Keeping the Promise by Willard Metzger
Spirited Reflection — Sunday, February 22, 2015
Willard Metzger is the Executive Director, Mennonite Church Canada.
“Do you promise?” I remember the question as a youth – when innocence still anticipated unwavering trustworthiness. If I could elicit a verbal promise, my hopes would be cemented.
It was much later in life when I realized that promises were subject to other influences, such as busy schedules, other options, and changing moods.
The concept of a Covenant God is key to the Hebrew Scripture and Christian faith. It is a divine pledge of mercy accompanied by a human vow of obedience and worship. A covenant with the divine is not child’s play.
I am reminded of the covenant of God articulated to Noah after the destructive waters covered the earth. It was a promise of mercy; a promise of safe keeping. Although the promise is often identified as a one made to Noah and humanity the text indicates a much broader pledge. Genesis 9:10 clearly includes “every living creature …, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth…” That is quite the promise! It is a promise worthy of attention.
The promise indicates that God is concerned about the earth and all its inhabitants. Clearly the preserving activity of God was focused on more than just humanity (Noah and his family). According to the story God wanted to secure the survival of animals, birds, reptiles and plants. It was a thorough and encompassing embrace. This is the Covenant God assuring the survival of a beloved creation.
So when the rainbow was painted across the sky, the promise of future well-being was equally encompassing. It was a pledge of protection for everything to which God gave life.
The story also contains responsibility. The expectation is clear. Noah was commissioned to care for all that was assembled in the ark. This was not an escape plan for Noah alone. It was a plan of preservation for all of creation. And Noah had the responsibility of sustaining this plan.
I think this is an important reminder for us. The church has always concerned itself with communicating God’s intentions. The church is the reflection of God’s covenant. It is a display of the covenant community envisioned by God.
Like Noah, the church bears a responsibility within the covenant of the rainbow. God made a covenant with every living creature. So it is reasonable to expect the church to reflect that covenant. To be active in cooperating with God’s preserving activity.
When human life threatens the well-being of the earth and its inhabitants, it is natural to expect the church to reflect ways of living sustainably: living that celebrates health and well-being for all of creation.
When administrations and industry interests exploit the earth, it is natural to expect the church to voice loving opposition and call for balanced and responsible use of the earth’s resources.
To be in a covenant is no small matter – especially when it is on behalf of “every living creature.”
May our worship reflect the joy of this covenant. May our service demonstrate the commitment to this covenant. And may our faith resonate with the confidence of this covenant.