Last time, we reflected on the first worship offered by human beings outside Paradise in the story of Cain and Abel, and we said that this story is kind of an archetypical story of the whole problematic of worship and sacrifice among human beings. The basic vision that we came to was that there is an innate need for human beings to worship, even to sacrifice. The fact that humans are creatures are felt by human beings, and so when they are estranged from the one, true, and living God, they don’t worship nothing; they worship anything. Usually they worship what they cannot understand in the cosmic powers, like fertility, like blood, like semen, like plants and animals and earth. The earth-mother religions are definitely appearing outside Paradise before the sky-father religions. Yahwism, which is a God-over-the-heavens-over-the-earth is a latecomer in religious history.
But there was among human beings this sense of powers that determine life—fates, destinies, gods, demons, whatever you want to call them—and they had to be dealt with. But they are dealt with in the fallen way by simply trying to con them, to appropriate them, to appease them, to win their favor, to get what one wants from them. And that basically would be a definition, in my opinion, of religion; that’s what religion is in this world, false religion, in any case, if we want to call Christianity a religion, which I don’t like to do, as you know. I would prefer to say that religions are all a mixture of good and evil and right and wrong all together, and they are the products of fallen man. The Gospel is God’s Gospel. It’s not according to man; it’s not from man. It’s not religion; it’s the end of all religions: the fulfillment and the destruction at the same time of all religions, bringing the kingdom of God to the world, the worship in spirit and truth, which we find in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, which is our claim, and not simply Christianity as another type of “religion.”
However, I believe and we’re going to see that I believe that we have paganized our Christianity. We have made Christianity into a pagan religion, where we worship God as we envision him to be—or her to be, if we prefer, nowadays, as she or he or it is—and then we deal with it according to our own fallen imagination and our fallen reason and our own fallen desires. That’s the radical opposite to holy Scripture, generally, the Old Testament, and certainly the radical opposite of the Gospel of God and Jesus and the Christian faith.
Now what we saw last time, when we meditated a bit on Cain and Abel, is that their sacrifices were offered. Abel’s was accepted; Cain’s was not. It was not because Abel’s was a sheep and Cain’s was of the earth, because these offerings are both acceptable to God, as we’ll see in Scripture later. It was because Abel did well, and Cain did not do well. And God says to Cain: “If you do well, will you not also be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door. This desire is for you, and you must master it.” So the claim is that Cain’s offering was mixed with sin, that he was not doing well, that he was offering the sacrifice to God in an impure and unrighteous manner, or the powers or whatever he was offering it to, although it already says in Genesis that people began to call on the name of the Lord, whatever that would mean. Maybe they realized there is a kind of a God that’s different simply from cosmic powers or demons or something.
But in any case, the claim would be that Abel is accepted because he offered in the right spirit. He offered in the right way. It was a righteous sacrifice of a righteous man to the righteous God, if you want to put it simply. And that’s why it was acceptable. But then, of course, the tragedy of the story is that Cain kills Abel. And there might even be something archetypal in that, too, namely that the human beings who offer to God worship in spirit and in truth are always radically persecuted and even killed by those who don’t. Maybe the story of Cain killing Abel is a story of humanity as such: fratricide, where brother kills brother because one is righteous and the other is not, and therefore God regards the sacrifice of one and not the other, because one is offered in spirit and truth and the other is not.
But in any case, what we see in the Cain and Abel story is: you have worship, you have sacrifice, and you have it shown, however you interpret it, that there is a mode of sacrifice that’s acceptable to God, and that there’s a mode of sacrifice and even worship that is not acceptable to God. That’s why, in the Christian Church and in the Orthodox Church, we are constantly praying, “Make our sacrifice acceptable. Make our prayer acceptable.” That’s why Paul will say, “Offer sacrifice that is acceptable to God, and he will call it a logikē latreia,” which is an offering of one’s own body as a living sacrifice. So sometimes it may be said that Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable because it was an offering of his whole life, his whole being: body, soul, mind, heart. In that sheep that he offered, he was offering his total self, whereas Cain was not, and that’s what made God not look properly upon his sacrifice.
