Written by: Rachael Keefe

Noah, Jesus, and a Little Thing Called Covenant

People are generally impatient. We don’t like to wait in line or slow down if the person in front of us is slower. We complain when worship runs over the …

Noah, Jesus, and a Little Thing Called Covenant

People are generally impatient. We don’t like to wait in line or slow down if the person in front of us is slower. We complain when worship runs over the allotted time. We click agree without paying much attention to the stated terms if we are in a hurry to get to the webpage we want. We order things instantly on-line rather than drive to the store. Many prefer texting over any other form of communication. If an article is too long, we skip to the end. We are in a hurry most of the time.

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Strangely, enough, our general lack of patience and attention to detail is evident in the little snippet we read this week of the Noah story. God is very repetitive in making the covenant with Noah. Over and over again, God says that God will make a covenant not to destroy the earth by flood again, a covenant with Noah and all future generations, with the birds of the air, the beasts of the earth, with every living creature, and with the earth itself.

I think we missed it. Rainbows or not, a multitude of generations have missed this all-encompassing covenant God made. The funny thing about covenant is that it is not one-sided. God agreed not to destroy the earth by flood and Noah opted in. Presumably, agreeing not to destroy the earth as well. Then humankind proceeded to develop increasingly more effective ways to kill each other, wipe out whole species of living things, and significantly damage the earth as well.

We aren’t much better at covenant than we are at patience. Covenant is a sacred promise, a promise involving God and at least one other party. We have not done very well with our end in upholding the covenant from Noah’s days. The proof is everywhere we look. Drought in California, record-breaking snow in the Northeast, wars across the globe, and a whole lot of other destruction happening. Things could change, but most people are reluctant to put in the time to effect real change in the environment, in conflict-resolution, in healthier living.

There are even some who will say that the covenant made in Christ nullified all covenants made before. This strikes me as a weak excuse to go on being ambivalent or even apathetic about making necessary changes. When God made the covenant with Moses, it was a series of statements to be clear that God was including the whole world in the promise not to destroy the world again. Noah agreed on behalf of all future generations. Jump ahead a few thousand years and we get to Jesus. John’s Gospel at least makes it very clear why the incarnation, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus happened:  God so loved the world. Sound familiar?

The promise of abundant life, the covenant made through Christ, is an upgrade from the covenant made with Noah. God isn’t just promising not to destroy humanity or the rest of the world in this covenant. God is promising to flood the world with love. When we claim Christianity, we are entering into this covenant. We are making a sacred promise not just to avoid destruction, but, moreover, to embody love. Love for the whole of creation. God is tricky that way. We humans are impatient and don’t pay attention to the fine print very well.

2013-02-09 22.01.31Lent is an excellent time to reflect on what it means to be in a covenant of love with God and one another. As we fast from food, carbon, electronic gadgets, shopping or whatever else gets in the way of us encountering the sacred in everyday life, we should use that time to figure out how we can better hold up our end of the deal. God will go on loving us no matter how poorly we live into the covenant given us in Christ. That’s a given. However, it’s also a given that the world could do with a whole lot more patient attention to the ways of love and far less impatient, hurried ways of destruction.

Why not make love for ourselves, our neighbors, our God, our world the spiritual practice for Lent?

RCL – Year B – First Sunday in Lent – February 22, 2015
Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

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