God’s Amazing Grace


Genesis 9:8-17 and Luke 18:31-43
8am BCP

Sometime ago the BBC asked people to nominate their favourite poem and Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If” won. Dismayed poetry buffs said that it only won because it was a poem that everyone remembered from school days. But why? Is it remembered because its an ideology of perfection that many wish they could aspire to?

A preacher, speaking at a rescue mission in the skid-row district of a large American city recited that poem, and when he had finished a down and out rose to his feet and said “Yeah preacher, but what if you can’t?” Today’s reading from Genesis could have been an answer. The flood is a well known Bible story. But its not the most wonderful bit of story-telling. What do we know about Noah other than that he found favour with God - a dab-hand at boat building - good with animals.

The early part of the story concentrates on the building of the ark, the animals that were saved, the length of time it all took. We know nothing of the impact this had on Noah because Noah never says a thing. God on the other hand says a lot, repeating it over and over again.

Mankind has become wicked - God decides to wipe all but Noah and family from the face of the earth. The commands to build and enter the ark represent God’s saving plan. In chapters 6 & 7 God commands Noah to build and enter the ark no less than 4 times. The repetition means that there are three times as many words expressing God’s saving love as there are expressing the reality of His wrath.

This morning’s passage has God repeating that He will never again curse and destroy and that He will establish a covenant with His people. Why does God emphasise His promises so much? Is it because Noah is morally perfect? Is he so good? We haven’t actually read anything to make us think this is so. (Also we see that this covenant is promised to the animals too - what could they do in response to God’s covenant? They could do as much as Noah, or any of us. Nothing. God’s love and grace was lavished upon him simply because that’s the way God is.

We don’t know much about Noah because Noah does not speak. God does all the speaking. This passage is not about man but about God. Its about His purposes - His everlasting covenant(vs.16), His commitment to man. This covenant is sometimes known as the Divine Commitment because its not a mutual covenant.

Even the sign of it the rainbow has nothing to do with man. A sign of great beauty, caused by light streaming through rain drops, is not for man’s remembering, but God’s. Showing God’s nature, compassion, concern, loyalty and above all His love. Later in the N.T. we see the same wholehearted, one-sided commitment to man through Jesus and His sacrifice.

Today’s Gospel passage shows the sacrifice God made in becoming man and living amongst us. He lived and died in the real world. Not on an altar between 2 candlesticks in a boring old church but on a cross between 2 thieves on the town garbage heap. A place of cursing and swearing. He came to live in this world as one of us. Christianity isn’t all about rules and regulations - things we have to say and do. Those two nobodies sitting by the road, when they cried out to Jesus - He stopped - not to start telling them what they should do but to ask what He could do for them.

Many Christians say they know all about God’s grace and how much it has been lavished upon us. But I think many of us often need reminding of God’s abundant supply of love. We may know in our head God’s precious love and grace is not deserved or earned, many don’t know it 100% in our hearts and are not so different from those wanting to live by the ideology of that poem.

There are a great many people in this world who need to know the real truth behind that story of the rainbow. About God’s love and commitment to us - totally undeserved and unearned.

There are many Christians serving life sentences of guilt and failure rather than being bathed in the love and freedom of God. Which rather makes a mockery of Christ having come to give us life in all its fullness.

As the rainbow was made by sunlight streaming through the raindrops so there are millions of teardrops needing the light of God to shine through them.

Let’s destroy the ethos of that poem which says that if perfection is achieved ‘you’ll be a man my son’ and say instead that its because of God’s perfection that ‘men are able to be sons’ - children of God. Karl Barth Jim Packer, once stood up at a conference announcing that he would tell them the greatest Christian truth there is. Everyone strained forward to hear what this gem might be and this is what he said: Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so. AMEN!