Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Mike Turgeon Leaving Eden: “What is your apple?” 3-18-12
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 tricked me, and I ate.’ Genesis 3:8-13
Do you remember the first time you were caught with your hand in the cookie jar? Fortunately, or unfortunately, I still have this memory. I can even remember the cookie jar like it was right here in front of me.
Kind of an old-school version. At the time I remember, I was old enough to read so the word ‘cookies’ on the front of the jar taunted me every time I passed the kitchen counter. And I knew the consequences of taking cookies without permission because I saw what happened to my older sister when she did it. Did that stop me? No.
Can I still feel the ringing sensation from where my mother slapped my hand. Not really, though I’m sure it was memorable at the time. And the all-important question, did I claim that the devil made me do it? I wouldn’t be surprised, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Leaving Eden: What is your apple?
Today’s question in the ‘Leaving Eden’ series is “What is your apple?” What is it that is taking you out of Eden? Or what is it that is taking Eden out of you?
As I thought about this question, another question occurred to me, was is it really an apple? Maybe it was a cookie that the serpent seduced Adam and Eve with?
It’s ironic that an apple is not mentioned in the Book of Genesis as the forbidden fruit.
“...she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”--Adam
Over the years, though, the apple became the symbol for that which leads us away from Eden. But it wasn’t always apples that took the fall. For awhile there, back in the mists of history, it was the pomegranate
that was believed to be the offending fruit.
The apple has had a pretty good comeback as evidenced by the phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’
But it wasn’t really the apple that separated us from God, was it? Or the pomegranate, or the kiwi, or the date palm, or the cookie. The real culprit is our own unwillingness to fully face our reality. Adam, instead of confessing to God his own culpability, refers God to a convenient target, the woman. And confronted by God with the reality of her transgression, Eve suggested God might want to talk to the snake. I suppose if we kept looking, we’d find a re-telling of this story in which the snake points the finger directly at God.
What gives? Why are we not so good at copping to our weakness and our willfulness? This question won’t go away, will it? What is your apple, the thing that keeps you separated from God? Is it a Fuji, or a Granny Smith; a Golden Delicious or a Gravenstein? Yes, all those.
Above all, the apple is our pride. Were we to be brutally honest about our reality, we would find mostly reasons to be grateful and humble, rather than arrogant and proud. But gratitude and humility, those are big bites to swallow. Why go there when I can so easily place the blame elsewhere?
Here is reality: free will is our greatest blessing and our greatest curse; and we get to decide which it will be. When I confess, when I come clean before God and man how vulnerable I really am, therein lies a ‘spiritual growth opportunity.’
That is indeed heavier lifting than merely passing the buck. But spiritual muscle is a lot like the muscle of the flesh, it needs a ‘stress test’ occasionally.
So, what is your apple? What is your most tempting form of denial?
When I preach from the story of Adam and Eve, I’m always reminded of that country/western song: “Lord, lead me not into temptation, I can find it all by myself.”
The tree from which Adam and Eve ate lunch was not the only tree in the Garden of Eden.
“Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food, the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9
Adam and Eve were not forbidden from eating fruit from the tree of life, whichever fruit was on it. Freedom to choose is not the same thing as choosing well. And who needs a serpent to do the dirty work when our pride does such a good job of seduction?
To be human is to live within certain limitations, this is the big lesson of the story of Adam and Eve. When they rebel against these limitations the garden becomes a wilderness for them.
In the Gospel we find a better way. In the first chapter of Mark, Jesus is led into his time of temptation.
“At once, the Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan but he did not succumb. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him” Mark 1:12-13
When Jesus refused to choose poorly, the wilderness seems to be transformed into a benevolent place.
Arrogance and pride within us runs quite deep. We want to be like God, to rise above the frailties of life. We want to find that which will take away our limitations; death, vulnerability. It is not possible, yet our attempts to do so have endlessly destructive consequences.
In the Jesus example in the wilderness, he shows us that it is possible to move through our longings to a place of acceptance that is full of grace. Our goal is not to escape death but to embrace life and see it as a blessing.
So what is your apple? How ripe and juicy and sweet and tempting and irresistible is it?
What makes the story of Adam and Eve so compelling is that the God we encounter in the Garden is not a remote God. You can almost hear the sound of the crunching leaves on the pathway where God walks. From this scripture, God emerges as one who desires a personal relationship with us, a desire that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
So we find it almost normal that God comes strolling through the cool of the day and that God should ask two questions: “Where are you?” and “What is this that you have done?”
Counselors, psychiatrists, therapists, pastors have been asking these two questions ever since.
Where are you?
Asking ‘where are you?’ is a way of laying bare the present reality. Adam and Eve are in hiding, that’s where they are. What is it they want to hide and from whom do they want to hide it? And most importantly, what does it cost them to hide it? Why are they so unhappy with things as they are that they try to conceal it?
What is it that you have done?
Asking ‘what is it that you have done?’ lays bare the past. What did they hope would happen by doing what they did? What did they fear would happen? What is it that made them so ashamed?
God proceeds to curse them but that is not the end of the story. Being confronted with the consequences of our behavior sometimes feels like a curse, but is it not also the moment of grace and growth?
In the morning Bible study on Wednesday, we were confronted with the question,
Is it possible not to sin?
The general consensus was no, we will continually choose to ‘miss the mark,’ to cause ourselves distress by putting distance between ourselves and God. But that is not the end of the story either.
“...And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and the woman, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21.
The most moving part of the story. They can’t go back to the Garden, but they can go forward clothed in a new way. Clothed not in the sense of having their old defenses again in which to hide who they are and what they have done. But rather clothed in a new understanding, one that still requires choices to be made, choices made not from pride but from humility; choices that will lead to hope and blessing.