Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Mike Turgeon “In a garden” March 4, 2012
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that 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 a delight 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 Adam, 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. Genesis 3:1-7
In a garden
First off, let’s level the playing field a little regarding Eve and the treatment that she receives as the one who tempts Adam. Here’s a re-telling of this story:
Eve approached God and said, “Lord, I have a problem!”
“What’s the problem, Eve?”
“Lord, I know you’ve created me and have provided this beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals and that hilarious comedy snake, but I’m just not happy.”
“And why is that Eve?” came the reply from God.
“Lord, I am lonely. And I’m sick to death of applesauce and apple fritters all day every day.”
“Well, Eve, I’ll do something about the lonely part. I shall create a man for you.”
“What’s a man, Lord?”
“This ‘man’ will be a flawed creature. He’ll have aggressive tendencies, an enormous ego and an inability to empathize or listen to you properly. He’ll be bigger, faster and more muscular than you. He’ll be really good at fighting and kicking a ball around.”
“I can put up with that,” Eve said, with a bit of a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah, well, he’ll be better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. But there is one condition.”
“What’s that, Lord?”
“You’ll just have to let him believe I made him first.” (Thanks to Bob Olmstead)
I find the most instructive line of today’s scripture to be this one:
“...And they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves....”
because with that, Adam and Eve put in motion the first ever cover-up and things have been going downhill ever since.
The cover up always makes the crime worse. Will we ever learn that one? The crime, the sin here, is disobedience, choosing my way over God’s way. We are loathe to acknowledge that we veer from God’s will--what Adam and Eve started, we have perfected.
The setting for this morning’s drama is the Garden of Eden, the place where a closeness with God was undisturbed. It is the place where ‘we got to get ourselves back to’ as they say. Is it too late to find our way back to Eden?
Unlike Adam and Eve’s seduction by the serpent, most of us probably can’t name that one first false step where we obeyed our own call and disobeyed God’s, that spiritual slippery slope we hear so much about.
In a garden
You know, for both Adam and Eve, the forbidden fruit itself was not their downfall, rather it was the convincing argument by the serpent that won the day.
Should Eve have been more cautious? Well, when this story of Adam and Eve in the garden was composed almost 3000 years ago, the serpent was not the embodiment of evil we’re used to. On the contrary; back then, the serpent represented wisdom, fertility and immortality,
quite a positive and impressive combination. Only much later did the snake’s reputation become synonymous with cunning and deception. But the real irony here is that the serpent was right, Adam and Eve did not die, did not cease to exist. Embedded in every persuasive deception is a germ of truth.
I like the way Frederich Buechner comments on the snake’s approach to Eve: He says: “The children of darkness are apt to be not only wiser but often more appealing and plausible than the children of light.” (Frederich Beuchner, Listening To Your Life. Feb. 5)
Regardless of Adam and Eve’s motivation here, their actions do have consequences. With the bite of the apple, wisdom was revealed and Adam and Eve were woefully unprepared to handle this truth. By choosing to violate God’s one rule, they threw it all away. Then they added misery to their misdeed; they turn to their shame, seeking cover from their sin; disobedience disrupted their union with the divine.
In a garden
Why are we so rebellious?
I’ll be honest, the mere mention of the word disobedience sends chills up and down my spine, it is still so loaded with the baggage from my childhood. As a mere 7 or 8 year-old, I had learned quite well that to disobey was to be dis-owned. For a child there was no greater threat. That worked to keep me in line--for awhile.
But rebelliousness is not easily subdued, our free will allows us to keep choosing to separate ourselves from our spiritual source. We like to say that Adam and Eve fell from grace, so what do we call what we do? I’d have to say it is more of an inching away, by baby steps, if you will.
Free will is a blessing, we would never be happy as spiritual robots, but with free will comes great responsibility to choose the things that build up our spiritual character, not the things that lead to spiritual decay. But like Adam and Eve, given every possible option to improve our spiritual condition, we unerringly zero in on the one thing that causes us to stumble. God’s love never leaves us, but we do turn away from it.
What is sin?
The disobedience of Adam and Eve is know as the Original Sin. Let’s be honest, we don’t much like sin anymore, do we? Heck no. I’m not sure we ever really warmed up to it. But it’s not because we don’t sin, it’s not because we don’t mess up, make wrong choices, do hurtful things. We most certainly do all that. We don’t like the idea of sin because it hurts our feelings. We don’t like to be held accountable. And Lord help the one who even whispers that I may have strayed from righteousness. And it especially better not be my spouse.
We have invested so much in the elevation of our self-esteem, we now find it hard to even begin to say “My bad, I was wrong, I should not have done that.”
The other day I encountered a new Internet business. It’s for homeowners who want to rent equipment online to clean their own carpets. The name of the business--
‘Self-eSteam.’ I kid you not. You think the pendulum has swung too far on making sure we never hear a discouraging word?
Being held accountable, as much as we may resist, is part and parcel to making sure that we are walking our talk. It’s kind of like we have a personal integrity bank account.
and each of our actions, heck, even our thoughts and our words either add or subtract to the balance of trust we carry around with us.
What is sin?
Sin is useful if we understand it. Like many theological terms, sin has been butchered, or worse, turned into a weapon used to manipulate us.
The word for sin in Greek is an archer’s term,
‘hamartia,‘ = to miss the mark
meaning to ‘miss the mark,’ as in our arrow falls short of it’s true target, that target being
a continuing close relationship with God.
By that definition, I have sinned, you have sinned. That easily describes what it means to be human. The hope we have is that the judge evaluating the accuracy of our arrows is but one person, the person of Jesus Christ. The one who judges us most finally is also the one who loves us most fully.
In a garden
John Wesley, our Methodist spiritual great, great, great grandfather preached tirelessly about spiritual disintegration, the rebellious turning away from God’s merciful laws. Wesley’s stance was most certainly not one of condemnation, but rather one of hope. He was the first one to invoke something called perfection of the spirit. Like hitting a bullseye in archery, perfection, though unattainable in this life, does take much practice. And in Christ’s abundant love, we always receive a new chance to hit the mark.
Yes, we hasten to cover up, bury ourselves in our shame, but that is our choice. Let us pray that we may break new ground on our journey back to Eden. May the . mercy and grace of Jesus Christ lead us forward.