But now let’s move to Noah. Noah is also a holy pagan, so to speak. He’s not of Israel; it’s before Abraham. The Bible moves immediately from the Cain and Abel part to the genealogy, Lamech, and then we finally get to Seth and we get to the fifth chapter and we get to Noah. Hopefully we all know the Noah story, but, in a nutshell, this, of course, is the story that God is working with his people, and he gets to the time of Noah, and God is doing everything he can with an apostate people. He’s trying to deal with them as he can, and then what it says in the Scripture is that God is very, very unpleased with the humanity that he has created. So, for example, in the sixth chapter, the fifth verse, it says that “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth.” This is the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
And God saw that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man (humanity, that is) on earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
You have this speaking of “God’s heart,” the inner being of God.
So the Lord said: I will blot out humanity whom I have created from the face of the ground: man and beast and creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry (I regret) that I have made them. But (it says) Noah found favor in the eyes of God.
And then what you have happening is that the earth is corrupt in God’s sight, the earth is violence, God sees that the earth—“And behold, it was all corrupt. God saw for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.” So God says to Noah:
I am determined to make an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
And then God orders Noah to make this ark, to build this ark, because God said:
Behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark: you, your sons, your wife, your sons’ wives with you. And every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, male and female.
Now it says that Noah starts building this ark before there’s even any water. We should know that the story of a flood was very common in Canaanite culture. There are many stories about a flood and that God had flooded everything and started everything over, but the interpretation of that particular story—we might call it even a mythic story or a cultural story in that region of the earth, where God is acting specifically—is that the Bible, the inspired word of God, is going to give the interpretation of this in the proper way, and they’re going to understand it as the action of God Almighty, destroying all the wicked people of the earth and particularly saving Noah alone, because he is a righteous man. So you have the righteous God dealing with the righteous man again. So he orders Noah to build the ark, and then Noah starts building it.
We won’t go through the story about how Noah builds it and how big it is and how it comes and what animals come in. You could read that yourself. But then the flood comes upon the earth, and then the heavens are opened, and the waters under the earth are opened—because they believed there was waters over the earth and waters under the earth—and a might deluge of powerful waters comes to destroy this. And waters will be forever after, just like they were in the first line of Genesis, the sign of chaos, confusion, and destruction. That’s why in the Genesis story of creation, the spirit of God is over the abyss, and there’s the waters, and the primal waters are chaotic. They are not cosmic; they are not under God’s order. The first victory of God is the victory over nothingness and disorder and primal chaos; that’s what the Bible teaches. And God is the God over all of those things, and then he divides the waters from the waters. So you have the waters over the heavens, the waters under the earth, and God keeps them all intact and then God sets the bounds to the waters on the earth: the sands of the sea.
But here God unleashes this chaotic power of the waters, and we should remember that in the pagan Canaanite religion, these were demons; these were gods in the waters. That’s why Genesis is so important to say these waters are not gods; they are not ultimate powers. They are under the power of the one, true, and living God, who created the heaven and the earth, who will be called Elohim or God, and will be called also Adonai, the Lord, and will also be called Yahweh ultimately. That will be his name.
So it says that God remembers Noah, saves Noah and his generations with him, and then finally the flood [subsides]. And we know the dove comes, and the Christians in the New Testament interpreted that as the coming of the Holy Spirit again over the waters, brings peace to the world again. Then God shows a rainbow which shows that he will never again do this, but that his mercy is upon us. Then what happens is he makes this covenant with Noah, so-called Noahic covenant, the covenant of Noah, which precedes the covenant with Abraham and then the covenant with Moses and then the covenant, ultimately, with Christ.
What happens after the flood is this: it says ([Genesis 8:20ff]): “Noah built an altar to the Lord.” So you have Noah immediately offering sacrifice, building an altar to the Lord upon which to offer worship, to offer sacrifice. Then it says: “He took of every clean animal and every clean bird, and he offered burnt offerings on the altar.” So there you have the sacrifice again, that sacrifice that’s inherent in humanity. Now here Noah is giving this sacrifice to God because God has saved him, because God had protected him. God protected him against all these evil and carnal powers that could have destroyed him. He brought him into this ark which is the ark of salvation.
