July 6, 2014 – All fall down

Romans 1:18-21, 2:1-4

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…. You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Romans 5:12-19

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned– To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Genesis 3:1-24

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasing to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.

Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

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Pentecost 4   July 6, 2014   Psalm 51, Romans 1:18-21, 2:1-4; 5:12-19; Genesis 3

all fall down

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When the first couple ate of that one forbidden fruit from the one tree of which they had been commanded not to eat –

Whatever made them want to eat that? –

Remembering they were in a paradise of a place called Eden, with everything pleasant and good, all provided, free of charge… A gracious garden full of all sorts of good and beautiful and pleasant trees to look at and eat from…Only one tree to not eat from…

And here’s first man and woman, made by God, and very good by design…

What could make them want to disobey and do the one thing God said not to do?

And as we replay the game tapes again and again, it sure seems..Why we did the one thing God said not to do – just isn’t a question the bible is very interested in answering…at least not very directly… and –

If we’re having trouble with this story of a snake talking, and God walking, and man and woman hiding in the Garden, fearfully sewing clothing for themselves to cover the nakedness they were completely unashamed of a few minutes ago –

Or if we’re looking for the part about the apple, wondering if it was a McIntosh, a Red Delicious, or maybe a Power Book, that type of Apple? –

Well, again, this is something the bible doesn’t seem interested in answering. In fact, we’re never told this fruit was an apple – it could just as easily have been a mango, avocado or a fig, for all we know.

And if we’re looking for the word fall in the story – it’s not here – nor do we find the word fall anywhere in the bible, scholars tell us, in any direct reference to this story. Though there does seem to have been a serious disaster of some kind, by whatever name we call it –

And if we’re wondering if the fall or crash or wreck of the first humans has condemned all sinners to hell ever since – or if maybe that was an exaggeration –

And if we’re having a hard time separating what we’ve heard about the story from what the bible actually says – Well –

We’re in good company. Plenty of people of faith have struggled with this story over the millennia…

And even though the mystery of the story and the way it tells itself can still be perplexing and vexing – at the same time, most of us still admit – this story still describes the basics of life on earth… very accurately.

As we overhear –   Adam blaming this disobedience on his wife, who gave him the fruit – And indirectly blaming God, who gave him his wife – and –

Eve blames it all on the serpent, who deceived her into seeing (mistakenly, turns out) that the tree was good for food, and pleasing to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise – and –

The serpent, who was not at a loss for words just a few minutes ago, is now strangely silent – and –

Even if God has this annoying habit of not explaining everything we’re curious about… Still probably we can relate to the story… If we remember –

Distant memories of childhood – and feeling at home with God and family and nature – even if our memories blend and blur with holy dreams and imaginings of a place and time where everything’s all good all the time, and we’re truly innocent… unaware of anything not being good and true and holy…

A dream of course we regularly awaken from… to find ourselves in a world of pain and suffering… A world of he said, she said, the snake said, and the devil made me do it the first time, the second time I did it on my own… And he blames her, and she blames the snake, and the snake keeps talking slippery half-truths that we keep half-believing…

And one of us takes a little bite, then the other a little bite too, and soon and very soon, we don’t even know how it happened… Suddenly the whole world has eaten of that one forbidden fruit, without knowing the why or how of it…

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But now we do know (if we’re paying attention)… that all of us humans, ever since, are subject to being somewhat delusional…

Kinda-sorta knowing what’s good and evil – maybe. Or maybe we’ve just accepted the serpent’s word over the word of God… And maybe what we think is good and what’s evil is mostly just the slippery talk we want to hear…

We don’t even have to believe more than a tiny bit of what the serpent says to be tricked into thinking like a snarky snake… When the snake asks first “did God really say ‘you shall not eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden?’” – Eve actually catches the lie suggested in the question. But as she engages in dialogue now with the serpent, she ends up distorting what God said, also. Saying, incorrectly, God forbids even touching the fruit of that tree. Which is not what God said…

Some bible scholars have called the snake the first theologian. Theology means literally God-talk. Perhaps the original sin of theology is talking about God without inviting God into every word of the conversation…

When we talk about someone when they’re not present to speak for themselves we are already on the edge of gossip. When we talk about God without inviting God to speak – we’re slip-sliding down a slippery slope…

If we listen to talk about God without inviting God into our conversation – it’s easy to believe the snake – who is quite skillful in the craft of speaking half-truths. The serpent tells Eve that if she eats of the forbidden fruit she won’t die – even though God said (Genesis chapter two), ‘on the day that you eat of that fruit you will die’. The serpent says “you will not die – but your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

And if we want to be more literal than God, the serpent is right. The punishment of death was promised that day, if the fruit was eaten. Yet Adam goes on to live 930 years… Of course time is relative. (God made it that way.) And a thousand years for God is like a single day or a watch in the night (Psalm 90 tells us). And yes, the eyes of Adam and Eve are opened wide to see what they hadn’t seen before – especially to see – now they’re in deep, way over their heads, in a much-darker world than they’d ever imagined… Seeing now, that even though they are indeed made-in-the-image-of-God, created to be children-of-God – Still, they are not (by any stretch) like God in all things…

Now suddenly Eve and Adam see the not-good-side of life…that God had tried to protect them from…

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And we may still perhaps be wondering –

Would Adam and Eve have lived forever if they hadn’t eaten that forbidden fruit?

Or was the death God was speaking of the death of innocence? A death they indeed died that very day?

Was perhaps their exile from the garden now an act of mercy? Once the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil was eaten – now, if the first couple were to eat of the Tree of Life and live forever – knowing good and evil, yet woefully lacking in the spiritual maturity needed to be able to enjoy eternal life – Perhaps sparing them from premature life eternal was a blessing, not a curse…

Saints and scholars through the ages have discussed, debated, and pondered all this… And we still don’t know for sure…

What we do know for sure from scripture is that –

even though this is an extremely nasty fall from primal grace and innocence…

Even though we’re now living outside the garden, subject to death and pain, amidst thorns and thistles and oppression of one by the other, and all the troubles that come with life ever since…

Even though the letter to the Romans tells us all have sinned as a result of Adam’s transgression – (Adam is shorthand for Adam and Eve here – they’re one flesh – and since he was the one who heard the ‘don’t eat’ command from God directly, he’s more guilty than she is, probably)…

Even though however it was transmitted, the reality of sin – meaning broken relationship with God – now is a reality all humans certainly share in…

Even knowing all of this –

Still – the bible tell us emphatically – we’re all of us still made in the image of God. (As Genesis confirms in chapters 5 and 9, and all the bible thereafter assumes….)

So we are able, with God’s help and by God’s grace, to struggle against and withstand sin (as God tells Cain, in chapter 4 of Genesis…and – )

And (as Romans chapter 1 tells us) creation itself is still a clear witness to the reality of God, and God’s goodness… And we’re still accountable for knowing God, and heeding God’s instructions revealed in scripture and also in creation.

And most of all – (as Romans 5 tells us) – Christ’s sacrificial love is not just a little stronger than Adam’s transgression… The struggle between sin and death and God and grace is not an evenly matched battle, the outcome of which may be in doubt…

No, the battle belongs to God, with Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit…Three in One… Who live and reign forever, and will reign on earth as it is heaven…

And our part as people of God, still made in the image of God, is to let God live in us through faith working through love – ever turning and returning to God – Always offering the sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise for all the Lord has done…For all God is doing still, in us, and for us, and through us, here and now… For which we should always say –

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

(Let’s sing – )

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