Thursday 14 September 2023

What's in it for me?

Perhaps I’m being cynical.

In fact, it’s pretty much the dictionary definition of cynical, but it sure seems to be a pretty common theme these days: what’s in it for me? It may be subtle, it may even be stated, but the tendency to individualism and what we can get from life for ourselves seems to pervade a lot of things. So often success seems to hinge on what can be acquired, how much of it and at what little cost.

I wonder if it wasn’t a fractured, individual centred world that became so broken that it inspired the story of Noah. Remember the story from Genesis? God decides the world is too evil, too broken to fix in any other way, so God decides to wipe it all away in a great flood, saving one family and two of every animal in order to start again.

You may remember it differently. We tend to make it a story for Sunday school children, a story of cuddly animals all warm and cozy on an ark, getting along just fine and floating on a gentle sea. The sun comes out, they all get off the ark in a green and pleasant land and everything is just great again under a rainbow.

Except it isn’t. And that’s not how the story really goes. It’s horrific, brutal and disturbing and, in the end, the passengers in the ark disembark with only a promise of a new creation. But it’s a huge promise: a covenant with God.

God blesses the family of Noah and, as one would expect, encourages them to be fruitful and multiply. God promises that this great destruction of creation won’t happen again and offers the promise of life and God’s presence in it always and forever. And God makes this covenant with all living things. Yes, don’t forget that part: all living things. The symbol of that covenant is a rainbow and God promises to remember the covenant each time it appears.

I think that’s the really meaningful part of the story. God offers a covenant. Not a deal or a contract, or a treaty or an agreement, or a bargain or an arrangement. None of those things. A covenant. What could that mean for us today?

What if we could understand that the point of the covenant is what it creates? It’s not about the individual party or the return on their investment. Rather, each party to the covenant brings themselves to it, all that they are, and helps create a new thing: a community, a wholeness to which everyone belongs, from which everyone benefits, and through which everyone can live and thrive.

The story tells what God brings to the covenant. But what does the rest of creation bring? What do we bring? God offers God’s true self: life. Doesn’t creation, too? Couldn’t we offer our true selves? Remember, what was carried by the ark through to the new creation is that we are created of the divine spirit, in the image of God. Like all that was created, we too are good.

The rainbow calls us to remember that. It’s a sign of diversity and inclusivity, of the connectedness of all things, of the wholeness of all that is. It’s not just seven colours, but every shade of the spectrum, seen and unseen, connected to each other in one great community.