Summary: Sermon for the 1st Sunday in Lent. An invitation to the congregation to join in the struggle of interpeting Scripture.
1st Sunday in Lent March 5, 2006 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, during this season of Lent, empower us by your Holy Spirit, that we might truly humble ourselves before you, our Creator, with repentant hearts. Open minds to your Word, that we might discern your truth for our lives. Take our lives and transform us, so that we might appreciate anew your redeeming grace, poured out for us in Christ’s death and resurrection. This we ask in his holy name. Amen.
I would like to begin my message this morning with an invitation to attend our Wednesday evening Lenten study sessions. Our activities will begin at 6:00 PM with a light supper, hosted by one of our committees. If you can’t make the meal, please feel free to attend the class, which will begin at 6:45, followed by devotions.
This year, I have chosen as the topic for our class to look at the way we interpret Scripture, and in particular, the stories of Creation that are recorded in the first two chapters of Genesis. With all of the controversy that has surfaced in recent years regarding whether or not science classes in our public schools should be required to teach the Biblical accounts of Creation alongside the theory of evolution, I believe it is a timely issue.
What does the Bible have to say about the creation of the universe? Does the Bible negate the theory of evolution? If not, what is the message that the Genesis stories of creation are trying to convey to us, and is that message relevant to us living in this day and age? These are some of the questions that I invite you to wrestle with during our Lenten journey. And it is my hope that we might all grow in our understanding of God’s Word and its role in helping us grow in faith.
This leads me into the approach I would like to take in my sermon for this morning. Our first lesson presents us with the conclusion of the story of Noah and the ark. In all honesty, this has never been one of my favorite stories from the Bible, ever since I learned it as a child. It is not one of those stories that enables you to feel good.
Dr. William H. Willimon, in his commentary on this story, put it this way: “As a child, I vividly remember the children’s Bible storybook that we had in our home. Before I could read, I looked at the pictures that told the stories of various episodes recorded in the Bible. Guess what picture both attracted me and terrified me at the same time? It was the picture of the flood, the aftermath of the flood, with all those naked, dead bodies draped over rocks and hanging from limbs of trees after the great flood had subsided.
There are lots of children’s stories, and children’s pictures, and songs about Noah’s ark. But the story is a very adult one. It is the story of a creative God who made a world that he pronounced “Good, very good.” And yet, in just a few chapters of the book of Genesis, the world had gone from good to bad because of human sinfulness. Human beings, who were created in the image of God and expected to be obedient creatures, thankful for the gift of life, began to act as gods unto ourselves.
It was then that God regretted the world that he had made. And in anger, God made the rains to fall, and the waters to rise, and the waves to beat upon the boundaries of the land, and the whole earth was purged of life. Only one family was preserved, one family and their collection of creatures that they were able to take upon the ark, because they had found favor with God.” End quote.
This story is really horrifying, when you come to think about it. It is the kind of story that led Martin Luther to despair and depression. Even though he had devoted his life to God and became a monk, because he was able to acknowledge to himself his own sinfulness, and believed that God was justified in the action that he took which resulted in the destruction brought about by the flood, he felt condemned.
But let’s follow this story to its conclusion. In the preceding chapter to our lesson for this morning, we are told that God remembered Noah and his family, stopped the rains, caused the waters to recede, and brought forth a wind to dry up the land. Then he instructed Noah to bring his family and all of the creatures that he had taken aboard the ark, our on the dry land and begin to live life anew. So what does Noah do? He leaves the ark, and the first thing that he does is build an altar in order to offer a sacrifice of gratitude to God for having saved his family, and the chance to live life according to God’s design. And on that altar that he built, we are told that Noah offers one of every clean animal and every clean bird, that he brought off of the ark.