How It Came to Be the Way It Is
A Homily for Trinity 1
June 23, 2019
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Genesis 3
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
We believe that all of scripture is breathed out by God – that is to say that the whole canon of scripture is inspired by Him, when we read it, we are reading God’s words, and in it we learn who He is, who we are, how we come to know Him, the nature of His creation, and we see the story of salvation spelled out. For this reason we should take time to hear the words read, read them ourselves, mark them – that is intensely studying them, learn them, and allow them to transform our inner selves. We take to the task of looking at what the whole witness of scripture says – so that we may know God, know ourselves, and live more fully to His glory.
That being said – there are a handful of passages that when we read them and take them seriously we find a profound wealth of knowledge. I find them so important – that I would challenge you all to take time to become familiar with them this coming week, if you are not already. These passages include – Genesis 1 and 2 telling us of creation – how God created everything on the earth – the trees, and the sun, the grass and the rocks, the oceans, and the fishes and the birds. Not only did he create them – but he created it all good!
Furthermore, in Genesis 2 we learn of God’s creation of humanity – how we are to live in community, how we are to love and serve each other. We get a glimpse of how things were meant to be.
John 1 – then shows us how Christ was intimately involved in the order of creation and not only in creation but in our redemption and re-creation!
Next the last three chapters of St. John’s Revelation shows us what the future holds. That we will find freedom from the plagues of the world – that evil will be put down and that in the eternal city we will dwell with God, finally that which was done in the first days is done away with.
Now – the final passage I would say that is extremely important in understanding our world is Genesis 3 – I skipped this as we are going to take a deeper look at it. But in Genesis 3 we learn when and how everything went wrong. Remember what we just said about Genesis 1 – that all of God’s creation was good – and not only good – but very good. So – we cry out and wonder why we feel pain, and sorrow, anxiety, and frustration. We wonder why people do not only cruel things – but sometimes downright evil things to one another. Genesis 3 gives us an answer to the question of evil.
A we open up the third chapter of Genesis was we meet a serpent. We are told that he is the most crafty of all the beasts. One of the things I’ve found interesting as I’ve read and learned about the world is how many religions point to a serpent betraying man or God in some way or another and welcoming into evil into the world.
Now – social evolutionary theory would say that this was because snakes often poise a threat to people and therefore people adapted by having fables that would warn against the dangers of this seemingly crafty creature. This may be the case – but perhaps – it is because there is a truth imbedded in all these stories. Perhaps – a serpent really was a part of welcoming sin and death into the world – betraying mankind. Perhaps – it is not that we evolved to fear the serpent, but one day, many, many years ago the serpent tricked a man and a woman into rebelling against God – and our in our shared memory we recall the truth about how sin came into the world. If we can let go of the secularism of our age for just a moment – we will find that this later truth – makes a whole lot of sense.
Given the testimony of scripture and the testimony of other religions it is better to believe in a literal fall, one in which the serpent is intimately involved in. Not only because scripture says so, though this is sufficient reason – or because there seems to be some cultural evidence to agree with it – but because the literal fall helps us to understand why there is so much pain in the world and not only that but helps us to understand our redemption through Christ. (For St. Paul says as by one man sin came into the world – so by one man are we saved – Jesus Christ).
Now, we have seen there is a good reason to believe that there was a literal serpent who caused a literal fall – who is this serpent? Is it merely a bored and wily creature or is there something more going on? It isn’t until we get to Revelation 12 that we find out the answer to our question – here St. John identified the serpent not as a creature that wanted to cause problem – but as satan himself – the great dragon whom God in Christ has overcome.
We haven’t yet gotten to the fall – but we need to look at how temptation, legalism, and licentiousness works – and how destructive each of these can be.
First temptation – Satan plants a seed in Eve’s head – he doesn’t say – “hey Eve, wanna eat some forbidden fruit with me?” I think if the devil was this bad at tempting – we would all be less sinful, though I suspect we can all get up to sin perfectly find without any help. No, Satan plants a seed of doubt in Eve’s head, he asks her a simple question “did God actually” or “did God really says” this? In other words are you sure, that this is God’s command? The seed of doubt it planted.
But then he pushes it further! He twist’s God’s word – God’s commandment to Adam is that they could eat any fruit in the Garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But Satan says to Eve – “did God actually say, “you shall not eat of ANY of the tree in the garden?” In other words – he plants in Eve’s head – doubt and false information.
I’m going to jump ahead for a moment, because I want us to see how Satan’s temptation worked before we look at what Eve did wrong and for that matter what Adam did wrong – and how we can combat Satan’s temptation within ourselves.
