I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood. - Genesis 9:11
For thousands of years, in different religions and countless cultures spread across the planet, flood stories have shaped our understanding of human history. Most of these stories, regardless of the time or place they come from, have key elements in common:
A deity disgusted with human behavior. Lots of rain. A boat. A hero. Sacrifice and appeasement. And one big start-over for everyone.
The story of Noah’s ark has it all, but that’s not why we keep telling it. We love it for the surprise, love-story ending: that when the waters finally recede and everyone steps out of the ark onto dry land, it is God who repents.
God, the maker of heaven and earth, has a change of heart and mind. God, who had detested the wickedness of humankind unto destruction, says, “Uh-uh, not doing that again.” God, who had declared all creation good, makes a covenant with the earth and every living thing, for all future generations. To seal the deal, God the promise-maker sets a bow in the sky. Never again.
Reconsidered during Lent, the story of Noah, the ark, and a repentant God can remind us that we don’t have to be flooded out to start over. We needn’t suffer unspeakable loss to have a change of heart. Sure, admitting our wrongdoing isn’t easy, and changing our behavior is hardest of all. But here’s some good news: If God can do it, so can we.
God of the rainbow, I’ve done wrong. I’ve hurt people. Forgive me, and help me to turn around. Thank you for showing me how.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.