July 6, 2014
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Genesis 7: 7-10, 8:1, 9:1, 8-17
The Rainbow Promise
Do you remember when Judy Garland sang in the “Wizard of OZ” while playing the part of Dorothy? Remember the words? “Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high there’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby. Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake where the clouds are far behind me, where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops, that’s where you’ll find me. Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly, birds fly over the rainbow, why, then oh why, can’t I?” /Music by Harold Arlen and Lyrics by E.Y.Harburg/
It really is a very beautiful song that comes from Judy’s lips, and yet, it takes us from a lullaby to dreams and then shifts to wishful thinking, wanting her troubles to melt away. Yes, “somewhere over the rainbow” – hum – hum – hum; “oh why can’t I?” Young Dorothy of course was just a fictional character tossed into a magical dream that takes her on a very mystifying and entertaining journey, a journey that began in a horrific tornado; like the really big ones that are common in the heart land of these United States. Her rendition of this song touched the hearts of millions and still does as the Wizard of OZ can still be found and every year you still see it on one of the major TV channels. Why, after all these years is it still so popular? 1939, when the film was first released by MGM, was a long time ago.
There is the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch, sound familiar, good and wicked. They were going to a place called OZ, after the Good Witch sets her on the “Yellow-Brick Road,” the road to paradise where all our tears will be wiped away. Oz, of course is the home of the mystical and magical Wizard where all of Dorothy’s troubles will be solved. She meets up with the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow. As a child I watched that movie and I had faith, as much as I shivered and shook during the scary parts of the movie when they encountered danger. Yet, I believed in the Wizard, it was where all Hope focused. Adults probably scoffed at such foolishness, yet I believe there were millions of us youngsters that simply believed in the power of the Wizard, we believed in the promise. That is what makes this film so very, very special. They, we, were off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of OZ.
This ancient story of Noah and his impossible ark that would house every type of animal, two by two they would march into it. Irrational and foolish his neighbors said. Mostly old Moses was just laughed at, until it began to rain, and rain hard; then all of his sinful and wicked neighbors wanted a seat in his great ship! We all know the story, there is even a new movie this year about the drama of such a journey, a journey such as we are told old Noah and his family had; accompanied by a myriad, a countless number of animals. This ark withstood the mightiest storm, the biggest flood in history. It did not sink. Built by an old man and his sons; Foolish right? Even the Titanic, the unsinkable Titanic built with modern tools and a multitude of workers… it still sank with the swipe of just one iceberg!
Why did the ancient tribes of old come up with such a story? Was there really a great flood that covered the whole earth? To date, no one has proven it either way. Seems there was certainly floods back then. We still have floods.
Consider this: Christopher Columbus, in his first voyage across the Atlantic in 1492, was one of the first European explorers to discover the Americas, previously unknown; and also his voyage led to the confirmation that the earth was indeed round. What we now take for granted, the Earth is round, had previously not been proven; though many astrologers believed the earth to be a sphere. Yet, even during the time of “Washington Irving’s 1828 biography of Columbus” there was an argument put forth that: “popularized the idea that Columbus had difficulty obtaining support for his voyage because many Catholic theologians insisted that the Earth was flat!” /Wikipedia/ If this was still being debated in 1828, it is, therefore, reasonable to suggest that at the time of Noah, there may have been many who believed that indeed, the Earth was flat, and you would fall off the other end if you traveled too far. We know that Columbus was in search of a new trade route, based on his belief and the belief of astrologers that the world was actually round and that one could use the seas to navigate around it.
Knowing this, knowing the ancients did not have a firm grasp on the magnitude of the earth or the shape of the earth. And knowing that “the universe, as conceived by the ancient Hebrews, (was) comprised (as simply) a flat disk-shaped… earth;” /Wikipedia/ this opens up for us several plausible possibilities. Taking this into consideration, we might ask ourselves: is it so hard to believe that there was a time when a mighty flood covered all known land masses and there was one lone ship, an ark specially designed for such an event that was able to survive. Or that this mighty flood may not have covered all of the Earth as we now understand it? Ah… we will never know for sure: will we?
So let’s get back to the story. It is a great one!
It is very plausible that the stories of a massive flood were passed on, orally, from generation to generation, till someone was able to write it down. Reasonable to believe that some of those details were blurred about what actually occurred, sure! But what really stands out isn’t the flood; Mother Nature has been spinning floods, tsunamis and tornados at human kind from the very beginning of time. No, what is unique about this account is the promise; a promise that gave people hope! Promise that there is a ‘Great One’ out there somewhere, over that next rainbow, like the ‘Wizard’ of ‘Oz’ that Dorothy and her new friends were journeying toward. Hope is what all people need! The Promise gave her and her friends hope!
If we take away hope there is nothing left to live for! Floods, fires, earthquakes, etc., these horrific acts of mother nature can strip us of our homes and take away our loved ones, but if humankind ever gives up or gives in to the harshness of human life then we are doomed! It is not difficult to believe that there came a time in history when the stories of the elders gave great hope to the younger generation, gave them hope every time they saw a rainbow. Can you really believe the rainbow is nothing more than a ‘chemistry experiment’ that causes water and the rays of the sun to play a trick on us, and we get to see the most magical and mystifying sight, randomly created by water and the rays of the sun being thrown together? Even the agnostic, believes in their uncertainty, thus they do have a belief about such things, for they “neither believe nor disbelieve in the existence of a deity or deities even!” /Wikipedia/
Somewhere out there, over the rainbow, is the ‘Great One’, the real ‘Wizard of Oz’!
“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth… Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark… I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
Everybody has a dream. We don’t need to be knocked over by a gust of wind or sweep away in a mighty torrid of rain. We have fears, we have doubts; yes we all do. But the ancients, they knew that there was something special out there that speaks to the heart, even in the midst of the storm. And yes, there are those who swear they have heard the voice of God whisper in their ears and it gave them hope. It gave them the willingness to start over after a mighty disaster! That’s what the Noah story is all about. We are being told that from out of the depths of the ancient past it was passed on that this rainbow we see so often in the skies; especially this time of year is the promise, the covenant that God gave to humankind that there would always be a morning after! Just like the young women sang in the Poseidon Adventure, a popular 1972 film. “The Morning After” is a song first released and sung by Maureen McGovern with the famous lyric “there’s got to be a morning after.”
That’s the promise over the rainbow: there has got to be a morning after!
This is the ultimate promise that gives us hope, hope that fuels our faith and warms our hearts. “Somewhere over the rainbow” our Creator God loves and cares for humankind, and ultimately’ there shall be’ “there’s got to be a morning after!”
7: 7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark, to escape the waters of the flood. 8 Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9 two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.
8: 1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided;
9: 1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
9: 8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”