Eve rebuffs Satan’s advances – though poorly – the devil then pushes it further, having planted doubt – he says “you will not surely die,” in other words – are God’s word’s really true? “The consequences of your actions won’t be nearly as bad as you’ve been told!” Think for a moment about sin you’ve struggled with. I bet – if you’re genuinely struggling with it – your fall into it looks something like this. “oh, I doubt God will mind that much if I sin in this way,” and then you probably think something along this lines “and if I do – the consequences of it won’t be nearly as bad as I’ve been told.” It always amazes me when I reflect upon my own sin – how predictably similar my thought pattern is to this episode of temptation.
The final step the devil takes is to make a false promise to Eve – having now told her she won’t die if she doesn’t eat it – he tells her the reward for eating it will be the opposite – that she will be like God.
At the root of all sin is the desire to be like God or to put it more succinctly to be our own god or someone else’s god, lord, or savior. This is not our calling. But rarely in our own temptation that overt – usually we think that we’ll gain something fleeting.
In anger – we think by screaming our heads off at some one we’ll retain or gain power that isn’t ours to possess.
Lust – we think we’ll find pleasure or love.
Gluttony – we think we’ll find fulness.
Greed – we’ll think we’ll find security.
Envy – that having what our neighbor has that we’ll find the happiness we want.
Sloth – that we’ll find rest in being lazy.
Pride – that we will get the respect and honor we truly desire or even think we deserve.
And we will find these things for a moment but these and fleeting and are but a few ways in which we can confuse a sin for a virtue and use them to boaster ourselves in a way we ought not to. Each of us are unique and the devils have a way of knowing exactly the right temptation to put before us to cause us to stumble and fall into their traps, to take us away from finding our delight, peace, and joy in Christ and Christ alone.
We have now seen how insidious – yet common temptation can be. I suspect we can all relate in one manner or another. How we react to this temptation can help us to grow closer to God – grow in our relationship with Him.
Eve reacts two ways – both of which are bad. First is with legalism. God tells Adam – “you may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” However, when pressed by Satan – Eve tells him that God said “you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” We don’t know – but probably Adam in an abundance of caution added the commandment to not touch the fruit when he told Eve about their home.
We do this often in our fear of doing wrong. This is what Christ found particularly troubling with the Pharisees – instead of letting God’s commandment stand as they were – the added law upon, law upon law until the weight of it became far too burdensome for any person to keep.
So, what is a better reaction? It is that we mark, learn, read, and inwardly digest scripture. We know what it says and we allow it to transform our lives. We live in community where we are reminded of the truths that we know, we partake in the sacraments, and give ourselves to constant prayer – so God can hear the pouring out of our hearts, and allow ourselves to be known intimately by Him.
But, we notice at the times when the devil overtly tempts people (think the temptation of Christ in the wilderness) – that he will twist the commandments of God. In opposition to what Eve does – Christ returns with the sure promises of God made in scripture. We allow our hearts to be transformed by the word of God and in that we find that it becomes simpler to fend off the temptations of the devil. We give no room for Him if we fill our hearts with the promises of God.
Now – on the other side of legalism is licentiousness – the giving in to our temptations and dwelling in sin. We learn next that “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, so she took its fruit and ate.” This is no better than legalism, which not only does not protect us from sin, it causes our hearts to become hard, it causes us to be unable to extend the grace as we have received it. Licentiousness, on the other hand – seeks pleasure in places we cannot and will not find it.
In a few minutes we will see – that not only did Eve and Adam fail to find what they were looking for – they lost the goodness they had – they found not pleasure but pain.
If we do not cling to God – to flee sin – we will fail to avoid it, find pain, and we find death.
St. Paul writes that it is through Adam that sin comes into the world, not Eve. It is easy to blame Eve here, after all she was tempted, she took the fruit, she gave it to her husband. However, if we read it carefully – we read that she gave it to her husband “who was with her.” In other words, through this whole episode Adam is standing right there. At any point he could have said “no honey – that’s not what God said,” or “hey, this is a bad idea, let’s not eat the fruit we were told not to eat.” Because God gave Adam the command and Adam stood idly by while Eve took the fruit Adam bears the blame. We can in fact bear the blame for other’s sins if we cause them to sin or are apathetic towards their actions. We are not called to police everything – but we need to be aware of how our advice and care can effect those in the world around us.
Immediately after the fall we learn something about the nature of the world as God created it. Before the fall – there was no shame. Could you imagine a world where you don’t feel shame? Where you live in perfect innocence? This is how things were meant to be. However, sin introduces shame into the world.
Now – shame is multifaceted. There is good shame – shame told Adam and Eve that they had done something wrong to God. They had injured their relationship with God and they knew it. When we sin – shame tells us “this was wrong.” On the other hand – shame brought on by others can be destructive and toxic. It’s important that we recognize the difference between good shame, and bad shame. We do not need to allow others to heap pain upon pain on us, but when we sin and we feel bad, this is good – because it drives us to repentance. It drives us back into the arms of our loving God whose son Jesus Christ died on the cross for us – how good and beautiful is that?
