Dear church,

I had a difficult time processing the events in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. Hundreds of people, perhaps thousands, swarmed the capitol building. A woman was shot to death. Several others died of medical emergencies. The day was tragic.

It clearly was a scary situation for those who were in the capitol – the politicians and their staffers. The pictures of them “sheltering in place” made me gulp. I wondered what they were thinking.

Thankfully, the storming of the capitol didn’t seem very organized. Once the protestors – rioters – entered the building, they didn’t seem to have much of a plan. Videos and photographs showed some rioters simply standing around, yelling. Others walked the halls and banged on doors. There was some pilfering of offices, apparently, but it seemed rather random. 

I saw a picture of one guy in body paint and Viking horns, who seemed to have taken up court in the capitol. A few people were standing there listening to him, but not many. 

Also, thankfully, nothing was set on fire. For some reason, I had it in my mind that all good riots are accompanied by fire. But that was not the case at the capitol, which is good.

But one of the big reasons I’ve had a difficult time processing these events was because of the ease by which the protestors and rioters entered the capitol. I would have hoped the building would have been more secure. Why not more police? Why not more riot gear on the police who were there? Why didn’t they have those big plastic shields other riot police have? 

And how about this, why not board up the capitol, knowing events like this might happen? You’ll scoff at this idea, I’m sure. But why not?

It seems like the business owners of America have more sense than the capitol police on these matters. Perhaps business owners simply are more experienced with this kind of thing. Deep in our big cities, whenever these entrepreneurs sense a riot coming, they now are proactive. The plywood is pulled out and mounted to the windows. Sometimes, business owners even write supportive messages to the expected rioters, hoping to calm their rage and get them to move on to some other place. “Don’t burn this one down, please!” they seem to be saying.

We can imagine the scene on the eve of an expected riot. The windows are boarded up. Vehicles are removed. The streets are quiet in expectation. I suppose it’s similar to when a hurricane is expected to make landfall. 

The waiting is probably the hardest part. To wait for some negative event, wondering just how bad it will be, is probably tortuous. I suppose the capitol police experienced some of this as they waited. 

Genesis 10 is one of those boring chapters of the Bible. Not much happens in it. Definitely not a riot. It’s just another genealogy, a list of names and places. We get to see what happens with Noah and his sons. 

“These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood” (Genesis 10:1).

The aim of this chapter is to memorialize how the nations took their shape. Some familiar names emerge – like Egypt and Canaan, and the Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, and Hivites. We learn where the Philistines came from. We learn about Nimrod, the mighty hunter.

“These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood” (Genesis 10:32).

We don’t, of course, lose sight of the flood. Mass destruction had just wiped out most of humanity and the animal kingdom. God’s wrath against sin is eye-opening and scary. I’m sure Noah had plenty of anxious moments of anticipation until God finally boarded up the ark before the storm. 

With Noah, God was starting anew. The rainbow was in the sky. The earth was fresh and clean – except perhaps for a rotting corpse here or there. This was a new day, a new chapter in time. 

God made a covenant with Noah, and his family was sent out into the world. They were fruitful and multiplied. The story, perhaps, would be different this time. 

But we know it was not. These sons of Noah turned out to be more of the same. Humanity, despite all of our fresh starts and our new year’s resolutions, tends to move in one direction only. And that direction is into sin. And away from God.

And this cleansed creation once again had to endure the foibles of humanity. The wickedness and hatred and violence started again. Even out of this good man. Noah, we remember, was a righteous man. He was blameless in his generation. He had found favor in the eyes of God.

And now, upon the earth, were released the sons of Noah. And the breakdown started all over again. 

All we have to do is look out upon our world. We can see it. We can see anguish. Behind all the protests and the riots is anguish. People are in anguish because things aren’t turning out for them the way they would like.

And they turn their disappointment and their anger against those whom they believe are thwarting them. They turn against white people, wealthy people, Republicans, Democrats, the police, the media, politicians, election officials, landlords, public health officials, the anti-maskers – and on and on it goes. 

The riot at the capitol, and the riots in our cities, are the result of anguish – a longing for something better and something more. The sons of Noah have made a mess of things.

As Christians, we know that we participate in the mess and the anguish. Every human bears responsibility because every human sins. The mistakes we soon read about by Noah’s offspring are the same mistakes we continually make. On and on it goes. Sin continues its steady march, emerging out of the actions and mouths of men, women, and children. 

And if creation itself could do it, it would board up its windows and its doors. It would lock away its precious things. And it would hope that the sons of Noah would pass on by. Creation has a lot at stake here, too. And the sons of Noah bring riots with them. 

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19).

Well, that is interesting. There is hope. And creation hopes for something new – for the sons of God.

The reality for Christians is we are being revealed as “sons of God” even now. We are the fateful sons of Noah who now have been adopted and brought to the table of our Father like unruly and filthy street urchins. We are people of the riot, well fed and in better clothes.

Our adopted Father is doing something new with us. We are the ones for which creation is waiting with eager longing – the adopted brothers and sisters of the true Son.

And now, inside of these old sons of Noah is the life-giving, fruit-filled Holy Spirit. It is persistently shaking loose from us the old disappointments and anguish – and with them, the riots.

In the quiet of our souls, we wait patiently and with hope for the new thing God is doing within us. We become people of peace. And creation – and every business owner and capitol police officer – will be happy to see us coming.


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