Call to Worship Our ancient ancestors told stories about the mistakes they made The love of God made them confident in their truth telling Our ancient ancestors sang songs of praise to God who would not abandon them, even though God was silent from time to time. The love of God made them celebrate in the midst of sorrow. Our ancient ancestors have much to teach us today, and so we invite them, the entire cloud of witnesses, to be with us as we gather in worship. May the love of God and all the saints surround us and make us confident in our celebrations this day.
Give Thanks for Life Give thanks for life, the measure of our days mortal, we pass through beauty that decays Yet sing to God our hope, our love, our praise Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Give thanks for those who made their life a light Caught from the Christ-flame bursting through the nights Who touched the truth, who burned for what is right Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Give thanks for hope, that like the wheat, the grain Lying in darkness does its life retain In resurrection to grow green again Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Meditation “Prayer as Invitation” By Earl Holt The moment of prayer is an invitation to be calm in the midst of tumult and uncertainty. To bring together thought and feeling, mind and spirit, and to become grounded in a still point of perspective and peace. Here in our homes, which have become sacred space, may we feel free to look honestly at reality. May we be unafraid to face the decisions we have been trying to avoid, the doubts and questions in fear we have ignored, the things we have tried to keep hidden not only from others but even from ourselves. May we come to discover that there are resources within ourselves and beyond us… New dimensions of the spirit… May we be emboldened by these discoveries to see the new earth and the new heaven God is weaving before us.
1 Peter 3:13-22 New International Version (NIV)
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[d] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
It’s not the advice about being nice and being a good person even when people are treating you poorly that caught my attention in this passage, but the reference to Noah.
The story of Noah and the Ark is one of the top ten best-known tales in the Bible. We find the version we know best in the book of Genesis. We love to teach our kids the tale of the man who collected two of every animal and bird and reptile and kept them on a boat during a great flood.
Generally, we preachers use the tale of Noah to underscore the importance of caring for creation or that people are horribly flawed and deserve to be punished by God.
But there’s another version of the tale of Noah. It was written about 300 years after the version we know well and is found in the book of Enoch, written about 200 years before the birth of Christ. Don’t go running for your bibles to find it, Enoch is not part of the traditional bible canon. It is part of the Apocrypha, a series of writings that didn’t make the final cut for the bible most people use, but are studied by scholars because they cast a different perspective on some of the stories we know well.
The Book of Enoch is a cautionary tale of the coming together of two worlds. The heavens, where angels and demons abide, and the earth, where humans live.
We find in the Book of Enoch this story.
A group of heavenly beings, some people call them angels, some call them The Watchers, some call them the Nephilim…
noticed that the young women of earth were very beautiful, so they decided they wanted to marry these women and have children. Now this was strictly forbidden. The heavenly beings had no business messing with God’s humans. But God had as much influence over them as God has over us. When we want something we can pretty much justify our way into having it.
So these heavenly beings called a meeting to discuss how they were going to do this thing – marry the beautiful young women of earth without getting into trouble with God.
Semjaza, their leader, said: “It’s all or nothing – either we all do it, or no one does it, because I don’t want to get in trouble if I’m the only one with an earthly wife. So they made a pact that they would all go down together to marry the human women and have children. And they did.
The children born of these unions were like the mutants on X-men. They were larger and stronger than regular humans. And like the mutants on X-men, these hybrid children got a special education from their heavenly being fathers.
They learned science and mathematics.
They learned how to forge weapons from iron.
They learned how to mine for precious metals and jewels, and bedecked themselves with jewellery, and make up.
They engaged in “root-cutting”, which is kind of a strange term that means to change the meaning of words.
They learned enchantments and the pseudo science of astrology.
With this knowledge came power. Soon they “consumed all the acquisitions of men”, took everything the regular humans had, and they “began to sin against the birds and beasts and reptiles” until “the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones”.
In time, these hybrid human/heavenly beast offspring totally dominated the world. Took what they wanted, killed indiscriminately, used what they learned to destroy rather than to create. They went to the dark side until the surviving humans cried out to God for help.
In the story, God sends a messenger to Noah who tells him to hide.
There’s nothing about the Ark, no gathering of animals. Simply “Run and hide” Lock yourself away until the storm passes. And then there is a great storm and all those who had waged war upon the creatures of the earth were destroyed.