We learn a second thing about the pre-fall world – God comes to look for Adam and Eve – because it was his habit to walk with them. Before the fall, humans lived in perfect relationship with God. After the fall – there comes a great chasm between God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. A chasm that had to be gapped by Christ.
Now – it would seem that the Serpent, Eve, and Adam remained together until they met God, for we learn of God’s reaction to them. But first we learn how not to repent. God confronts Adam and asks him what has happened. It wasn’t “God, I messed up, the woman and I ate the fruit you told us not to.” Instead he says “the woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate it.” You notice who’s fault it is in Adam’s eyes? It is the woman’s and worse still God’s for giving Adam the woman. When our sin is revealed to us – we often find ourselves deflecting and making excuses.
The woman doesn’t do any better, she doesn’t confess her fault either, but shifts the blame to the serpent. Yes – we can be tempted, yes – we can be pressured into sinning, there are a plethora of reasons that we might sin – but we need to own our sin. When we sin, we come before God who is good and merciful and say that we have failed, and pray with penitent hearts for mercy, and grace. In true repentance – we own our sin.
As we look at the curses we learn about how the world was not meant to be – the snake is cursed to be on his belly all his days and eat dust. I read once that snakes “evolved out of their legs,” but still have the genes that can allow them grow the legs. Perhaps this portion of the curse is more accurate that we know. But we also know the serpent is satan – which means he once resided in heaven, but now has been cast down to the ground where he’ll reside until the last days when he’ll be cast away forever, never to torment people again.
We also learn that – there is now enmity between humanity and the serpent – more exactly there is enmity between satan and humanity, and nature and humanity. The fall corrupts nature, so that now we no longer live in harmony with nature.
Next – we learn from the woman that childbirth was not meant to be painful and yet it is now. Because of the fall – the things that should be joyful and natural have become painful and too often filled with sorrow.
The second part of the curse for the woman is that “her desire shall be for her husband, and he shall rule over her.” Eve was created in order that there would be community on earth. She was there to encourage Adam and Adam to love her well. Yet – under the curse this perfect unity is disturbed. While we still consider marriage to be a good and beautiful thing – instead of simply walking with each other – there is a brokenness that was not designed to be there. There is tension that is not good.
Furthermore – in the fall – the idea of community becomes tarnished as well. Even within the church there is sin, there is heartache. We offend each other and hurt each other. However, within the context of a Christian marriage and Christian community something beautiful happens. Because we all have inherited sin from our first parents our general ability to have relationships becomes more difficult. But in the Christian community we get the amazing opportunity to show each other grace – we get to receive grace in a tangible way from our loved one and our brothers and sisters in Christ just as we get to show grace to them.
The curse to the man is twofold – first work becomes drudgery and second death is welcomed into the world.
We can learn a lot from the curses – including how life was supposed to be – from the curse on the man we learn that work was supposed to be joyful – it was not supposed to be painful. Yet we know that from time to time work can become hard, wearisome and painful.
Next we learn that as Adam was created from dust – so shall he return. Death is a direct result of the sin of man. We were meant to walk in the garden with God in the cool of the day but now our bodies grow old, we grow weary and we die.
We end chapter three with God clothing Adam and Eve and their exile from their garden. It is for this reason that as Christians we can identify so poignantly with the exile literature of the Old Testament. For we too face and exile. We are exiled from the garden, exiled from walking perfectly with God. Now we wander and wait for Christ’s second coming. We wait for the day when all will be made right and we will be returned to the kingdom of Heaven.
Now – I intentionally skipped the most important point which is where I want to close. We have seen how sin has come into the world we have seen the way that sin effects how the world is and how we live. If we were to dwell there and not move forward to the good news – this would be an incredibly depressing thing. For sin is hard to talk about, hard to think about, and hard to live with. It is a very sad thing – but if we have a healthy theology of sin, we can have a realistic view of the world around us and then – when we read the fifteenth verse of this chapter we see that God does not leave his creation hopeless.
As we read following: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” We get the first promise of a savior. That savior is Christ. We are not left hopeless in our sin, we are not left to feel the shame of our brokenness, but it is Christ who comes, it is Christ who has struck down the serpent and will cast him away at the last day. It is Christ, in who’s garments of righteousness we are clothed and made free. So let us rejoice and be glad. Let us place our hope in that great promise.
It is important that we understand how destructive sin is, it is important that we flee from sin, but we do not flee for the sake of our own self-righteousness but we flee to Christ, who takes us in, who forgives and heals us, who clothes us in His own righteousness. So let us rejoice in that incredible and good news.
It that we understand the ramifications of living in a fallen world, but it is just as important that we recognize the grace that we find in Christ. For it is there that we find our healing, and peace, it is Christ who died for us who will make the world right yet again at the last day. So although we still feel the pains of the effects of the fall, and though we are still in exile awaiting that last great day we can rejoice and go from this place ready to walk with and serve the Lord well.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.