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Promises made, promises remembered

By Nathan Decker

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I’ve set up between me and everything living on the Earth.”

Genesis 9:17

Experts warn that Google is making us forget how to remember. None of us have to memorize telephone numbers, because they are all stored in our phone. No one needs to start a bar fight over how many yards Patrick Mahone ran away from the Buccaneers’ defensive line because you can ask Google. We don’t even have to remember where we parked our car in the parking lot … there’s an app for that. When we don’t use a muscle, it atrophies … and our memory is dying.

When I was a kid, before smartphones, digital lists and refrigerators that would let you know that you needed to buy milk at the grocery store, we put string around our finger to remember. Today we have to create ways to remember. As a dad, I’ve tried to help my kids remember. Back in second grade we created raps to remember things like “5 is a nickel, 10 is a dime, give me a quarter … that’s 25!” When they were studying about the geography of the State of Virginia we said, “Mr. Coast Peed Blue in the Valley, Need an App for that.” Maybe I should explain that one. Coastal plane, Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Valley, Appalachian Plateau. When they get to geometry, I’ll teach them SOH CAH TOA just like I was taught.

But most of all, I’ve tried to remind them over and over and over again that I love them. Children need the security of knowing that a parent’s love has no conditions. I try to tell my sons, “No matter what mistakes you make, I love you.” “No matter what choices you choose, I love you.” “No matter who you love, I love you.” “No matter who you grow up to be, I love you.”

In our Scriptures today, God reminds us, and God’s own self, of divine love and promise.

Genesis 9 is the end of the Flood narrative in the Bible. Noah and his family have just been delivered from the flood. They along with all the animals (two of every kind, or was it two of the unclean and seven of the clean?) O, yeah, there are two flood stories here smashed together. But that’s a different Bible lesson. Here at the end, Noah offers worship to God giving thanks for the deliverance. And in response, God cuts the sky in half with a rainbow.

God sets a rainbow in the sky as a sign of remembrance not just for us but also for himself. Think of it as a string tied around God’s finger reminding him of his love for us. The rainbow redeems the sky; she is no longer a tool of punishment. The rainbow signifies a covenant between God and Noah. Covenant literally means to cut. That’s why the rainbow cuts the sky. Covenant is the biblical language of a contract and promise. God repeats over and over again in this passage his promise that the floodwaters will not destroy all the Earth again.

The rainbow is a string around God’s finger. It reminds God of the promise made. It reminds us of the promise kept. It reminds God and us as a symbol of love.

We like symbols that remind us of love. Valentine’s Day was filled with chocolates, love songs, flowers and teddy bears. This year my wife got me an “active life” wedding band. My knuckles long ago outgrew the gold band she placed on my finger. I often had to take it off while I was working out, woodworking or working on a construction mission project. This year she bought me a simple black ring of stretchy rubber. I’ve even seen some couples get ring tattoos. The material doesn’t matter, because the symbolism is the same.

At each wedding we lift up rings “as a outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, signifying to us the union between Jesus Christ and the church.” The ring reminds us of the promise. The ring reminds us of the love, commitment and deep relationship. The ring reminds us to remember … it’s a string around our finger.

For us, the church, our baptismal waters offer the deepest sacramental symbol of the promises made and remembered. In our baptism we are given a promise we don’t deserve — salvation. In our baptism we are given a position we didn’t earn — a child of God. In our baptism God marks us as his own and shares the power of deliverance and salvation. In our baptism, God reminds us of his unending love.

We need reminders of God’s love in our life. Promises have been made, promises need remembered. Today, God is telling us: “No matter what mistakes you make, I love you.” “No matter what choices you choose, I love you.” “No matter who you love, I love you.” “No matter who you grow up to be, I love you.”

Today, God is challenging us to be the rainbow that cuts the sky. Love those who made mistakes. Love those who you feel are making wrong choices. Love those whose love you don’t understand. Love, because you are beloved. Amen.

 

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 757-562-3367.