How It All Started – Mar. 1, 2020
Companions on the Way – How It All Started
A Communion Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
March 1, 2020
Main Idea: God can be trusted.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Our theme for this Lenten Season is Companions on the Way. Rather than seeing Lent as an individual exercise of giving up something you like, this year I invite you to pay attention to the people around you, to see them as companions and fellow travelers in a world in need. With all that is going on in the world today; viruses, stock market drops, violence, climate change, to name just a few of the crises that raise our anxiety, we can prepare ourselves for Easter by recognizing those who help us along the way.
Our Scripture text for today is from Genesis and it is such a familiar story isn’t it? God puts Adam and Eve in a perfect Garden where there is no work and no death until Satan disguised as a snake tempts Eve with an apple. She eats the apple, makes Adam eat it, and then they are both thrown out of Eden and cursed, thus cursing all of humanity for all time with the curse of Original Sin. We are used to blaming Adam and Eve for all the problems of the world. Original Sin dooms us all and at the same time, lets us all off the hook. [It is not my fault, it is original sin!] Today we will look at this familiar story and realize that much of which we assume about the story is not contain therein. Rather than blaming Adam and Eve, let’s look to them as companions on our way to understanding our relationship with God and our place in the world.
God creates the Garden of Eden along with all the rest of creation and God declares it good, not perfect. As we read the whole creation story we see that God sets up seasons and times for rest and for growth. This means the system is designed to change, not remain static or frozen in unchanging perfection. God puts the man (he has no name as of yet) in the garden to “till it and keep it”, to work it and protect it. From the very beginning the man has a job and a responsibility to care for the garden. God gives the man great freedom and choice, he may eat of any tree but one, the tree of knowledge. Notice that God tells the man that if he eats of this tree he will die. This means that the man already knows that death is part of creation. It is after this instruction that God creates the woman, (she doesn’t have a name yet either), because it is not good for the man to be alone, another example of how God’s creation evolves.
The serpent in this story is a fascinating character. While the serpent may become a snake later, at the time of this story, the crafty serpent is a just one of God’s creations raising questions for the humans to consider. The serpent does not lie but does raise suspicions in the woman’s mind. Nowhere in this story is the serpent identified as Satan or as something from outside of God’s creation. It is the tree that is the temptation. The serpent merely points this out. And notice that the fruit at the center of the temptation is not necessarily an apple. It could be pear, an orange, a kumquat; any fruit from a tree.
The woman listens to the serpent, and from their conversation we can guess that the woman has been thinking about this fruit already. She responds with the prohibition God gave to the man before her creation, meaning that she and the man had already talked about this. And she adds to the prohibition saying that not only should they not eat from the tree, they should not even touch it. It is that tempting!
The beauty or perceived tastiness of the fruit is not the real temptation here. The real temptation is to distrust God, to trust and believe the crafty serpent rather than the God who has created and sustained them. The sin that happens in this story is not simply disobedience, it is the loss of trust which turns the man and the woman away from God.
This is what the woman and the man do. For the man was there even though he does not speak. They eat the fruit and their eyes are opened and they realized the gravity of what they had done. They do not instantly die. Eden does not dissolve into nothingness. God’s good creation continues.
At this point the story introduces some comic relief when it says that they cover themselves with fig leaves. Fig leaves are large, broad, and flat, which is good, but the tops of the leaves are like sandpaper and the bottoms are covered with small stiff hairs. Of all the materials in the Garden with which to create clothes, fig leaves would be particularly uncomfortable. Even before leaving the garden, the woman and man are negatively affected by the consequences of their choice.
After God comes to garden and asked them what they have done, the negative consequences continue. The man and the woman turn on each other, blaming each other and the serpent for their actions. Those created to be together are isolated from each other. They stand there embarrassed, ashamed, and uncomfortable in their itchy loincloths.
God’s response to their actions is not to curse them but actually to bless them. The serpent gets cursed and the ground but not the woman and the man. They will find that their lives are harder than before but they are given freedom to grow and learn more from their choices. They do not die, in fact God makes clothes for them so that they are warm and protected and they can get rid of the prickly fig leaves.
The woman is given the name Eve which means Life and the two of them head out into an adventure that would have been impossible in the garden.
The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is not a story of Paradise Lost but a coming of age story in which they learn from their mistakes and realize that they can trust in God’s love and providence no matter what.
Adam and Eve teach us that our lives are most harmonious when we trust God and align ourselves with God. There are many temptations that claim to make us safer or happier or richer. There are serpents in the world who amplify our doubts and fears and egg us on to count on ourselves instead of God. This is the mistake that Adam and Eve made and we make over and over again.
But Adam and Eve also teach us that God loves us no matter what. That we may turn away from God but God never turns away from us. This is the truth that Jesus preached and lived. This is the truth that we can hold onto in all the crises and temptations that come our way.
On this first Sunday of Lent, as we prepare our hearts and mind for the celebration of the Lord’s supper, let us give thanks for our companions Adam and Eve who reveal to us God’s unending providence and grace.
Let us pray, God of creation, we thank you for your blessing of humanity and your steadfastness to us even when we go astray. Empower us to recognize your grace and trust in you. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen