10 November 2012

Genesis 9:8-17

"Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 'As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you.'" (vv. 8-9a)


'Covenant' is a popular word these days. There is a covenant relationship between the Church of England and the Methodist Church. At Wesley's Chapel where I minister we have our own local Covenant with our local Anglican parish church - St. Giles' Cripplegate - and we are in the process of establishing, or in reality, re-establishing and re-invigorating the Covenant between The Leys School and the Chapel (which incorporates the Leysian Mission).

These covenants have been worked out between the parties concerned and contain mutual commitments. Signatures have been appended to confirm the commitment. No one can be prosecuted for failing to keep a covenant, but the idea is that no party would dream of failing to keep its promises for it would mean being unfaithful not only to the other party but to oneself.

God told Noah that God was establishing a covenant with Noah and his descendents. It went beyond just a commitment to the human family and included the whole created universe. This was a covenant of promise with no conditions attached on the other side, and a covenant of grace promising that there would never again be a flood to devastate the world. God could not break this covenant without ceasing to be God and because human beings need signs and symbols to undergird their commitments God gives a sign - the sign of a rainbow in the sky.

To Ponder

  • As Methodists we renew our covenant with God each year - to what extent do you think that this service is a sufficiently solemn ceremony for people to fully understand the promises they are making?
  • There is a fashion these days for some of the main rites of passage - birth/baptism, marriage and funerals to be customised by people to their own tastes with their own wording and music. In the wedding ceremony in particular, do you think this detracts from the serious covenantal nature of the ceremony? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.