The perspective of this story is so different from the one we know.
Because there’s no ark, no mention of the animals and birds and reptiles – we can only assume they were quite ok all on their own.
And the hero of the story is not Noah, set apart as the only righteous man left on earth, but God, who steps in to rescue the whole of humankind from God’s devious angels.
The difference between these two Noah stories is in the one we know best, human beings were to be destroyed for their wickedness.
In this story, it is the power that seeks to corrupt us that is exposed and destroyed. What saves us is the love of God for all God’s people.
It’s a wonderful myth, and myths are not to be taken literally – though some might argue that this story alludes to the rise of homo sapiens and the end of the Neanderthals…You have to read Noah Herrari’s book Sapiens for that story…myths are meant to teach. And this myth, written 2300 years ago, has lessons for us today.
Let’s look at the things moved God to action in this story.
- “Root cutting” – that’s a good one. I could write a whole sermon on the concept of root cutting. It literally means to cut the root word in a phrase into different meanings. It’s kind of like when we talk in acronymns. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation becomes CBC and CBC is the new word cut from its root. We know what it means, but anyone from outside Canada would not. The ancient Hebrews, and some Jews even today, are adamant about keeping the purity of their language so that everyone knows what everyone else is talking about. Changing the meaning of words excludes people. In a broader sense, it’s the difference between someone who has access to education and someone who does not. Excluding people is to steal opportunity.
- Using science to enrich rather than to benefit. Denying health care to those who cannot pay. Paying a pittance to health care providers. Science for profit is to ignore the needs of the sick and the vulnerable.
- Using pseudo science, snake oil cures, conspiracy theories and misinformation to undermine truth and reality. It is to peddle in lies and falsehoods that divides the people and makes it impossible for them to move forward together, to face challenges together.
- Corruption – thinking the rules don’t apply to you.
- Destruction of natural resources – until the earth lays accusations against the lawless ones – in the form of climate change, flood, fire, pandemic.
All this from a story written 2300 years ago. It’s stunning isn’t it?
With all this depth of wisdom arising from a myth everyone knew in Peter’s time, if we look at the beginning of this passage, we see a deeper meaning in Peter’s advice to be nice and good people. What Peter is saying is not just be nice, but to stand in the face of the things that destroy the world.
Division, corruption, greed. To bring together in common kindness and courtesy in order to overcome division, corruption and greed.
It is our calling and our blessing.
For it is better, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
This long weekend people are out and about enjoying the blessings of this world – sun, warm weather, being together. It’s so hard right now to do what we have to do to keep our neighbours safe.
What are you struggling with this long weekend?
Hang in there.
Stand in the face of the power that wants to seduce us into returning to how it was.
Keep on the upward trajectory toward a new heaven and a new earth
And know that God waits patiently.
Affirmation of Faith
We believe that horizons of hope are never fixed.
All They always move beyond, in the creativity of God.
We believe that powers of evil can not kill God.
All God walks on free and leaps ahead of us in the risen Christ.
We believe that the Spirit can never be confined.
All She dances forth in the world
and is found in surprising places,
leading us on until the end of time.
(Adapted/ Dorothy McRae-McMahon/bst)
God of the Bible, God in the Gospel Hope seen in Jesus, hope yet to come You are our centre, daylight or darkness Freedom or prison, you are our home Fresh as the morning sure as the sunrise God always faithful You do not change... God in our struggles, God in our hunger Suffering with us, taking our part Still you empow'r us, mothering Spirit Feeding, sustaining, from your own heart Those without status Those who are nothing You have made royal, gifted with rights Chosen as partners Midwives of justice Birthing new systems Lighting new lights
Announcements and Prayers of the People
All creatures of our God and King Lift up your voice and with us sing Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Bright burning sun with golden beam Soft shining moon with silver gleam Sing praises, Sing praises Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! And everyone of tender heart Forgiving others, take your part Sing praises, Hallelujah! All who long pain and sorrow bear Praise God and yield up all your care Sing praises, Sing praises Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Let all things their Creator bless And worship God in humbleness Sing praises, Hallelujah! Praise God eternal, praise the Son And praise the Spirit, three in one Sing praises, Sing praises Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Benediction May God heal us and others by the Spirit May God keep you and all you love safe May God lead you into new life Amen