So when Noah offers his offering upon the altar… And he builds an altar. It’s not just a pile of stones or something, or just taking an animal and cutting its throat or burning up some grain or something. He makes an altar. That’s a place of sacrifice, and we’ll see that Christians will continue to have altars in the Church. We will have the altar table in the church, which will be the center of the church upon which the Gospel book is enthroned and where the offering is made. So there’s the altar. Then it says:
When the Lord smelled the pleasing odor (the fragrance, that’s a nice smell, good smell), the Lord said in his heart: I will never again curse the ground because of man (of humanity), for the imagination of human heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.
So here you have the promise of God of preserving humanity and his creation unto ages of ages. It shall not cease. Then God blesses Noah and his sons. He tells them like he told Adam and Eve in Paradise: Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth. It’s exactly what he tells Adam and Eve. Then it says:
The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and every bird of the air and everything that creeps, the fish in the sea; everything that moves that lives shall be food for you.
So now Noah and his children are permitted to eat the animals and the fish and the birds, which Adam and Eve did not in Paradise. Adam and Eve in Paradise ate only the fruits of the trees, but God gives the food and the green plants: “I give you everything,” he said. “The only thing you shall not eat is flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” So you already have blood and life being connected with the animals and that the sacrificial animal, the blood was to be given to God; its life was to be given to God. And it was a sign and an expression and an offering that the person himself had given himself to God.
This is what the Noah story is about. Noah was a righteous man who worshiped the righteous God and gave himself to God as a righteous man, and therefore the righteous God saved him. Then when he was saved and redeemed by God, he offered the sacrifice of thanksgiving, the sacrifice of praise, which became the heart of the covenant that God establishes with Noah and with his descendents forever after [him]. So God said, “I will establish my covenant with you and never again shall all flesh be cut off, but the waters of the flood, never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth,” and God said:
This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you for all future generations. I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
And the bow in the cloud, of course, is the rainbow of the many colors, the sign of the covenant. Here I can’t resist telling you that in the chapel of the monastery of the nuns of the Transfiguration, where I serve as the priest now when I’m here and with the blessing of the abbess, it’s interesting that around the altar area of the church on the ceiling, in between the frescoes, there’s the colors of the rainbow in a kind of a stripe that goes across that goes across the top of the church. It’s so nice that every time you go in there and you look up, you see this rainbow border over the icon screen, which reminds you that there is this covenant that God has made with Noah.
What is it that we need to see here? What must we see? We see again what we already saw in Cain and Abel: that Noah’s worship is acceptable because it’s the worship of gratitude and thanksgiving for what God has done. Noah is not trying to get God to do something for him, as he desires. Noah is a righteous man who obeys and worships God, by the word planted within him, it seems, because this is what we have. It’s just a human being following the instinct within his heart of what is good, true, and beautiful. Here the Apostle Paul would be very clear that in every human being, every Gentile, no matter who they are, there is a law written on the heart; there is the implanted word, as James will call it in the New Testament.
That cannot be completely erased by anybody, and if someone is a good, honest, true person and desires what is good and true and beautiful, they will immediately intuit the things of God, as St. Paul said in Romans. They will intuit the power and divinity of God. They will see the invisible things of God. They will realize… At first this vision may not be very clear, and it’ll be mixed together with evils. I mean, even Noah after he came out of the ark and offered the [sacrifice] and God blessed him and created the covenant with him, he got in trouble by making wine and drinking it and getting drunk, and then his sons come in and they uncover his nakedness—that’s a euphemism for doing some sexual act. So even Noah was not without failure after the ark and the salvation of the ark.
But still what we have to see is that the worship of Noah was the worship of thanksgiving. It was the worship of praise; it was the worship of gratitude. It was the worship of God’s glad tidings and good news of the victory over the enemies, over all carnality, evil, and violence that was reigning on the earth and humanity and those who were with Noah.
So here this is what we see, and here this F.D. Maurice that I mentioned in the book about sacrifice, The Doctrine of Sacrifice, written in 1879 that I happened to discover by seeing Maurice’s name in a meditation book and then pursuing him to find out who he was and discovering his book… I’m just going to read to you a little bit from this book of this Anglican divine of the 19th century. He said:
The man who came out of the ark and builded an altar to the Lord must have felt that he was representing all human beings (because he was the whole of humanity there); that he was not speaking what was in himself so much as (he was) offering the homage of the restored universe.
