Monday, July 30, 2012

Sermon on Genesis 9:8-17, 9th Sunday after Pentecost, "Remembered by God"

Sermon Outline:  
1.      Rainbows—borrowed as a symbol for all kinds of things, logos, movements, even Emmanuel Lutheran’s logo. But what’s the true meaning and message of the rainbow? Setting the stage—why the Flood (widespread violence and wickedness on earth—sound like today?); yearlong destruction, Noah and family disembarking, God’s unconditional promises to Noah and all creation: physical blessings, not spiritual or a promise of eternal salvation.
2.      God’s covenant never again to destroy all the earth by Flood. Few today fear a global flood, but the threat of catastrophes certainly on our minds—tsunamis, earthquakes, wildfires, end-of-the-world movies. Our share of violence today—feel somewhat insulated (in US), but tragedy breaks through our sense of security—Colorado, terrorist attacks; other countries where danger is a part of everyday life—not safe to worship in many places in Nigeria—bombings, suicide attacks, gunmen, fires.
3.      Violence is deeply imbedded in our sinful human race. Many times over probably deserved God’s destruction again, like in the Flood. But the rainbow proclaims God’s mercy and peace with creation. Withholds His total judgment, even as it greatly grieves Him.
4.      Why repetition of the covenant? Persistence of grief or fear: (Luther) “How…difficult it is for a conscience that has experienced God’s wrath and the terrors of death to let comfort come in! These experiences remain so firmly entrenched later on that a heart becomes fearful and terrified even in the face of kindnesses and comforting words…[so Noah and his family] could not be talked out of their fear and terror by a word or two; a great abundance of words was needed to drive back their tears and to soften their grief. Even though they were saints, they were still flesh, just as we are. We, too, need this comfort today, in order that despite a great variety of stormy weather we may have no doubt that the [flood] gates of the heavens and the fountains of the deep have been closed by the Word of God. The rainbow makes its appearance even now, to be a sure sign that a universal flood will not occur in the future…this promise demands also from us that we believe that God has compassion on the human race.” The rainbow assures: compassionate God, slow to anger, faithful in promises
5.      But why does God say (2x) “I will remember my covenant”…“I will see it and remember”? God is not forgetful, but it’s for our assurance that God is unfailing; never breaks His promises. This is His steadfast love. Actually OT is full of passages talking about God “remembering”—mostly prayers in the Psalms: “remember your mercy and steadfast love; remember your congregation; remember your faithfulness to Israel; He remembers us, His covenant, His kindness.” God is letting us, no inviting us to hold Him to His promises. Like a child who grabs hold of their father and says, “Daddy, remember you said we were going to the park! Remember you promised we would play on the swings!” We cry to God in our distress, in our suffering, when we are surrounded by evil, fear, and even great evils like random shootings and violence, and we call upon His promises, His mercy and steadfast love. We take hold of our Father and say “Remember! Remember your love for us! Your promises!” We too need constant reassurance and reminders of His love, because our peace and security, is often shaken and stolen. We need to know God remembers.
6.      But we also want God to forget: Psalms “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;” “Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.” Ask God not to remember our sins, as indeed He promises to do. Jeremiah 31:34 speaks of the New Covenant He will make. Says: “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
7.      Covenant with Noah is still in effect—to the end of time—but only physical blessings. Yet proof of God’s faithfulness. But the Greater Covenant, the New Covenant has been made in Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for us. There, in that New Covenant with us, Jesus stepped into our violent and bloody world, where the innocent so often die—and He became the ultimate Innocent Victim—the Perfect Son of God. He submitted to the bloodthirsty hands of men, to win God’s decisive victory against sin and evil. Secure God’s greatest promises for us. Eternal, unshakeable promises. Promises to forgive and forget our sin—as His love keeps no record, no memory of wrongs. Promises to give life and deliverance through a dark world into His heavenly future. Promises that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And Jesus invites us to come to God and call Him Father—pray for Him to remember His promises, remember His steadfast love and mercy. And when we stand condemned and guilty in our sins, we cry out in repentance to God, and call on Him to remember Jesus Christ and His cross—to remember that He died for us!
8.      And with those prayers to God, we join another who prayed to God for remembrance: the thief on the cross, a sinner like us, who prayed: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Here we come to a great and comforting truth—that God remembers us. He remembers us because of His promises and His steadfast love for us. He remembers us because He always remembers what Jesus did for us on the cross. How He bled and died to take away our sin. How He came forth from His tomb to bring life for us. Just as ancient, yet enduring sign of the rainbow witnesses God’s faithfulness and remembering, so also Jesus’ death on the cross for us witnesses to God’s unimaginable faithfulness and greater blessings. And there He proclaims to us again as in days of old—that He remembers us—He remembers you—and we shall be with Him in paradise! Truly, it is good to be remembered by God! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. What was the reason that God flooded the whole earth in Noah’s day? Genesis 6:1-13; 2 Pet. 2:5. How does it foreshadow the Last Day on earth? Matt. 24:36-39; 2 Pet. 3:1-13.
  2. Read about God’s covenant with Noah in Genesis 8:20-9:17. What specific promises were included in this covenant? Where they mainly spiritual blessings, or physical blessings? Explain what it means that this was an “unconditional covenant.” Who would guarantee the keeping of the covenant? Who else besides Noah was included in this covenant, and why is that significant? (see. 9:9-10, etc)
  3. How does the Rainbow, as the sign of God’s covenant, testify to us today?
  4. What is the likely reason for the frequent repetition in this passage, about who is included in the promise, and God’s promise to keep it? Why might Noah and his family have needed these reassurances after what they experienced over the last year? Gen. 7:6, 11; 8:13-16. What simultaneous emotions would it have stirred to see the destruction of the world, while safe aboard the Ark?
  5. Why does God say He will “remember” His covenant to us? How is that intensely comforting? What do we call on God to remember for us? Psalm 25:6-7; 98:1-3; 103:11-19; 105:7-11; 106:44-46; 111:4-6; 119:49-50; 136:23. What do we ask Him to not remember? Psalm 25:7; 79:8; Isaiah 64:9; Jeremiah 31:34.
  6. What does it mean for us to be remembered by God? Luke 23:40-43. How does God’s faithfulness in His covenant to Noah and us and all creation assure us of His faithfulness to us in the greater promises and New Covenant in Jesus’ death and resurrection for us? 

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