By Emily Smith, Leeds Sanctuary
I have recently begun reading through Genesis again, and have been pondering how relevant the first two questions in the Bible are for us today:
- Where are you? (Genesis 3:9)
- Where is your brother…? (Genesis 4:9)
At a time when our politics is so divisive, I am particularly struck by how relational these questions are; these are questions which cause me to reflect on how close (or not) I am to God, and how aware I am of what is going on with my family, friends, and local and wider communities.
Reading on in Genesis, we come to Noah’s drunkenness and nudity in his tent (Genesis 9). While I have heard many remark on Noah’s behaviour (most unbecoming for someone of such stature), I believe the Bible is trying to draw our attention not to the behaviour, but to the way his sons responded to it. In verse 22, we read that “Ham… saw his father naked and told his two brothers…”. We know from Genesis 3 that being seen naked by another after “The Fall” is an indication of vulnerability, highlighting at least the potential for distrust and discord. Before sending Adam and Eve out of The Garden of Eden, God clothes them, covering their vulnerability, and this is paralleled in the actions of Noah’s other sons, Shem and Japheth in Genesis 9:23, when they “walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body.” Indeed, when Noah finds out what has happened, he curses Ham and blesses Shem and Japheth.
So my question is, how do we respond as Christians and The Church when people inside or outside of our communities behave in a way that we can see leaves them vulnerable? If we are looking for grace and truth in this story, Shem and Japheth offer the grace in covering Noah’s vulnerability. On awakening, it is clear that Noah knows the truth about his behaviour, as he responds with blessings and curses. He may have already known the truth, but perhaps these events and the grace of his sons brought him into a place of acknowledgement in action and not just thought.
At Leeds Sanctuary, we regularly reflect on this balance of grace and truth through the lenses of our values of Justice and Sanctuary. You can hear some of these reflections on our podcast, or come along to one of our communities, where we hope you’ll see this in action!