Isn’t that beautiful? That Noah was offering the gratitude and the thanksgiving and the praise and the worship for the restored universe? That’s what Christians are going to do in the ultimate restoration of the universe by Jesus Christ, the ultimate, perfect, once-for-all restoration of the universe. That’s why the Divine Liturgy is going to be the offering of all humanity to God through Jesus, on behalf of all and for all, as we’re going to see. Here it says this is how Noah understood himself. He had been saved; he had been redeemed. In him the whole humanity had been saved. Then Maurice continues:
He was not speaking what was in himself so much as offering the restored universe. He had prepared an ark for the saving of his house…
“He”—that means God.
...but that ark had been for the saving of the human race which (he) God had made in his own image, of all the races which he had made subject to that. The simple mind of a patriarch could not take in so vast a thought as this; what need (did Noah have to take in such a vast and glorious thought)? (Nevertheless) it (seems) true; if he could not comprehend it, yet he (Noah) could speak out the marvel and the awe of his heart to (God) who knew all (things).
In other words, Noah may not himself have realized, according to the story, what was really going on, but what was going on was a universal victory of God and the restoration of creation through Noah, who then becomes a prefiguration of Christ himself. Of course, as we will see, the ark becomes the prefiguration of the Christian Church: the ark of salvation. Even the waters of the flood will prefigure baptism. This is what we will have in the New Testament and in the Orthodox service of baptism, where the floods come, and the floods are saving, the waters are saving. The floods are no longer destructive. They destroy the evil, but they preserve the good. So it says; Maurice writes:
What was Noah’s sacrifice but this? As childlike as that of the man who first gazed on the strange world, (but) could not interpret it; who first saw death, and wanted to be told what it signified; who first felt sin, and would (run away) from it. As childlike as (Noah was, and his attitude to reality, because he was a righteous man in the midst of such evil); perhaps more childlike, because (of) the oppression of ages and of the sin which had been done in them, (all) the deaths (that) had died in them (which) was greater than that which (anyone) could experience…
So Maurice writes:
It was because of (this) sense of deliverance and redemption and restoration—the assurance that the righteous God was a deliverer, a redeemer, a restorer, (a savior, a protector)—must have been such (in Noah) as no one could have had…
...or had seen until that time; no one could have had that experience of Noah, of what a redeeming, restoring, saving, protecting, healing God God himself was. And this is what Noah realized, and this is the meaning of the covenant, and this is the meaning of what the sacrifice of Noah was all about.
We have also to see the prefiguration of all this in Christ, which I already alluded to, because certainly the Christian Church is understood as the ark of salvation, and there is definitely in the Scriptures, the New Testament Scriptures and certainly in the Tradition of the Christian Church, that to be saved is to get into the ark. To [be saved] is to respond to God’s saving call. To be saved even is to build the ark. Isn’t it marvelous that Noah trusted God and believed in him before there was any rain at all? That’s always pointed out by our holy Fathers, that Noah probably looked like a crazy person. He was building this huge boat, and it wasn’t even wet; it was sitting on dry land! He wasn’t even near any water. Not a drop of rain had yet fallen, but he trusted God, he believed God, he took God at his word—unlike Adam and Eve, unlike even Cain. In other words, his understanding was God-centered. He obeyed God. He believed God. He trusted God. And he did what God told him to do.
Then God did it. God justified what he asked him to do, because the rains came and the floods burst, and only those who were in the ark were saved. There are many, many writings of Church Fathers, allegorical writings about the ark as prefiguring the Church. There’s a Western writer named Hugh of St. Victor who has an incredibly detailed allegorical interpretation of the ark and the animals and so on, applying it to the Christian Church with its various mansions, its various rooms, all the people in it and so on. But there’s that idea that the ark is saving and it is the Church. When church buildings were built, the central part of the building was called the nave; that means the boat, that means the ark. When we come into the church, we are entering into the ark.
