Saturday, February 17, 2018

Year B, Lent 1, Genesis 9:8-17, God’s Repentance

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
"I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.”
And then God put a rainbow in the sky, as a sign of this covenant that he made with Noah, and all of us who would come after.
“The inclination of the human heart is evil from youth.”
But God, recognizing that you can’t simply destroy evil people, without destroying all people, repented, and promised that despite our sinfulness, we would be allowed to carry on.
It’s interesting to me, that as we begin our Lenten journey, a time that is to be for us a time of repentance, the first scripture passage we read is about God’s own repentance.  God would never again respond to evil, with evil.
Implied in that, is that if God, himself, can humble himself to repent of his actions, we too ought to be able to swallow our pride and turn from our evil ways.
The inclination of the human heart is evil from youth.
Our nation is heartbroken once again this week.
In Parkland, Florida, 17 people including three teachers and 14 students were gunned down at the high school.
This is a pattern we have seen time and time again.
Every time it happens the same scenario unfolds:
  • ·         We are horrified.
  • ·         We identify the victims, the heroes, the shooter.
  • ·         People across the nation offer their thoughts and prayers.
  • ·         A debate ensues up about what to do.
  •            Some people will call for gun control, others will send in contributions to the NRA to make sure there is no gun control legislation passed.
  • ·         Our lawmakers, divided by their political differences, can’t do anything.
  • ·         Then the news cycle runs its course, we turn our attention to other things, and put the tragedy out of our mind.
  • ·         And then life goes on, kids go to school, people go to work, and nothing changes.
  • ·         And then, a few months later the same thing happens again.

About a hundred children die each month in our country from gunshot wounds, many more are injured.
One response is that we should get rid of guns.
Another response is that we should have more guns, you know, have armed guards in all our schools.
Because the divide is so deep, nothing happens.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed owning a gun.  For a number of years I provided all our family’s meat by hunting and fishing.
But for me, gun ownership came to an end when my doctor, after diagnosing me with severe depression, instructed me to remove all the firearms from my home.  He cited a statistic, namely that you are far more likely to die of a self inflicted gunshot wound if you actually have a gun.  So, I got rid of the guns because I didn’t want to die.
My father had a parishioner, a farmer, who kept a pistol in his pickup.  One day his five year old got a hold of the pistol, and shot himself straight through the head.  Amazingly, he survived.
Its experiences like these that lead me to advocate for what I call ‘responsible gun ownership’.
I believe that we should treat guns like we treat cars and driving.
·         They should be titled.
·         They require a license to use.
·         Before one can purchase a gun you must be trained in its safe operation.
·         And, I believe, that people should have to carry liability insurance for their weapons.
·         I believe that if you are going to own guns, then you are responsible for their safe storage and use.
Whether that’s the right answer, I do not know.
Most importantly, I believe that we simply can’t ignore the problem, and do nothing.  Human life is too valuable.
Two facts to consider:
1.       More people have died from gun related deaths in the United States since 1968, when we began keeping statistics, than have died in all of our nation’s wars, combined.
2.       More people die from gun related deaths than die from drunk driving accidents each year.

"I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.”
God repented.
And God calls all of us to live lives of repentance.
One more thing I’ll share about this cycle of violence that has a grip on our country.
Our law enforcement officers will not be outgunned.
I work with people at the cabinet shop who routinely drive to work with loaded pistols in their possession. 
What happens then, when so many drivers are armed, is that the police must be prepared at all times to respond to that threat.
Officers must wear bullet proof vests.
And they are prepared to defend themselves even during a routine traffic stop. 
Too many officers have been killed.  And officers sometimes shoot innocent people as a result.
When we were growing up, nobody had even heard of a SWAT team.  Now, law enforcement across the nation has them.
The more violent we become as a nation, the more heavy handed our law enforcement agencies will be. 
"I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.”
Again, God, himself, can humble himself to repent of his actions, we too ought to be able to swallow our pride and turn from our evil ways.
At the most basic level, the repentance that is needed in our country is to turn from a culture of violence, into one that is dedicated to the promotion of life.
Life is sacred.
Life is holy.
Life is of God.
Moses exhorted his people:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
That is the choice.
Life or death.
It affects everything we do, and how we treat each other, from the cradle to the grave.
It affects how we treat our unborn children.
How we treat our children.
It impacts how we treat one another.
And how we care for the sick and the elderly.
Jesus says:
" 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. ' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it:'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Jesus is calling us to choose life, and all that life requires.
God repented, and gave us a promise symbolized by the rainbow in the sky.
God’s promise is that he would always and forever choose life, over death.
God’s promise led Jesus to offer his life, for us, on the cross.
God’s promise is that he will continue to forgive us, even as we continue to live out the evil inclinations that are on our heart from our youth.
God’s promise is that life, not death, will have the final word.
That’s what repentance meant for God.
What does repentance mean for us?
I once had a colleague in ministry, who came to our text study in Sandpoint, and who was a Quaker.
I admire them, and other Christians like them, who have made it a central tenant of their faith to choose life over death, love over violence, and peace.
Most of all, what I learned from her was that there was another way.
For Christians, one response to the evil in the world is to simply resolve to wait.
God promises that one day "They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain.”
But we can also do something to improve our situation in this life, now.
We can choose life.
We can choose to love.
We can repent of the evil inclinations that are in each of our hearts, and instead, live as Jesus lived.
All that is possible, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and  yes, all that will make a difference.
A big difference.
But it begins with our own repentance.
And then we trust in the Lord our God and his grace to lead us and guide us into the way of peace.
This is not impossible.
Other countries do not suffer from violence the way we do.
But if we don’t want to die violently, if we don’t want our children to die violently, then each of us needs to examine the way we live.
For me, though I loved my Winchester Model 88, choosing life meant giving up a gun, that because of my depression, was a threat.
That won’t be everyone’s choice.  And that’s not my point.
My point is simply this, that when confronted with the evil in the world, each of us will have a choice.
We should choose life, not death. 
And that choice affects how we treat one another.


No comments:

Post a Comment