Friday, November 9, 2018
Noah: Man of Sacredness (Genesis 8:20-22) by Rev. Dr. Steve Locke
Noah’s story was not that of an old man who built a boat, but of a man who built a whole new world alongside and after an evil and corrupted one. Vigilance, cunning and an endless expenditure of energy and faith were needed to maintain his place in the world. Noah faced a world filled with people engaged in the lust for power, which they used to force and intimidate those around them. Their evil divided the world corrupting any decency they might have had. They became leaders over groups of people building a society that was devoid of justice but a kind of servitude to the heroes of the world.
He faced a world that didn’t temper their actions through knowledge of God in which justice and love were part of their consciousness. They instead confirmed if their actions were right by the rules of survival and need of the leader who brought fear to every person.
He faced a world that had grown up on lies because they had negated the truth. Justice was defined as fulfilling my need. Anyone who took that away from the group deserved punishment. All this negation led to violence.
For years Noah found a way to live among this system of abuse and evil. To do this he not only needed to be courageous, fearless, but he needed to be wise. He had to show he was not a threat to them while proving that they needed him in some way. The only way he and his family could have survived was through the constant spiritual direction from God. Noah managed a life among people who had lost their sensibility toward others, and used violence as a means to settle disputes, which perpetuated the illusion of righteousness by excluding others from their community.
In the midst of all this chaos Noah also managed to build a ship. He, also, built a life of integrity with God and others. He built a family with this same integrity while he built this ark. He stepped out of his role as a farmer and rancher to spend his time building a boat. I don’t think they had invented the term “mid-life crisis” during his era but I am sure they had a similar word for him, as he began this project. He became a man who was on the outside, even with his family. He was the man in his garage tinkering all day trying to build something nobody understands, like a computer, software program or an invention that no one see’s the relevance of. Therefore, his courage was not only his ability to negotiate his neighbors evil but his families’ ridicule, as well.
This is the side of Noah we know well. But he was also a man of sacred understanding. He is not only a man of action he is a man of silence and quiet before God. During his voyage he was alive to all the necessary tasks to maintain life on the boat. Animals, family and damage to the boat needed to be attended to. There was little time, most likely, for worship or prayer with the kind of silence and intensity he was used to. But when they landed, the waters receded and it was safe to get off the boat. The first thing he did was to build an altar to worship God.
It was time to show his gratitude, take time to listen to his own heart and to listen for the redemptive purpose of God. He was not interested in God’s new ethical demands for this new world, he was most likely interested in what God’s purpose was for him and this new world. He needed to listen as best he could in the silence of worship to figure out how to live out his life. As a man of action he figured out how to survive; as a man of sacredness he needed to figure out where God was walking in this world and follow him.
Being grateful reveals our inward understanding of God’s gifts to us. The reason for building the altar was to allow this inward understanding of God to show itself. Noah did not build this altar because of duty, but because he felt an overwhelming desire to stand before God in the most humble way he knew how. The narrator said that God was pleased with Noah’s worship. God was so overtaken by Noah’s heart reaching out in hope, God promised never to destroy the earth again even though the human heart is filled with evil. Noah’s vulnerable and open heart reached God’s heart touching it with the gratitude of a man who loved God above all things. God wanted to protect that genuine heart, therefore God promised never to destroy the earth and then instilled the basic covenants of justice that would guide humanity to more honorable relationships.
Behind justice and mercy for every living thing stands the necessity of worship. In order for our hearts to remain open and turned to the world with grace we first need to be silent before God. We need to build our altar in whatever fashion we like. For some it is sitting on a patio, walking down the street, sitting in our car or standing on top of a hill. Whatever altar you build it must be visited for it to be the kind of reminder useful for spiritual development.
We cannot afford to be like many leaders in the Old Testament who built altars for the people but never visited them. When this happens we forget our purpose. Paul reminds us of this truth when he says in Romans 12:1-2, “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Present yourselves as living sacrifices unto God which is your reasonable worship.” The only way to maintain our spiritual perspective is to visit our altars which then remind us of where we are and where we are going.