Lent 1

(Feb 21, 2021)

from Easter Horror Stories- Rescuing Jesus’ Good News
Lent 2021

The web version of a book draft exploring the dark side of the salvation stories in the lectionary. Print book slated for 2024 based on comments from readers.

 

Salvation for Noah and his sons. Jesus gets started

 

Genesis 9:8-17

Psalm 25:1-10

1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:9-15

 

The Genesis 9 reading is the one where God promises never again to flood the Earth and destroy all life on it.

All around the world, churches who follow the lectionary, or set readings, will be engaging with this story. The lectionary bit is lovely. Around 40% of Australian Christians take this story of the flood and Noah’s survival historically. Even those who do not, usually celebrate it as a lovely message, a sign that God is trustworthy and good. God promises never to hurt us again, no matter how bad we get, at least by flood,

 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.[a]  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)

Ecologically minded Christians are thrilled to point out that all flesh, all life is included in the Covenant!  But let us read the preface to this story, which isn’t in the lectionary,

“God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (Genesis 9:1-3)

So, the salvation of humans requires the dread and enslavement of all other life!  God only cares about humans and treats animals as mere objects. Even worse, if we read closely, we see that it is only Noah and his sons who are blessed and given everything. Hopefully we will have forgotten this by Lent 3 (International Women’s Day).

Can it get any worse?  Certainly!

Why is God promising never to kill all flesh by flood again?  Because God just did kill all flesh, as we read earlier in the story,

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created — people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” Genesis 6:5-7)

God is a mass murderer. Killing almost all life, apparently because humans are all evil, except Noah. This next bit isn’t in the Bible, but we can imagine this is how it would have looked,

“So, God sent floods upon the Earth, and after forty days the stench of decay was upon the water. Vacantly staring babies and pregnant women, their foetuses now still within their wombs. Newborn lambs and once faithful hounds. The infirm, the senile, mighty elephants and tiny worms. All joined in a stinking raft of rotting flesh, islands upon which the carrion birds rested, and below which estuarine fish feasted.”

God saved Noah by mass murdering babies. God commits a global abortion on a scale beyond the worst nightmares of pro-life advocates. The bible does not condemn killing unborn babies if God does it. Not only that, but billions of life forms who apparently are not evil, or even smart enough to be evil, are murdered too.

Is this the God we worship?

Is this the God we love?

Could we ever trust that this God loves us?

Genesis 9 offers salvation – assurance of God’s protection – for humans (men) at the expense of all other life. And the kind of God who offers that protection is the kind of God who is quite capable of mass genocide.

We cannot divorce the rainbow, the nice message offered in the lectionary, from the rest of the story. I hope we will not accept the flood story. Thank God that evolution gives us a strong basis for rejecting it literally. Hopefully, I have convinced you to reject it metaphorically. It is nothing but bad news for all life except a few men.

I wonder if exposing and rejecting this story might help us expose and reject other stories. Have powerful men or women in our lives convinced us that we need to be punished, and that they have the right to mete out that punishment?  Have they been violent to us and promised not to hurt us again, as long as we don’t upset them?  That we ought to be grateful that they have promised not to hurt us again. Or that they have selected us out as favourites whilst assaulting others, leaving us grateful it wasn’t us who got walloped, and therefore not speaking up in protest so it doesn’t become us? 

Or have we looked on as the world “drowns” in debt, and been thankful that we are on Ark Australia, which appears to be relatively watertight at the moment?  Have we congratulated ourselves on our obvious righteousness at not sinking?

Meanwhile, in Jesus’ adventure this week, we have him entering the Outback to get a clear head,

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  Then the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus returned to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:9-15)

What an overwhelming way to discover who you are!  In Mark, Jesus discovers who he is at his baptism- the beloved. But what is he going to do about it?  What does it mean?

Jesus was in the outback, with the wild beasts, and angels tended to him. With the wild beasts!  Matthew and Luke didn’t bother to copy that detail. Jesus spent Lent with animals and angels, overcoming his temptations, and learning to be true to who he was.

There in the outback- shaped by hours in the synagogue- he discovered the Good News. Simplicity itself!  God was there. God was everywhere. At hand. Within reach. You could find God in the wilderness, not just in the synagogue or Temple.

And if God was within reach, people should do something about it!

“God is here!  Believe it, and do something about it.”

Jesus found a new story to tell, or perhaps he made sense of the old story in a new way. And because he knew who he was, he was not afraid to tell it.

What about us? You?

Who are you- and what story do you have to tell? 

If you believe that the hidden Kingdom of God is right here, within reach, at hand, what have you done about it?

This book uses the ‘New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.’ In all cases where there are italics, they have been added by myself

This book uses the ‘New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.’ In all cases where there are italics, they have been added by myself