I am a big fan of making pop songs into worship songs. My new favourite is Madonna, Rain. No, seriously;

Rain; feel it on my fingertips, hear in on my window pane, Your love’s coming down like rain. Wash away my sorrows, take away my pain, Your love’s coming down like rain. 

Come on, if it was by Tim Hughes you’d love it…

That song’s been going around in my head today, and it has helped me think about today’s passages. Genesis 4-7 makes me sad. Cain and Abel, Lamech’s disturbing song (4:22-24), the declaration that God was “sorry that he made humankind on the earth” (6:6), the decision to start over; the flood.

I suppose Noah’s Ark is often told as a positive story of a righteous man who is chosen by God to make a fresh start in a turbulent world. It’s a Sunday school favourite. But the beginning of this story and its preceding chapters don’t fill me with enthusiasm. Even for Noah, is this a great deal? Stay in an ark for months and months and return to an obliterated land… oh cheers!

How did it go so wrong so quickly? From Eden to oblivion in 3 chapters? What does that say about us? What does that say about God?

There’s a great phrase that Rob Bell uses; the stories of the Bible aren’t important because they happened, they’re important because they happen. When a Bible story disturbs me I know it’s because it resonates with something happening now, inside me or in the world. Usually both. So I ask how do these things in Genesis 4-7 happen? Well, humans still kill, we get angry, we forget God. The world makes me sad sometimes, that’s why these stories make me sad… God doesn’t wipe us out though. But maybe there’s a different kind of flood coming.

When I remember that God is Love, and when I remember that this story happens the water starts to feel different. The story starts to be about cleansing and renewal, not smiting and destruction. Washing away sin seems very loving really… Your love’s coming down like rain…

If you read this story as literal then it’s hard not to see it as extreme. Of course some would take the ‘don’t question God’s justice, they all had it coming’ stance, but I don’t. I can only see this as a story about the power of God to renew, however dark it has become. I see the flood like a baptism of the earth, a promise that there is nothing good that cannot be salvaged. Creation is good, humans can be good, we were created good.  Just as everything can been corrupted, everything be cleansed. It may take retreat, labour, loss but transformation is always possible. When I relate this to the gospels, to Jesus’ washing away of sin, then the message comes alive even more.

Rain is what the thunder brings, for the first time I can hear my heart sing. Call me a fool but I know I’m not I’m gona stand out here on a mountain top til I feel Your rain… who knew Madonna was so deep?

photo by  cosmonautirussi on flickr