by Father Mike Stubbs
The theme of covenant runs throughout the Bible. God makes a covenant with Abraham and promises him many descendants “as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore.”
Later, through Moses, God makes a covenant with the Hebrew people and forms them into the nation of Israel. The Ten Commandments stand out as a crucial part of that covenant. God asks the people of Israel to obey those commandments as their end of the bargain.
To govern that nation, God establishes a monarchy and makes a covenant with the house of David. God assures David that his family will supply kings for Israel on a permanent basis: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me.” But as weak human beings, the kings and people of Israel violate their covenant with God. They bring disaster down on their country.
Nonetheless, God offers them hope. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God promises them a new covenant: “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts.” As Christians, we believe that these covenants prepare us for the covenant God has established with us through Jesus Christ. That is the focal point of our faith.
Throughout the season of Lent, the first readings on Sunday will point to these different covenants in the Bible. In that way, we will prepare ourselves to renew our covenant with God. That series of covenants begins this Sunday with the reading from the Book of Genesis (9:8-15). It focuses on the first covenant involving God and the human race.
In that reading, God speaks to Noah after the flood waters have dissipated. Before the flood, humanity had brought sin into the world. But now, all that has been washed away. God could begin anew. So God promises never again to destroy the earth by flood.
By its sins, the human race had brought destruction — not only upon itself, but upon all living creatures. The whole earth had suffered through the flood. In starting over again, it was only appropriate that God should make the covenant, not only with Noah and his family, not only with human beings, but with all living creatures: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark.”
We are all in this together. We are in the same boat, with the animals and other living creatures. In recent years, we have become more aware of our responsibilities toward the earth, our duty to care for the environment, to avoid polluting it. The covenant God made through Noah reminds us of
our deep connection with other living things. It calls us not to bring destruction upon the earth again through our sins. Our merciful God has pledged not to destroy the earth again by flood. But there are other ways.