We’ve just started the Narrative Lectionary and it’s pretty clear up front, despite the nine month span, that’s it’s just a skim through the Bible. This coming Sunday Isaac will be promised to Sarah and Abraham, after which we’ll see Isaac’s son Jacob wrestling with an angel, drop in on Moses at the burning bush, and catch the Ten Commandments at Sinai. Then we’re out of the Torah altogether with the Ruth story and the kings and prophets of Israel.
We’ll try to tie some things together in between but it’s a fast trip.
Skipping from Genesis 2 (Garden of Eden) to Genesis 18 (the promise of Isaac’s birth) means we jump over (at least) a couple stories that continue to illuminate the human condition.
Genesis 6-9 tells the Noah Flood story in which only a few people and pairs of every animal are saved from global ecological destruction. In our time of species die-off, this story serves as a frame of reference for projects like the world seed bank in Norway is preserving future biodiversity with a million seeds of edible plants. Here in Ohio, the Arc of Appalachia, conscious of the arc/ark double meaning, is saving the beauty of the Eastern Hardwood Forest by buying up forested properties and promoting woodland sprawl on former farms.
Genesis 11 tells the parable of the Tower of Babel in which all of humanity comes together to build a great tower to the heavens. But God comes down and casts a vote for decentralized cultural diversity, causing them to speak many languages and scatter. A little over a year ago Jonathan Haidt wrote an essay in The Atlantic, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid” in which he suggests this Tower of Babel story as “the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit.”
In short, as we work our way through the Bible, incomplete as our tour will be, it will be good to ask questions not just about what the stories meant, but what they might mean to us. And, as has always been the case, this involves an act of imagination.