• Steven Marsh

Learning–Called Out of Chaos and Nothingness: a Reflection on Genesis 9:8-17

One day a young mother was taking a walk with her small son and they saw a  rainbow. The four-year-old boy looked up in wonder and said, “Mommy, can we take that home and put it in our house?” His awestruck question prompted the mother to write a poem she titled “A Rainbow in My House.” She took her son’s question literally, imagining what it would be like to have a rainbow in their house, on their walls, emanating from the windows and doors, coming out the chimney. The house was transformed, and it could not contain the glory of the rainbow and its colors.[1]

What difference might the rainbow make in our lives as Christians and a Church? Would you live your life differently, if the rainbow occupied your thinking? Think about it! God’s promise that God would never again separate humanity from God’s own self by water or flood the earth to destroy it, means God has your back. No matter what chaos or sense of nothingness you’re experiencing, it will not win. God’s Covenant promise continually calls you out of chaos and nothingness. David J. Lose, Academic Dean and The Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary, writes, “God binds God’s own self to humanity, and indeed to all the world, in a new and different way. God is no longer only the creator; God is now also the protector, committed to refrain from punishing humanity or destroying the world.”[2] Yes, God makes an everlasting Covenant with humanity and creation to be our creator and protector, forever.

Genesis 9:8-17 makes these observations regarding God being our, forever, creator and protector. First, the church can be a place where conflict can be taken seriously and not covered up. That is, whether the conflict resides in relational discord, ecological and natural disasters, inequity of resources and wealth, or ideological disagreement, such conflicts can be resolved, honestly and openly, using God’s way of loving God and loving others. Second, restorative justice can be practiced for our health and that of others. That is, changing gun laws to ban the purchase of the AR-15 rifle, a weapon used in the Vietnam War, making things right for the indigenous populations in our country for the injustices committed through resettlement, and honoring commitments made through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), “an American immigration policy that allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit,”[3] are important matters given God’s Covenant promise, which we are reminded of in and through the rainbow. And, third, the way we practice patience and forgiveness with and to all people, regardless of ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, is important. It is our shared faith in Jesus Christ that unites us.[4]

Are you willing to be enveloped by the rainbow and have God’s promise infuse your mind, words, and actions? The way you think forms your words and actions. John Piper, the author of Think, writes, “While all of God’s creation serves to reveal him is some way, he has willed that the clearest and most authoritative knowledge of him this side of heaven comes through this written Word, the Bible…The Bible is the main place that we come to know God, and the Bible is a book, and a book requires thinking.”[5] The Bible is clear about God’s Covenant promise of being our creator and protector, forever.

Let me go out on a limb and state that much of the chaos and nothingness we are experiencing in the world and our personal lives is the result of decisions made without clear thinking about consequences, intended and unintended. Mary Oliver articulates the power of thinking with these words from Upstream,

Wherever I’ve lived my room and soon the entire house is filled with books; poems, stories, histories, prayers of all kinds stand up gracefully or are heaped on shelves, on the floor, on the bed. Strangers old and new offering their words bountifully and thoughtfully, lifting my heart. But wait! I’ve made a mistake! How could these makers of so many books that have given so much to my life—how could they possibly be strangers.[6]

Let’s embrace the rainbow and its claim on each one of us to reject chaos and nothingness as definers of life. Work at resolving conflict openly and kindly, be agents of restorative justice, and provide an inclusive community at Geneva for all people, as together, we seek a better way to live.

[1]A personal story used by permission of Michelle Sisk, student at Iliff School of Theology and candidate for ordination in the United Church of Christ, by Jane Anne Ferguson in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word Year B, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 26.

[2]David J. Lose in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word Year B, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 29.

[3]Taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

[4]Some ideas gleaned from Jane Anne Ferguson in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word Year B, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 30.

[5]John Piper, Think (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2010), 41.

[6]Mary Oliver, Upstream (New York City, New York: Penguin Press, 2016), 63.

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