“Blood is thicker than water.” “He makes my blood boil.” We are related by blood.” So many sayings about “blood” and so many common sayings from culture to culture. It seems we humans are hard-wired to “know” the importance of the life fluid we call blood. And yet it would be a mistake to reduce this life-fluid to mere “scientism” of materialistic functionality. There is a mystery in the blood. And that mystery flows from why we humans are so self-aware of our own mortality and so protective of our survival. It is this self-awareness of our mortality that is at the heart of many of both our strengths and weaknesses. Our fear of death drives much of our selfish passions. But it can also wake us up to prepare for that inevitable moment.
Sure, we can give in to the current intoxication with materialism so popular today and reduce this mystery to Darwinian “survival of the fittest,” but in your heart you know that is too small to account for the centuries of poetry and beauty and terror and mythmaking that embrace this common human awareness of the red blood that flows in all our veins.
Look at our lesson today in Genesis 8:21-9:7:
And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s 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.”
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it.”
When God saves Noah and his family from the curse of the flood, He makes a promise to Noah that He will never again destroy the earth through the water. And what prompts this promise from God? When God revealed dry land to Noah and He commanded them to leave the ark for the dry land, Noah’s first act was to build an altar and make a sacrifice to God for His mercy towards Noah and his family and to acknowledge that God is truly Lord of all.
Notice, Moses writes in a poetic way about this scene. He says that God “smelled the pleasing odor.” I love Moses’ style! Of course, this poetic expression doesn’t mean God “smelled” or that the “odor” was particularly pleasant to God. We know God needs nothing. No, what God sees is the spiritual state of His creation responding in worship to their relationship with their Creator.
And that wise reaction to God’s mercy was sacrifice. Pay attention here!
And this sacrifice was a blood sacrifice because life is in the blood, and how we treat life reveals how and what we think of God! (Really IMPORTANT INSIGHT here)
God tells Noah that now all the animals will fear humanity and that the animals are given to humanity for food and the plants as well. God tells Noah, as He told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” He commands humanity not to “eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” This means we are not to devour animals while they are alive like beasts because we are not mere beasts. And we are not to kill each other because the blood is where life is and taking human life is a great wound to all of humanity.
All of this God tells Noah and us to remind us that our attitude towards this gift of life reveals our true selves and the state of our connection with God Himself. Soon, we will celebrate the very last blood sacrifice God received as we watch His Son, our Lord Jesus voluntarily ascend the wood of the Cross to show the whole world just how valuable God knows we all are.
St. Cuthbert, who we remember today, was born in Britain in about the year 635 AD and became a monk in his youth at the monastery of Melrose by the River Tweed. After many years of struggle as a true priest of Christ, in the service both of his own brethren and of the neglected Christians of isolated country villages, he became a solitary on Farne Island in 676 AD. After eight years as a hermit, he was constrained to leave his quiet to become Bishop of Lindisfarne, in which office he served for almost two years. He returned to his hermitage two months before he reposed in peace in 687 AD. Because of the miracles he did both during his life and at his tomb after his death, he is called the “Wonderworker of Britain.” His body was found to be Incorrupt almost 500 years after his death in the year 1104 AD. His Normal Orthodox life produced a saint and miracle worker who had so transcended by God’s grace the fear of death that physical death simply couldn’t consume his physical body!
Today, what is your attitude toward life? What is your attitude towards your food, your family, your neighbors, and even your enemies? Are you always aware of the precious nature of life, does your life reflect this awareness and does it draw adoration to God from your heart? Living a Normal Orthodox life means knowing in your very blood that God loves you!
P.S. While still in your youth you did lay aside all worldly care and did take up the sweet yoke of Christ, O godly-minded Cuthbert, and you were shown forth in truth to be nobly radiant in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Wherefore, God established you as a rule of faith and shepherd of His rational flock, O converser with Angels and intercessor for men. Pray to Christ, Our God, to save our souls.
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