- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2000

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Emil M. Thomas at Zion Baptist Church in the District.
What happens when a good father trips and stumbles? In Genesis [9:20-24], the story of Noah reveals to us principles that will help us travel life's road.
The world had become so "wicked" that the Lord decided to start all over again. Into that world walked a man of integrity named Noah. Known by his ethical excellence, his moral magnificence and his piety, "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord."
The Bible gives us Noah's resume. He was not only just and religious, but he was a scientist who received mystical revelation from the Lord. Noah was a zoologist who gathered all the animals, two by two, and an agronomist who knew herbs and vegetables. He was an ornithologist who knew how doves behaved when they found that land was near.
Noah was pious but not perfect, sincere but not sinless. Even the moral giants have flaws. What is more, Noah was not a chemist. He planted a vineyard and made grape juice, but didn't understand the chemical process of how a single-celled organism called yeast produces ethanol alcohol. So he began to drink, until he drank it all… . The great Noah fell down sloppy drunk, and buck naked, in his own tent. The Scripture says, "And he was uncovered."
From this story of Noah we can see God's work in "covering" us. Noah's son Hamm first came in and saw his father in this immodest, embarrassing state. He was so embarrassed at his father's failing that he never acted to cover his nakedness. He had lost respect for his father, and with that came lack of covering. Isn't it interesting how once someone has made one mistake in life, people will turn on them. Noah had no history of drunkenness. But with this first mistake, his son loses respect. Be careful about people who put you on a pedestal. They are the first to pull it out from under you… .
Lacking respect, Hamm did not take responsibility and cover his elderly father, who raised that whole family through a long life. Today, many of the grandfathers and grandmothers who fed and bathed us can no longer do that for themselves. We should go do it. With respect, we take responsibility. Ask the Lord about it, and He will show you how to do it… .
Now, notice the difference with Noah's two other sons, Shem and Japheth, who, in reverence to their father, backed into his tent and laid a sheepskin over him. That is a covering of love. Love covers a multitude of sins. When Adam and Eve fell in the Garden, God took skins and covered them… . When the woman was caught in adultery, Jesus covered her by saying, "You who has not sinned, cast the first stone."
This covering by love is done with action and attitudes that are appropriate. Shem and Japheth took action because they had the right attitude: reverence to their father. They didn't debate what kind of sheet to get, as we might do. Should it be blue or white or kinte? No, they acted. Love is the action of caring for others… .
This is called ministering to a messy situation. You minister to the mess, but without getting involved in the mess… . Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." They will see God in any mess, and minister in a positive way. Now, this is not an excuse to keep private everything that happens inside the tent. Some things you must tell to the outside. If there is incest, chemical addiction, violence you need to tell somebody. Love also does what is appropriate… .
Noah had another son, a son who covered all of his sins. It wasn't Shem, but Shem had a great grandson named Abraham. And from Abraham's line came Jacob, Judah and finally King David. David had a descendant named Jesus. Jesus was the greatest son of Noah. He covers all our sins, for, "God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son."
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Joan E. Beilstein at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Camp Springs.

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