Cracked Utopia | Genesis 9.18-19
The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed. Genesis 9:18-19 | ESV
Transition. Now we move from Noah’s walk with God, his faithful building, entering, waiting, and trusting, to the future of his family in this rebooted new world. In these two key transition verses, we have telegraphed, ever so subtly, that all will not necessarily be well, that all will not live happily ever after. The words of God’s dedication speech over the new creation didn’t promise his protection and provision for it because of human moral perfection but despite the utter lack of it. As is often observed, you can take people out of the world, but you can’t take the world out of people – even after a one-year period of incubation. The fractures remain. They are about to appear in Noah’s own family – even in Noah himself as we witness what appears to be a second fall of man. But that is to come. To the initial audience of former Hebrew slaves, all of this is telegraphed in that one seemingly insignificant parenthetical thought: “Ham was the father of Canaan.” To get a feel for how the word “Canaan” or “Canaanite” sounded in their ears, hear the word “orc” if you are into Tolkien. Or just think “vile, oppressive, unrelenting enemy,” and you get the picture. No, Noah did not bring the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on the boat. But he did bring Ham – and Ham brought Canaan. As is beautifully captured in Shayamalan’s The Village, no matter how hard we try to build our own Utopia, the seeds of its undoing are carried into it by those who would occupy it. It’s like the old adage: if you find the perfect church (insert marriage, friendship, club or country), by all means don’t join it for then it would be ruined because you would be there. There is no Utopia here in family or country or church because fractured people are still here. We had best get used to that. The wholeness and healing represented by our concept of Utopia awaits the ultimate cosmic reboot. In the meantime we are called to continue hanging up our bows, preserving human dignity, valuing life, and learning to embrace all of humanity in a covenant of mutual respect and love.
How often have you found yourself slipping back into dreaded “old ways” right on the heels of genuine mountaintop experiences of God and faith? What can help us to keep from sliding back into the same old, same old?
God, having been on the mountain with you and experienced your Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, teach me how to live with that same awe in the valley of life with all of its imperfections and beauties. Through Christ.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.