Readings: Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25, Mark 1:9-15
In this world, don’t we all learn, as we grow, that the way things are is the way things are, and they’re not likely to change. As one pastor wrote, “The clouds are not made of ice cream, no matter what we thought as children. And abusers who hold power are very likely to continue to hold power.” We learn that the world is a messy place and that one has very little power to change corrupt systems, evil intentions, and humanity’s propensity for violence. We learn that what’s best is to throw in the towel and make the best of a bad situation.
But in Mark 1, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he is proclaiming just the opposite. Now is the time! Hope! Believe in the Good news! Change your mind, because here: I have a better way, the Jesus way.
The flood is simply about when God decided to start the world over, it’s about hope. God’s decision after the flood is to make a covenant that never again will God wipe away all flesh. Violence is not the way. We usually think of the rainbow in the sky as a pretty sign to us that God loves us. But in Genesis it is God’s bow—God’s weapon—God has hung up. And it is to remind God that mercy is God’s way—mercy, not violence, is the way.
Jesus Christ, being fully God did not come to save the world by eradicating evil with the might of bow or spear—no additional flood waters. He, with flesh like us, showed us another way.
He met hatred with a radical call to love. He met injustice with impassioned proclamation for the marginalized. He met violence and crucifixion with the unbelievable words: “Father forgive them.”
All around us, violence exists. In ourselves, in nature, violence exists. We long to protect ourselves and loved ones from harm. We long to arm ourselves and survive, even we tell ourselves, to continue to work for peace, justice, and safety in the world.
After God flooded the earth for 40 days, God’s mind was changed. “Never again. I lay down my arms; my bow is in the clouds as a reminder to me.”
Jesus began his ministry after 40 days of wilderness. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; change your mind; and believe in the good news.”
Jesus invites us to a different way. He invites all to a way free from the fear of the other, free from the drive to stockpile guns and nukes, weapons and walls for security. He invites his followers to a way full of life-lived for others, a way where peace and justice can be realized, a way where mercy and steadfast love frame all things.
God looks upon our actions with mercy and steadfast love. God’s bow has been set in the sky, never to be taken up again. As Christians, as followers of the Jesus way, what is to be our attitude in this violent world? It’s tempting to wish the world cleansed of evil.
I could arm myself against any who would seek to take my life or the lives of the ones I loved. I could seek for evil to be eradicated, whenever it shows itself, by the might of sword, or the barrel of a gun.
But I am convicted by the flood story and God’s repentance, God’s change of mind after the flood,
I am convicted by Jesus’ call to change my mind and believe in the good news of God’s kingdom come near, and his radial love and life of non-violence even to the cross.
Can it be truly right to risk having to lay down my life to stand up against violence, to take a stand against evil by becoming vulnerable for the sake of peace? We ponder this as we pray,
Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.