Remember - Remember No More, Part 1: God Remembers Noah

    04.28.24 | by Dr. Lewis Parks

    Remember – Remember No More, Part 1:  God Remembers Noah
    Genesis 8:1-5, 13-19; 9:8-17
    April 28, 2024

    * Think of your biggest project collapse, a devastating wreck: maybe a career dream that fell through; a divorce real or metaphorical; a small business start-up that failed; the plans you had before your health gave out. Think of the flood of emotions that followed, especially two, grief and regret. “Sorry I ever thought that might work!” “Wish I’d never started!”  …  That’s where we find God in Ù Gen 6:5:The Lord saw that the wickedness of humans was great in the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” What God wanted is not what God got!  (1) God wanted friendship with humans who would walk w him and talk w him in the garden in the evening as friends. God wanted to see his creation through their eyes. God got Adam and Eve behind God’s back swaggering through the garden singing Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way” and wreaking havoc on themselves and the created order… (2) God wanted humans to experience family: ancestry roots, the first school for life, preparing children to contribute to the larger world, the birthplace of ties that bind. God got Cain whose envy of his brother Abel’s good fortunes became an obsession that overtook him until he committed the first fratricide. In KJV language: Cain slew Able. Then lied about it to God…  (3) God wanted humans to exercise their creativity: to act in God’s likeness as they figure out what comes next, asking questions, combining will-power and way-power for projects of hope, inventing, discovering, planning for the better of all.  God got humans who turned that gift of imagination upside down, in the words of the text: “every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.”

    * “And the Lord was sorry that he had made humans on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the humans…”  … The whole human race at that time in the mists of pre-history (except for the one righteous man, Noah) is wicked and getting worse. Left alone it’s a certain downward spiral. So God decides to wash away his failed experiment. First God shelters Noah, his family, and representatives from the species in the ark, then God undams the rain from heaven. The great rain lasts 40 days and 40 nights… Nothing outside the ark survives. The human project is over.  God is alone again. Nothing but the splash of rain on water… Ù But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. {Gen 8:1]. Now I know as the writer of Gen 8 knows that the Lord God Almighty is Omniscient: all-knowing; “the eyes of the Lord are in every place; keeping watch on the evil and the good” (pro 15); “’as heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts higher than your thoughts’ says the Lord (Isa 55).”  But the writer goes beyond simple omniscience to describe how God relates to us. (1) God remembers, God holds  things of value in mind so they don’t wash away. (2) God remembers, God sifts through myriad of distractions to focus on the thing that matters at that moment. (3) God remembers, God makes promises and keeps them. (4) God remembers, and God creates a creature in God’s image who has the powers of memory too.

    I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time complaining about my memory. It’s not what it used to be. (1) I blame some of it on the aging process: some of cells and synapses went south for the winter and one year forgot to come back… (2) I blame some of it on “COVID fog” but I start to wonder how long you can claim that excuse… (3) Some of it the laziness that technology encourages. I don’t add, subtract, multiply, or divide anything by hand anymore. When it’s time for the tip, I hit the calculator app on the iPhone, don’t you?... Remember that commercial, “Not Your Grandfather’s Buick?” Well, I bought that Buick back in 2017 for several good reasons but one the best was this: it had motion detectors and cameras all around. Get too close to the yellow line: ding, ding, ding! Too close to the edge of the road: ding, ding, ding. Too close to the car in front of you: something like a shrill squawk of a crow. It’s a load off my memory. It still is your grandfather’s car! … (4) Students of memory talk about Ù “the forgetting curve”. The simple passing of time (transience) makes it harder to hold the sheer volume of experience and their individual detail…  But notice something about the lower end of that curve… It doesn’t crash into oblivion but travels parallel to the bottom. Some of the things we thought we forgot may still there and can be retrieved. Haven’t you ever amazed yourself with the precision of a memory of something you hadn’t thought about in years. It’s in there. So,

    * Praise God for the powers of memory!  Some people travel far looking for God. Bishop Augustine (354-430) looked for God close to home, in the “vast fields”, “spacious palaces”, and “deep caverns” of his memory. The vast fields speak of the power of memory to expand our horizons, to bring us out to a broad place for better breathing and thinking. I’m not much of a spelunker but to talk about the deep caverns reminds me that at any moment we are so much more than we carry on the surface.  Memory invites us to dig deep. My favorite of Augustine’s image is the “spacious palaces”: rooms upon rooms to discover, doors to try that haven’t been open for years, but once open yield their treasure… We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in many ways, but one of them is this: We have been gifted with the powers of memory.

    * A word about memory and promises before we stop… Fast forward to Genesis 9. After the flood subsides Noah and his family and all the creatures and critters debarked. The Lord says to Noah “I am establishing a covenant with you (I’m making a promise): I’ll never destroy the earth with flood again. And here’s how I will help me to remember: “I have set my bow in the clouds”. [9:13] … From that first covenant on the God of the Bible will be known as a God who make promises and remembers to keep them. And God calls a people who can make promises and remember them.

    * May 10 will be St Damien’s Day, Damien is the “good thief” who died at side of Jesus on Good Friday… There are some nice legends surrounding the man, but here’s something I want to pick up from the gospel accounts. It’s the way Damien asks the question. “Jesus, you have so much on your plate, and so much pain in your body, and I’m very late arriving at the door of repentance; but Jesus if you could, would you remember me when you come into your kingdom?” And Jesus (like God to Noah) says: “I will remember you. This day you will be with me in paradise.” Will you sing this prayer with me?... “Jesus, Remember Me” (UMH 488)