, but rather how we can help make the world a better place for all.
Just a few minutes ago, we heard from Michael Dylan as he took a moment to remember, sharing some beautiful words and memories of his sister Maegan, on this the second anniversary of her passing. That act of remembering is so important for all of us, because remembering the people, places, and happenings of our past reminds us of who and whose we are and what is really important to us. Even though we sometimes wish we could go back in time and experience those moments again, by remembering them and how much they mean to us, we are actually able see our own story a little more clearly, understanding who we are and how and why the people and places of our past are so important to us.
Last week, we had several rainy days, and depending on where you were and what you were doing, you just might have seen a rainbow. Now I said, “depending on where you were and what you were doing,” because there could have been a rainbow outside, but if you were busy inside, working or cleaning or playing video games, you might not have seen it. The funny thing about rainbows is that they are not something that we can plan on seeing. They appear as a beautiful band of color across the sky, and then they disappear just as quickly. They are only there for a moment, and yet they bring such a feeling of joy and excitement to those who are lucky enough to see them.
In our scripture reading from the book of Genesis today, we hear the end of the Noah’s Ark story. The rains and floods have already come and gone, Noah and his family and the animals have survived the forty days and forty nights in the ark, and now they are on dry land again where Noah and his family build an altar to worship and thank God for keeping them safe. It was at that moment that God made a covenant or a promise to Noah and to all future generations. Scripture says that God set a rainbow in the sky to remind all people on this Earth that God will never again send a flood to destroy it. Even to this day, the rainbow is a reminder to help us remember that covenant that God made with all human beings.
I don’t know about you, but I find it interesting that God chose something that lasts for only a few moments to remind us of the promise. God didn’t say “When it rains, which it does quite often, remember that I will never again destroy the earth.” Or “When you see dark clouds in the sky, remember that I will never again destroy the Earth.” No, God chose something that is quick and comes and goes in a moment so that we might see it and remember and then move on, being assured of God’s love and grace.
Friends, the Bible is full of stories reminding us to remember, and the seasons of the church and our sacred holidays help us to remember the important stories of our faith too. They each call us back to remember, for a moment, the birth of Jesus, or the resurrection, or the coming of the Holy Spirit, and then they send us out to live differently because of them.
One of my biggest fears when I first came to serve as the pastor here in Oldtown involved our 300th anniversary. I started here as the pastor in the fall of 2010, and in the fall of 2011, we kicked off a yearlong celebration of our church’s 300th anniversary. It was fun to research our history and to figure out new and exciting ways to share it with our congregation and our community, but as the year went on, I started to worry even more. We had spent so much time looking back and focusing on our past that I was afraid that the church was losing sight of why we are here. That’s why I think that the most important message that we share during our historical tours is not about the way people lived back in the 1700s or how our founders got here. It’s not even the story about why our sanctuary is backwards, or why there are doors on our pews. I think the most important message that we share is that this is not a museum; it is a church, that is alive and well. Sure, we’ve got hand-blown glass windows and oil lamps that have been converted to electric lights. We have an abundance of old stories and artifacts, but that is only a piece of our story. We also have active families and excited preschoolers. We have a Missions Ministry that works hard to reach out to help our community, and a Tuesday morning Coffee Connection that enjoys fellowship time together. We have an amazing Building and Grounds ministry that not only cares for our historical buildings but helps to enable us to use them in new and different ways. And as we prepare to start a new school year, we look with excitement at all of the possibilities that lie just around the corner for our church and our community. So, yes, our history is important because it has gotten us here. It has gotten us here, not so that we will keep things exactly the same, but so that we might add to our story for the next generation.
As Christians, we are constantly called to remember so that we might have strength and confidence to move forward, sharing the work and word of Jesus with the world in all that we say and do.
In just a few moments, we are going to gather at the Table that Jesus has set before us. As always, this table is open to ALL. Friends, whenever we gather at the Table, we are called to remember, but also to be fed, nourished, and strengthened for the future. In the upper room that night, scripture tells us that Jesus took bread and blessed it and broke it. He then told the disciples, “Take and eat for this is my body broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus knew that the disciples would be sad and afraid and unsure when he was gone, and he didn’t want them to give up. So, he told them to use this simple moment, this everyday activity of gathering, to eat and to remember. Each time you gather to eat bread and drink wine, remember me. Remember what I taught you, and that I love you, but the most important part—once you’ve been fed and nourished—don’t just sit there; go out and feed and nourish and teach the world!
So, Brothers in Sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, take time to remember the special people and experiences and moments in your lives and in your faith, but also remember that through them you are given the knowledge and the strength and the excitement to move forward. So, go out into the world doing amazing things for the next generation.
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!