A sermon based on Genesis 6:1-3, 5-14, 17-22
Sunday, November 26, 2017 – Advent 1B
Let's start today with puzzle, a pop quiz of sorts. Here's the scenario: A husband and wife are going on a date. They have reservations at the restaurant for 7pm. The restaurant is 10 minutes from their home.
Question: What time does the husband need to start getting ready to be there on time? The answer: 6:30pm. From 6:30 to 6:40 he showers and shaves. From 6:40 to 6:45 he gets dressed and puts on his finest cologne. From 6:45 to 6:47 he grabs his wallet and keys and heads to the car to drive to the restaurant. Since it takes 10 minutes to get there that still leaves 3 minutes to park and walk to the front door to arrive right on time at 7pm. Good, right?
Okay, so, reservations are still at 7pm. The restaurant is still 10 minutes away from home. Next question: What time does the wife need to start getting ready in order to make it to the restaurant on time? … Trick question! She could start at 4pm, 3pm, or even 2pm and she will still not be ready on time.
Okay… I'm just kidding ladies. And I know some of you are saying that I got it backwards; he's the one always running late. But the point is this: How long does it take you to get ready?
I guess the answer depends on "ready for what?" It might take longer to get ready for a date at a nice restaurant than it might to go pick up a pizza because you don't feel like cooking. How long does it take you to get ready… for Christmas? We're less than a month away! How long does it take you to get ready… for company to come over? Do you need to vacuum or could you get by without? How long does it take you to get ready… to pay your taxes? Do you need long forms or will the short forms suffice? Do you take them in or do you do them yourself?
But those things all have a known deadline. It gets harder when the target date is unknown. How long does it take you to get ready… for retirement? 40 years? How long does it take you to get ready… for the next big earthquake? When will it hit? And what does that all entail? How long does it take you to get ready… for Judgment Day?
I don't know how much time we have to get ready for that day. But I do know this. Now is the time to get ready. In our sermon text for this morning, we hear about Noah getting ready for that first Judgment Day: that day that God judged the world to wicked and vile to continue. So he decided to scrub it clean. But he first told Noah to get ready. Our text for consideration this morning is from Genesis 6 (select verses)…
When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." …
5 The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
9 This is the account of Noah.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out…
17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them."
22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
How long did it take him to get ready? Well, it could have been almost 100 years! In Genesis 5 we're told that he was 500 years old before he had his three sons. And in Genesis 6 we're told that they helped him to build the ark before the floodwaters came when Noah was 600 years old. So it could have been 100 years of prep and we have no indication that God ever gave him a timeline for when the flood would come. He just told him, "Get ready. Because a flood is coming."
Can you imagine the task he had? Build a boat big enough to hold two of every living creature. And.. no power tools! And can you imagine the ridicule he received from his neighbors?! He's building a cruise ship in a place where there was likely no water in sight! What for? What a crackpot! He was wasting all his time, all his money, all his energy, on a wooden boat that would barely get wet!
And nevertheless, verse 22 says, "Noah did everything just as God commanded him." He got to work and he got ready while he still had time to get ready. Later, when "all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened," (Genesis 7:11) would be too late.
How about us though? We too are facing our own Judgment Day, aren't we? Yes, God promised that he would never again destroy the world by a flood. (Genesis 9:11) But he's also promised that he will destroy the world by fire. And he's given us no timeline for when the fire will come. "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare." (1 Peter 3:10) And he tells us that right now is the time to get ready: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. [So…] Be on guard! Be alert! …keep watch… do not let him find you sleeping… Watch!"
How much time does it take to get ready for Judgement Day? I don't know. That's why we'd all best start today and not put it off any more. Can you imagine if Noah, put off building the ark for 30 or 40 years until the plans were just right or he could rally enough support to help him? What would happen if the flood waters came and he didn't have the ark done? The results would have been disastrous.
Likewise we should learn from the fable of the ant and the grasshopper. While the ant worked hard in the summer to store up food for the winter, the grasshopper played all summer long. But when winter came, it was too late. There was no food to be found and the grasshopper starved to death. Now is the time to get ready for Judgment Day, dear friends. Now is the time to prepare… before it's too late.
Ah… but we get so easily distracted, don't we? We have our parties to plan and gifts to buy, then gifts to open and play with or return. We have family feuds and futile fights over things that just won't matter in less than 100 years from now. And distracted by all the shiny trinkets that draw our attention away from where it should be, we fail to prepare. And we deserve to be caught off guard.
Don't get ready for the date in time and you might lose your reservation. Don't prepare your taxes on time and pay the fines and penalties. Don't prep for the earthquake and you might struggle to survive off grid. Don't prepare for Judgment Day… and lose your reservation in heaven, pay the eternal penalty of hell, die forever separated from God and his love. … And for failing to prepare for that day when the world is destroyed by fire, we deserve all of that. We deserve to be eternally destroyed by fire ourselves.
Thank God then that we're not ready for Judgment Day because of how much effort and forethought we put into our doomsday prepping. But rather, we are prepared—totally ready!—for that day to come because God has made us ready.
Do you know the proper term for what the school kids here call the "Big Room"? You can call it the sanctuary, that is the room set apart for a holy and special purpose. But church architects have called this room the nave. It comes from the Latin word for ship: Navis. (We get our word Navy from it.) Church designers have called it this because the main room in the church resembles a ship, where all the rowers sit on benches facing the same direction, working together.
But there's another similarity between our church and a big boat: It saves us, just as the ark saved Noah and his family. Now that's not to say that you must be a member of our church or any church if you want to be saved. But in the church where the Word of God is faithfully taught, where the sacraments are faithfully administered, souls are prepared for the Day of God's wrath. And all who are in the Church (with a capital "C," that is, all who believe in Jesus as their Savior) will be lifted out of the chaos before the world is destroyed by fire.
And here in church and in the Word, we hear how it can be said of us as it was of Noah: "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord... Noah was a righteous man… and he walked with God." For here in the Word we hear of Jesus our Savior who found favor with God. (cf. Luke 2:52) And we hear how he gave up that favor to be abandoned by his Father on the cross to pay for our sin. (cf. Matthew 27:46) We hear how we have been made righteous, not by our works or efforts, but by God's grace, declaring us to be righteous for Jesus' sake. (cf. Romans 3:21-28)
And here, at the font, we have been saved by water just as Noah was. We typically think of the flood as being just destructive, that is, it wiped out all the evil and scrubbed the world clean (which it, of course, did). But the flood is also salvific. That's a fancy word to say it saved. The water lifted Noah and his family out of the corruption, out of the evil, out of the judgment. And that's what the water of baptism does for us too: Connecting us to Jesus' work by giving us faith to trust his promises, it lifts us up above the destruction that will come by fire on Judgment Day.
So Peter wrote, "[The water of Noah's flood] symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…"
So you and I, dear friends, have found favor with God, just as Noah did. We are righteous in his sight, just like Noah was. We walk with God now and will walk with him face to face in heaven! Because God has made us ready for that day when he returns or calls us home. So we are prepared for Judgement Day. We're ready to go!
So what do we do with our time while we wait? Well, we keep building. We do everything just as God commands us. We continue to grow in our faith by the Word. We keep a constant vigil. And we do all we can to rescue others. We're like the Coast Guard, going out to rescue those lost in a sea of guilt and despair. We do what we can to bring them into the boat with us, so they too will be ready for that Last Day. For them, like for us, now is the time to get ready!