Once, as a young man, in 1961, before many of you listeners were even born, I was on Mount Athos. I was a young student; I was 22 years old, maybe getting on 23 there. But in any case, I went to Mt. Athos, and it was terrible. It was just so terrible. There were few monks. They were very old. Some of them were obviously crazy. Some were obviously mentally ill. You had these big, huge buildings that were empty and decrepit. There’s nothing more depressing than decrepit opulence, when you have a building that’s really rich and beautiful and marble and velvet and everything, and it’s just junky and dirty and falling apart. That’s how St. Panteleimon Monastery was in 1961 on Mt. Athos when I was there as a young fellow, and it was really depressing.
There used to be enough seats in the refectory for 2,000 monks, and now there were maybe 30 old guys, all strange type of people, really. I had some bad experiences with those monks on Mt. Athos, which I will leave unsaid on the radio. But it was a very depressing thing for me to see all of that—except that I could imagine what it once was, and when I was in the church with the two choirs which now had five or six old men on either side, and they were deaf and couldn’t even hear each other… It was pretty bad. Now it’s not that way any more, thank God; a big renaissance took place.
But the point I want to make now, the little story I want to tell now is: When I was on Mt. Athos in 1961, before I had gone there, I had never heard what is called the sēmandron. That’s a piece of wood that is banged on with a hammer, a wooden mallet, that calls people to worship. The nuns here at Transfiguration Monastery, and virtually all of our monasteries, have this particular practice. It probably grew up when Christians were not allowed to ring bells or didn’t have any bells to call the people to worship. Of course, Panteleimon Monastery had a huge bell given by the tsar of Russia, which I don’t think they rang very much.
The monastic regular daily services, we were called to worship by this knocking on this wood. [Rhythmic knocking] You hear this knock like I’m knocking on my desk right now. You’d hear that knocking on this wood, and I didn’t know what this was. I had never heard it, and I wondered, “What is that knocking? Somebody’s pounding on wood.” So I stuck my head out of the room where they had put me. I remember that it was a huge corridor that the rooms were numbered like 401, 402, 403, but there were monks in them; they were empty. They were filled with cobwebs and cockroaches and God-knows-what. Anyway, I stuck my head out in the hall, and of course there was no electricity there at that time; everything was pitch-black darkness. Even the church just had kerosene lamps. I remember when they had me read the psalms in Church Slavonic, I could hardly see because of the smoke from the lamp, and I would stumble over all the words, and the monks out of the darkness would say the psalms by memory to me when I would mess up the text in my reading.
But in any case, I stuck my head out of the room, and this very old monastic figure, like a shadow, was shuffling down the corridor. He’s old and couldn’t walk quickly and was walking slowly, was shuffling, kind of gliding almost with his monastic mantiya flowing behind him and so on. I said to him in Russia, “Father, what’s happening? What’s that noise? What’s going on?” because I didn’t know; that’s how dumb I was, ignorant. And the voice came from that shadowy monastic figure, which I remember to this minute. He said: “Noye stroit kovcheg! Noah is building the ark! Come and jump on and be saved—or you will perish!” Every time now when the nuns have the services and I’m serving for them and they start the service by going outside and banging on this sēmandron, this wooden thing with their wooden hammer before they ring the bells—the nuns also ring the bells, but they usually start off with the banging on the wood; sometimes it’s only the wood; they don’t ring the bells at all the time—but in any case, any time I hear that pounding on the wood, I think: “Noah is building the ark! Jump on and be saved!” That’s what the Christian Church is.
I can’t resist saying also another story, that once I knew a fellow—he was a professor at a university who converted to Orthodox Christianity, and it was kind of surprising event. He was a very learned fellow; he was teaching at Princeton. I met this man, and I said, “Oh, I see you’ve joined the Orthodox Church. You entered into communion with the Orthodox Church. That’s a kind of a daring thing to do for a person like you.” I think he was a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant before, and in any case I said, “That’s really something.” This was many years ago, 30 years ago, when it was much more difficult in those days to become an Orthodox. And I’ll never forget how he looked at me, smilingly, and he said, “Yep! I jumped on the ark, and it definitely is saving, but it’s in midst of storms, and it’s filled with animals, and it stinks to high heaven! But God is there, and it is saving.” I always remember his description of the Orthodox Church as a stinky Noah’s ark that is in the midst of a storm, but it’s still saving, filled with animals.
