Things are not well with the world. We all know that, and about two and a half thousand years ago, when Genesis was written, it was no different: In Genesis 6 a picture is drawn up of a world drowning in evil, corruptness and violence and a God who is thoroughly fed up, sad and disappointed with what his beautiful creation has come to.
Only last week we heard about the fun God had creating the world and how, after every deed of creation there was this sigh of contentment: This is so good .
This time its the word corrupt, and evil, and violence we hear over and over again and how God regrets he has ever started this venture.
I dont think we need a lot of imagination to understand why God would feel sad and disappointed, angry and frustrated when he looks at what has become of his creation. We only have to open the newspapers or watch the news to be able to understand and perhaps feel this frustration, sadness and anger ourselves. There is so much crying out to the heavens that is evil, corrupt and full of violence we may, at times, feel that we, and our world, may drown in it eventually.
So, say the rabbis who composed this story so many years ago: Once upon a time it got so bad that God decided he had had enough, that he would put an end to it all and start afresh. He decided he would cover the earth again with the waters of chaos that covered the earth before he started creating. Back to square one.
But then God remembers.
God remembers Noah.
Noah who walks with God and is righteous in his generation.
And God changes his mind.
Earlier this week we spent some time in our prayer and meditation group with this text and reflected on what "to walk with God" would mean and whom we could think of that was walking with God and what it meant to us in our own lives to be walking with God. When we shared some of our thoughts afterwards over coffee we discovered that there were many people we could think of who walked with God in one way or an another and that most people we know were at least trying to walk with God and be righteous in their generation. We also realised that when we manage to see in others how they, like us, are trying to walk with God it is easier to live with them and accept them with love and understanding.
Noah was no exceptional man. Later on in his story we discover that he, too, was susceptible to sin and able to get himself into trouble. The fact that he was walking with God does not mean to say that he was without flaw. Noah was a man like you and me. And in him, like in all the other people that figure in the Genesis stories, we meet ourselves. People that answer positively to the call of God to be his friends in the world and live according to Gods will. People who seek Gods company knowing that God seeks ours. Trying to keep close to the Lord and not lose the connection while all around us the world rages and does otherwise.
Some of us are better at that than others. Some of us become beacons, examples, sources of inspiration because they walk with God in an exceptional way, most of us just try and work at it as hard as we can.
On my study leave in Alice Springs I met a person that has become such a beacon and source of inspiration for me. A man who was one of the stolen generation of aboriginal children, taken away from his family at an early age and abused, maltreated and hurt over many years in many ways.
His loving and compassionate way of relating to the people in our group and the way he talked about what had happened to him and the plight of his people impressed me very much, and now, after Ive read the book he has written about his life, I am even more impressed by the journey he travelled.
When I asked what he had done with all the bitterness and anger that must have resulted from what happened to him, he told me simply that he had found love and compassion in Christ and that somehow that had healed him over many, many years of struggle and heart ache to become the person he is now: whole, compassionate, loving and forgiving, even for the sources of the harm and violence visited upon him and his people.
Although he is retired he looks after his extended family, is the director of a health clinic near Uluru, builds bridges between aboriginal and white culture through teaching, sharing and the organising of events for tourists that come to Uluru and manages to feed 60 children a day without any government funding.
Every now and again this will happen. We will meet somebody that will inspire us to make an even bigger effort at what we are trying to do already. We meet somebody that is, to us, exceptional in our generation.
God changes his mind because of a friend like that. Because he remembers, because he realises that there is still somebody who has not turned his back on him and is not given to evil, corruption and violence, but practices justice and loves peace. And because of that friend God decides to save what he can.
But what about the others you may ask? They all drown dont they? And we all have the images of the devastation a Tsunami wreaks too fresh in our memories to think little of that, dont we.
Well, one way to look at it, the way I look at it is this: Actions have consequences. Where there is violence, death occurs. Where there is injustice, people get hurt. Where there is hatred people will start to hate back and ultimately we, as a world, will drown in the result of our own wrong doings if there wasnt a God and if there wasnt anybody who was walking with God.
God saves what he can. For 50 days Noah and his precious load float around on an ocean of evil that has drowned the world. In a wooden casket, the word being used here being the same as the word used for coffin in Hebrew. And God grieves and aches for what could have been so good.
And then God decides that he will never again let it get to that. That God will never again let nature take its course and the world drown.
And God has done what he has promised: by calling new and special friends time and time again, by sending prophets and giving laws and ultimately by giving his son and showing once again that he wont let the world drown in its own madness. God has kept his promises until this day. He will not let go because of his friends, because he loves the world with a passion, because he thinks we are, and all that is around us, worth hanging on for.
Whenever we feel the flood rising, whenever we feel overwhelmed by sadness, anger and frustration at what happens in the world around us, a rainbow in the clouds reminds us that God at times may feel as angry and frustrated as we do when we look at what happens in the world. That it sometimes will get to God as it gets to us, all that is wrong and corrupt and evil in this world. At the same time however it remind us how precious we are and how precious all of creation is to God. It will remind us of the goodness in you and the goodness in me that connects us with God and God with us, and us with each other that prevents the world from drowning. It will remind us of the many special friends of God weve met in our lives and are an example and inspiration to us. It will remind us Of Gods commitment to saving us and bringing new life, even out of death.