Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with 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; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.”
God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
Genesis 9: 8-17
Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states and caused over $20 billion of damage in late October. On Saturday, October 27th, my spouse Dan and I started getting calls from family in the Midwest, urging us to be safe in New York. On the 28th, we got groceries and broke out candles out in anticipation of losing power and being shut in. On the night of the 29th, we started receiving emergency alerts to take cover, stay inside and stay safe. Winds blew and the storm raged outside. Dan and I hunkered down, ate soup and read books, safe and sound in our apartment.
Dan and I both work for nonprofit agencies that do disaster relief work as part of our service. We tracked the storm and followed the news. Horrible images of devastation came to us over the internet. Power shut off in all of lower Manhattan and the subway flooded. Houses in Queens and New Jersey washed away. Ambulances lined up at a hospital whose generator shut down to transport patients to hospitals that had power. Thousands of people slept in Red Cross shelters after damage to homes and apartments. Meanwhile, Dan and I were fine. We didn’t even lose power. By the night of the 30th, we took a walk around the neighborhood in the rain. There was a disconnect between the devastation happening all around us and how little we were affected by it personally.
Whenever there is a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, there is always talk surrounding it about God’s wrath and judgement. I understand why our minds go there. When there is a storm as big as Sandy, we feel completely out of control. Because we are. We realize our human limitations in the face of nature. All we can do is sit and wait for it to pass, assess the damage, and then work together to rebuild. Is this God sending God’s judgement? Is God angry with us? Why was I spared and not my neighbor?
I tend to turn to the story of Noah and the flood disaster hits. I read the flood story as a myth more than as a historical account. I think there is truth in the story, humans trying to make sense of things like floods and rainbows. I believe that the story reflects the people grappling with issues of human limitation and nature’s power. The passage above is found in Genesis after the flood. God makes a promise, a covenant to Noah and every living creature (not just humans) to never again use a flood to destroy the earth.
I believe that promise. I don’t think I believe that God is sending storms to punish some and spare others. I believe God created a world that is capable of storms, a world where water can mean both life and death. I believe that humans are putting a lot of strain on the earth, and that pressure is increasing the intensity of our weather. I believe that God is suffering with us as we suffer, and working through us as we rebuild.
Let’s take a moment this week to pray for the people and families affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Let’s take a moment to pray for our new leaders.
And let’s take a moment after the storm, to search the sky for rainbows.
Photo courtesy of DVIDSHUB via Creative Commons License