But it’s interesting, also, that in the offering that Noah makes after the flood, it’s so interesting that it says:
Noah built an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar, and when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the pleasing fragrance, the Lord said in his heart: I will never again curse the ground because of humanity.
So here’s another thing to be meditated: the sweet-smelling fragrance. And worship in spirit and truth has to be the sweet-smelling fragrance of the righteous life. Of course, in the Orthodox Church, we have sweet-smelling fragrance all over the place. We burn the incense, which is a sweet-smelling fragrance; it smells really nice. We also have oils, myrrh and so on, with sweet-smelling fragrance that we use when we’re anointed. Fragrance is a very important part of worship, because we not only see, we not only hear, we not only taste, we not only touch, but we smell!
Interestingly, in the New Testament, Christ is called “our fragrance unto God.” He is the offering that is sweet-smelling, sweet-smelling fragrance to God. And when we read the prophets and when we talk about the prophets, we will see that the sacrifice that is not acceptable to God is described as stinking. It’s a stench; it’s a foul stench. God doesn’t like to smell it. He turns his nose away from it. If you want to read about that, just read the first chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah, where God says: I hate your offerings. I hate your burnt-offerings. You offer them, thinking to con me, but you don’t follow righteousness. You don’t care for the poor and the needy; you don’t care for the widow and the orphan. You just offer it on your own terms to get what you want. This kind of sacrifice and worship I will never accept. In the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, when it speaks about this imagery of fragrance, what God says in Isaiah is: “Your incense is an abomination to me.” In other words, what you’re offering as a vain offering is an abomination.
I cannot endure iniquity in solemn assembly. Your new moons and appointed feasts my soul hates. I am weary of bearing them. When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen to you. Your hands are filled with blood. You are oppressors; you are evil-doers, and yet you dare to come and offer sacrifice.
Of course, the psalmist will say that the sacrifice acceptable to God is the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It’s the offering not in the pagan way, but in the way of the true God in spirit and truth which is pure gratitude, glory, thanksgiving, honor, obedience to God for his redeeming and saving activity, just like he did with Noah in the ark. And so when you offer a sacrifice for that, when you worship in that spirit, then it is sweet-smelling.
It’s interesting that where, in Isaiah, it says, “Your offerings are an abomination to me,” someone once told me that if you read that line literally in Hebrew, it says, “Your offering stinks.” There’s a stench to it. It doesn’t smell nice. And here, I’ve heard people say, even if we buy our incense in the most Orthodox of monasteries and, I don’t know, made on Mt. Athos or somewhere else, even if it physically smells nice, in God’s nostrils it stinks if it is not offered with thanksgiving and gratitude and righteousness to God. So this is very, very important that it says when Noah offered his sacrifice, that God accepted it as a sweet spiritual fragrance.
It’s interesting that in the Orthodox Church to this day, we ask God to accept our offerings in that way, and particularly when we burn incense. When we burn the incense in the Orthodox Church, we say, “Incense we offer to you, O Christ our God, as a sweet spiritual savor, which do you accept upon the altar above the heaven,” and that it would be acceptable and not offensive, not scandalous to God. So the ethical, the spiritual, the theological elements have to be all in order in order for the sacrifice to be acceptable and proper in God’s eyes. This is what we see already in the offering of Noah after the flood.
We saw it prefigured more dimly in the story of Cain and Abel, and then we see it more clearly, more accurately disclosed in the story of Noah. But we will continue to reflect again on the Genesis stories when we get to the sacrifice of Abraham and the sacrifice of Jacob-Israel, to see how these are to be acceptable in the sight of the Lord. What is the worship in spirit and truth, prefigured already clearly in the Old Testament? which is always a worship of gratitude and glory for the graces and the gifts that God gives. They are not sacrifices to con God into getting him to do what we want; they are sacrifices of praise, sacrifices of thanksgiving, sacrifices of worship and adoration, because of who God is and what God does. The real God, not the gods we imagine, not the gods we fabricate or manufacture, but God as God really is. That God wants from us worship in spirit and in truth, and we see this being given by Abel, and we see this being given by Noah; and the next time we will reflect about Abraham.