God’s Grace in the Life of Enoch

“God’s Grace in the Life of Enoch”

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; August 13, 2017

10th Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 5:21-24; Hebrews 11:1-6

 

Nearly every First Friday for the past six months, visitors have attended our new Contemplative Service. This month, though, we had a few repeat visitors, which is always something to celebrate. When I told one woman I was glad to see her again, she replied, “Well, you told me to come back and to invite my friends. I invited 49 people. Some came—but I’m sure the rain kept a few away.” Another woman, Bonnie, a friend of Sissy’s, who enjoys the service, commented how much she liked one of the chants we sing, “The Jesus Prayer.” She said she keeps a bulletin in her car and sings it when she drives. Sissy, who happened to be standing nearby, said, “I know! I keep singing it, too. I even wake up with it going through my head like an ear worm. But it occurred to me, I could have worse things going through my head!”

 

One of the benefits of learning chants and other short refrains is that they can get into our heads and move into our hearts. Then as we go about our lives, the words may arise of their own accord or we can draw them up when we need them most. One such refrain has often ministered to me. It is from a CD collection of morning and evening prayers. The words are printed in your bulletin. Let’s take a moment to learn it:

 

I will walk in the presence of God in the land of the living.

I will walk in the presence of God. (Repeat)

 

Walking in the presence of God—for as long as we are alive on the planet—what a beautiful image—an image that might bring to mind the life of someone like Enoch. Scripture does not tell us a lot about him other than in Genesis: “Enoch walked with God …then he was no more because God took him.”  Also, we learn that he was the father of Methuselah.  The Letter to the Hebrews tells us:  “By faith, Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death…he was not found because God had taken him…for he had pleased God.”

 

If we look outside the Christian canon, we find that Enoch has been attributed the apocryphal text, The Book of Enoch. Actually, 1st Enoch is quoted in The Letter of Jude. Other resources credit Enoch as the inventor of writing, and arithmetic—not to mention the eyed metal needle used in sewing, which explains why some believe he earned his livelihood as a tailor.

 

No, Scripture does not give us much—just enough to leave us wanting more. We want to know what about Enoch pleased God so much. We want to know why he was so special that he did not taste death. We want to know exactly what it looks like to “walk with God.”

 

These days, walking is considered more of a scientifically proven, healthy, aerobic exercise than a means of transportation or a simple form of leisure. Honestly, how often do most of us take relaxing strolls through parks or meander through the neighborhood to simply enjoy the crisp morning air?  I cannot help but wonder what Enoch, Moses or even Jesus would think of our aerobic exercise. Certainly, brisk walking is good for our health because it strengthens our heart and lungs, sharpens our mind, and boosts our overall sense of well-being.  It also gives us the added benefit of getting us out from “under roof.”  Then, if even for a short time, we are no longer in our office, in our fast-moving vehicle or even inside our homes taken captive by the television or computer. Instead, for a while, we are outside in God’s wondrous creation.

 

All this leads us back to something Enoch knew—but something we may have forgotten:  Walking with God is good for our spiritual health. But the heart of the matter isn’t even really the walking. (We could just as easily be rocking on the front porch!) The heart of the matter is making time to intentionally be present with God our Creator. It is spending time with God in the midst of our joys as well as our struggles. It is staying connected to our Heavenly Father who has a way of guiding us and helping us put things in perspective. And it’s sharing our faith journey so others may come to know this Great God we serve. Failing that, we just might bypass the most important things of life. How, then, can we truly please God?

 

Over the years, I have often thought of Enoch and imagined his life. I wonder if his story goes a little like this:

 

Enoch had a powerful love of God. He also had lots of responsibilities to occupy his day. Although having enough money to fill up his automobile with gasoline was not on the top of his list of priorities, he had other worries that were just as real to him. He had a family—wife, children—and an occupation. But somehow, Enoch always had time for God. Each day he would rise early, sometimes with back aching and bones creaking. He would rise early because he knew God was waiting for him. Off he’d go, toward the fields of wildflowers and honeysuckle, just over the ridge where he would meet God and they would walk together. What wonderful talks they had. Enoch shared his delight in his son, Methuselah, saying something like, “He’s strong and healthy; he’s going to live for ages and ages.”  And God smiled. He spoke of his wife, their love and the good life they shared and he thanked God.

 

Some days Enoch had doubts and problems to share with God—an old friend had wronged him—how could he make amends?  A child who didn’t share his faith in God—why?  A mother who went into a deep depression when her husband died—could God give her peace? Neighbors who did not know God—how might Enoch share his faith with unbelievers?

Other days were spent in simple companionship. Enoch loved stories and God loved telling them. God told of how the world was created, the joy of the first man and woman and tons of other incredible stories. They spoke of the natural beauty of the land, the gardens and springs and all the creatures that made life so interesting. Enoch never tired of praising God for God’s creative nature. And God never tired of pouring out his love upon Enoch.

Day after day, Enoch, a man of faith, walked with God, which pleased God so! One day, without them even noticing it, their walk had taken much longer than usual. Turning and looking at Enoch with such pride, God said, “Enoch, you know, we’ve walked together for years and today we’ve walked farther from your home than ever before.  Actually, we’re closer to my place now.  How about you come on home with me?  Enoch smiled and together God and Enoch walked just over the ridge…forever.

 

We are all on a journey, a pilgrimage. There are problems that we face that will challenge us, no doubt. But we gain strength by remembering the great cloud of witnesses who are a part of our faith story. We gain strength by remembering Enoch who pleased God. We gain strength by remembering that we never walk alone. Even when we face a crossroads when the journey ahead is unclear—God is already there. Along these lines, Thomas Merton is often quoted from Thoughts in Solitude:

 

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does, in fact, please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

 

“Enoch walked with God …and then Enoch was no more.”  Unlike Enoch, unless the Lord returns in our lifetime, we will face death. But even death, we need not fear. Because of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lived, died and was resurrected—death has no hold on us. We need not fear the journey ahead. We need not fear the destination for it’s just over the ridge…forever!

 

As long as we have breath, as long as we are in the land of the living, may we walk in the presence of God! Let us sing:

 

I will walk in the presence of God in the land of the living.

I will walk in the presence of God. (Repeat)

 

*Cover Art  via Google Images