Sep 14, 2012

Weird Genesis

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon based on Genesis 6:1-8 with the title “Noah’s Ark.” Alas for me, I learned what Ben Franklin meant when he wrote: “Haste makes waste.”

In my haste to finish up the summer sermon series, “Favorite Bible Stories,” I neglected to select vigilantly the most fitting text about Noah. Instead, I selected a text that preceded the story of Noah and, in effect, explained the reason why God decided to flood the earth.

Friday afternoon of that week, as things quieted down at FUMC of Arlington, I sat down and to my horror saw the text I had selected. Here are the first four verses so you need not scramble for your Bible:

[6:1] When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, [2] the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. [3] Then the Lord said, "My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years." [4] The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown (Genesis 6:1-4).

Someone wrote to me that next week, and I quote, “Hi David—You know how I like to have my "say"—well, here goes! I could have skipped the first part of your sermon today—and I don't think anyone would have even known you didn't stick to the printed text."

Yet, several people commented that they had often wondered about that particular text and were interested in my explanation of it (or virtually any explanation of the text).

In part, I commented that “one way or another, in the telling of the Genesis story as it was narrated previous to human writing, and told over and over again, this part (vv. 1-4) was incorporated—perhaps without understanding.” Then I suggested to our congregation that no matter what we think about this difficulty, the next four verses were no less disturbing, but perhaps more understandable and we read the rest of the lesson for the day Genesis 6:5-8.

My correspondent may have been correct after all, and if I had been paying more attention to detail I would never have chosen such a bizarre or difficult text. Yet the Bible is what it is, which is to say the whole thing is exceedingly engaging and curious—if not downright edifying. Finally, at the end, my friend finished his/her e-mail with this agreeable affirmation:

“The last part was powerful—and I had never thought of Noah representing one man who did God’s will—and how one man's contribution can change so much. I wanted to stand up and cheer when you ended!"

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