1 Peter 3:18-22
Covenants. Covenants are some of the most formative events in the creation of the people Israel. Abram is promised descendants as numerous as the stars (Gen. 12:1-3). Moses is promised that Israel will be of special regard to God (Ex. 19-24). David’s descendants will rule Israel (2 Sam. 7:12-17) and in Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34), we find reference to the New Covenant, which Christians believe is ultimately fulfilled by Jesus Christ. But the covenant of Noah is different from these covenants. It is one-sided. There is no expectation that humans will change. God knows that humans will continue to rebel. The Noahic Covenant (Gen. 9) is God’s promise to God’s self and to all of creation. The rainbow set in the dome of the sky serves as a reminder of comfort and hope for humanity. But more importantly, it is a reminder for God, not us. Rainbows remind God of God’s promise to all creation, not just to a chosen people or to humanity, but all creation is included in God’s promise. God does not withdraw from creation and all creation is beloved by God.
In this pericope, we find comfort and hope following a horrendous experience. The world as creation knew it, was destroyed by the power of mighty earth-changing water. Water on its own possesses the ability to change the world around it. It erodes causing waterways and canyons to form and coastlines to change. Anyone who has seen the Grand Canyon can attest that water is powerful. It moves silt from one locale to another changing ecosystems as it flows. When storms arise, water can be devastating. We’ve seen and heard and may have experienced the devastation that water can cause. But we also experience redemption through and by water. Noah’s family and the animals are saved in an ark that successfully passes through the raging waters. In baptism, we experience salvation through the ritual cleansing by water, sprinkled, dabbled, or poured over us, or through the full immersion into the waters of new life. Through baptism, by the water, we experience a different sort of covenant, one that marks us as God’s people, committed to a life of following Christ. This covenant echoes back to the Noahic covenant – it is freely given without expectation. We hope and pray that those baptized will lead righteous lives, but baptism can’t be lost if and when we fail to live up to our expectations. Through baptism, we continue to learn of God’s unfailing love and that as part of God’s creation, we are beloved by God.
-----written by Renee Smithback
Bartlett, David L and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B, Vol 2. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 26-49.
The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Vol I. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 397-402.
The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Vol IV. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 775-780.
The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Vol VIII. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 534-537.
The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Vol XII. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), 288-298.