Deep Water, Gen. 9.8-17, Mark 1.9-15
The story of deep water flows throughout the Bible. In today’s scripture readings, we hear of two instances where deep water is found in the biblical narrative. From the Old Testament, we hear about God’s interaction with Noah’s family following the great flood as God makes a covenant to never destroy the earth again by a flood. From the New Testament, we hear about Jesus being baptized by John in the water of the Jordan River as God’s Spirit descends like a dove upon Jesus.
As we take a deep dive into these stories, I invite us to think about some of the lessons of faith we can glean from both of these stories.
First, the story of deep water found in the story of Noah’s Ark. Our scripture reading from the ninth chapter of Genesis details God’s interaction with Noah and his sons following the great flood. In this interaction, God makes a covenant to never destroy the earth by flood again. To understand the importance of God’s covenant with Noah and his sons in Genesis 9, we need to go back to the first chapter of Genesis and the sixth chapter of Genesis.
The first chapter of Genesis tells the story of God’s Spirit moving over the face of a swirling, watery, and chaotic essence of creative possibility. The interaction of God with this primordial mass is described in Genesis 1:1-2:
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
The remaining part of the first chapter of Genesis is the account of God speaking order to chaotic possibility and concludes with this statement in Genesis 1
God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.
Contrast this statement about the goodness of God’s creation in Genesis 1 with this statement about God that is found in the 5th and 6th verses of the 6th chapter of Genesis.
The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great on 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.
It only takes four chapters in Genesis to go from the story of God saying that everything God created was very good to God being grieved for making humankind. In the midst of God’s grief, the Bible states that God intended to destroy everything that God had created. Things are not looking good at all, but in the midst of God’s creator’s remorse, there is a verse of redemption in Genesis 6:8:
But Noah found favor with God.
Finding favor with God, Noah becomes an instrument of God’s salvation as a remnant of God’s creation is saved aboard the ark that God instructed Noah to build.
A remarkable account of God’s interaction with humankind and the world, the story of Noah’s ark is not only about the deep water of the flood. It is also a story about the depth of Noah’s faith as he trusts in God.
Prayers from the Ark is a book of poems about the prayers of Noah and the animals on the ark. The poem of Noah’s prayer helps to give a sense of the faith required by Noah as he not only built the ark but also lived on the ark.
“Lord, what a menagerie!
Between Your downpour and these animal cries one cannot hear oneself think!
The days are long, Lord. All this water makes my heart sink.
When will the ground cease to rock under my feet?
The days are long.
Master Raven has not come back. Here is Your dove.
Will he find us a twig of hope?
The days are long, Lord.
Guide Your ark to safety, some zenith of rest where we can escape at last from the brute slavery.
The days are long, Lord.
Lead me until I reach the shore of Your covenant.”
- 13, Prayers from the Ark, Rummer Gordon
This poem, this prayer of faith, concludes with a word that is introduced into the biblical narrative for the first time in Genesis 9:9. That word is covenant.
In the Bible, a covenant is an agreement or a promise made between God and an individual, God and a group of people, or between people. In the Bible, there are two types of covenants: unconditional and conditional.
Unconditional covenants are promises that require no reciprocation. An example of God’s unconditional covenant is God’s promise to never destroy the world by flood again. This unconditional covenant by God is found in Genesis 9:8-11. Regardless of the response by Noah and Noah’s descendants, God makes this unconditional promise:
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 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] 11 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.
Conditional covenants require faithful responses by both parties. An example of a conditional covenant is found in the story of Noah’s Ark as God instructs Noah to build the ark so Noah’s family and a remnant of God’s creation may be saved from the flood. The condition for this covenant is realized as Noah responds faithfully to God’s instructions to build the ark and Noah’s family is saved along with a remnant of God’s creation.
Unconditional and conditional covenants. Deep water. They run throughout the stories of the Bible. They run throughout the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Today’s scripture reading from Mark is an example of both unconditional and conditional covenants and deep water. Set in the water of the Jordan River, Mark tells of God’s unconditional covenant as God’s love claims Jesus through a voice from heaven saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” It is this unconditional claim of God’s love that sets Jesus out into the deep water of faith as he begins to live in the conditional covenant of faithfulness to God’s love through his life, death, and resurrection.
The conditional covenant of Jesus’ faithfulness to God will be told through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as he lives in the deep water of faith.
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. It is a day to remember that if we wish to follow Jesus, we must live in the deep water of faith that runs throughout the Bible.
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Today we remember that if we wish to follow Jesus, we must live in covenant faith with our Savior as we are claimed by God’s love and as we repent and believe in the good news of God’s kingdom.
Today, we follow Jesus as we wade into the deep water of faith. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
February 21, 2021