God Remembers
 — Rev. Phil Hobson

February 26, 2012

Genesis 9:8-17
Mark 1:9-15

Grace and Peace to you this morning.  Grace and Peace.

And the Spirit immediately
drove him out into the wilderness.

Verse Twelve here is important for several reasons, not least of which it tells us that we are reading the Gospel of Mark.  When did it do it?  Immediately!

It serves as the transition between Jesus’ baptism and his temptation.

One moment, the heavens open up and the spirit descends like a dove and Jesus hears the voice of God, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  (I don’t know about you, but I kinda like hearing that in James Earl Jones’s voice.)

And immediately it is out into the wilderness, an unlivable place, for temptations by the adversary.

From the height of spiritual connection to the depths of aloneness. From the blessing of God to the temptations of Satan.  Immediately.

There is something in Mark’s way of telling the story that reminds us of our own lives.  One minute things are great; the next minute we find ourselves wrestling with old demons, or facing old temptations, or hearing bad news.  We know stories like this, don’t we?

But even as we focus on the immediately and the wilderness, I want us to notice another word in there.

And the Spirit immediately
drove him out into the wilderness.

The wilderness is not without God.  When Mark tells us that the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness, we know that the wilderness will not be devoid of meaning or purpose or the presence of God.

We get that when we read the Gospel.  But when we are in the wilderness ourselves, it can be easy to forget, can’t it?  It can be easy to be overwhelmed by the wilderness and not remember the Spirit at work within us and around us.

Which brings us back to Noah.

Noah and his family have witnessed devastation we can barely imagine. All that they have known, every person that they have known, destroyed by the flood.  We can understand a little better why after offering sacrifices Noah planted a vineyard, made some wine and got hammered. I am not encouraging drinking, especially not as a solution to problems.  But perhaps we can understand.

A friend of mine in college thought this was a terrible story.  She was right.  I know we give kids Noah’s Arks to play with because they have all the fun animals, but this story is pretty horrendous.

My friend finally wrapped her head around the story when she studied art.  She understood the frustration of an artist who creates a great canvass of a painting, and realizes that it is no good.  That there is just one small corner of the painting worth saving.  The story is no less horrific, but it is a little more understandable.

Some have said that in the story of Noah we see God maturing.  There is regret after the destruction of the world by the flood.  However bad humanity had been, God says “never again will I flood the world.”

And God places God’s bow in the sky, the rainbow, as a sign of this covenant, never again to destroy the world.  But then we get this strange verse that for many years I got wrong.  I learned in Sunday School that the rainbow was there to remind us of God’s love.  But that’s not what it says:

When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,
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.  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.

The rainbow is not there to remind us.  It is there to remind God! This seems almost heretical to good Calvinists.  God is the unmoved mover!  Why does God need a Post-It Note?!?!

If it were there simply to remind us, we might look on it and perhaps pray or confess our sins or just say “ooh, pretty.”

But when we see it, and we remember that it is there to remind God, then we have the opportunity to pray, but we also have the opportunity to know, whatever wilderness we are in, that God remembers.  Knowing that this is a sign for God does not lessen its importance as a sign for us.  It brings us back to the awareness that God remembers.

And when we are in the wilderness, whether it is the wilderness of grief, or of unemployment, or of illness, or of shame, we know that God remembers.

God remembers our loved ones, even if they are gone from us.

God remembers that we are all children of God, even if we forget, or try to hide it.

God remembers that we are beloved, even if we feel unloved or unlovely.

God remembers that we belong to God, even if we are too much focused on the world or the wilderness.

Whatever your wilderness, whatever your temptations, whatever you face, God knows you, and God loves you.  And God remembers.

Thanks be to God. Amen.