Texts: Genesis 3:8 – 15 & Mark 3:20 – 35
During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God in the middle of the garden’s trees. The Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
The man replied, “I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?”
The man said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me some fruit[c] from the tree, and I ate.”
The Lord God said to the woman, “What have you done?!”
And the woman said, “The snake tricked me, and I ate.”
The Lord God said to the snake,
“Because you did this,
you are the one cursed
out of all the farm animals,
out of all the wild animals.
On your belly you will crawl,
and dust you will eat
every day of your life.
I will put contempt
between you and the woman,
between your offspring and hers.
They will strike your head,
but you will strike at their heels.”
Good morning St. Luke’s. For those of y’all who don’t know, my name is lizzie, and I am an Aspirant for Holy Orders supported by all of you and this parish. And we, my spouse and I, are preparing to move to Austin, Texas, in August, so this will be my last sermon for you all for a little while.
And I really wanted this, my last sermon, at least for now, here with you to be about God’s love, about God’s tenderness, you know, I was just so inspired by the buoyancy of Bishop Curry’s Royal Wedding sermon but, uh, the text for this week is Genesis 3 so… here we go: original sin!
If the Bible were a series of movies, this story – the story of the first people God made, the story of “Adam” and “Eve” – this story would FOR SURE be in the “Top 40 Classics.” This is a story taught in Sunday School classrooms from wee ages, a story illustrated in stained glass windows of churches around the globe. This is a story we all know
… Or do we?
Sometimes, stories in the Bible take on a life of their own. This is kind of the point of Scripture: this is why we call it the “LIVING Word.” These stories – stories of Eve and Adam, of Mary and Jesus – these stories are not just dried-up old tales. They are alive. This is, by and large I think, a good thing. When the stories really “live” we know we are working to know the LIVING God through a LIVING Word wherein God still has something to say to us.
But this also means that, sometimes, the retelling – and retelling, and retelling, and retelling – of the story starts to overshadow the original story.
For example: it was not until I was in college that I had a critical revelation about this story of “Eve and Adam.” My whole life, I was told that Eve was a TEMPTRESS. That she, with long luscious Renaissance locks lured Adam into eating the forbidden fruit.
And you know what Genesis 3 actually says?
The snake was the most intelligent of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?”
The woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the garden’s trees but not the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘Don’t eat from it, and don’t touch it, or you will die.’”
The snake said to the woman, “You won’t die! God knows that on the day you eat from it, you will see clearly and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it, and also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then they both saw clearly and knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made garments for themselves.
… And this is where our reading for today picks up. They have BOTH chosen to eat; they BOTH listened to the serpent and they have both decided: it would be good to be like God.
They decided it would be good to be like God.
Have you ever been tempted? I don’t mean by a Renaissance Eve with her well-placed long hair because, good riddance, can we give that trope a break?
I mean to be tempted be lured by your own cunning, your own insight, your own intelligence or beauty or power, to think you knew better than God?
There are times, certainly, when we do know what is best for someone else. I think of every parent who has ever rushed to stop a child’s hand from touching the stove, of every child who explains, again, to their aging parent why the nurses are here.
That is not the kind of “knowing better” that I’m talking about. I’m talking about the temptation to play God. I’m talking about thinking we know who deserves to be in the garden, who most certainly must be cast out.
I’m talking about lust for power. I’m talking about a greed. I’m talking about envy. I’m talking about desire to be in control.
I’m, well, I’m talking about sin.
Here it is: the moment of original sin. Eve and Adam have eaten of the forbidden fruit and – immediately – they see that they are naked.
And then they hear God approaching in the time of the cool, evening breeze.
So they hide – they hide themselves in the trees, hidden in the very foliage of their folly. It strikes me that the snake told Adam and Eve the fruit would help them know good from evil, but what they see is that they are naked. They decide to cover themselves because they have decided their vulnerability is evil even though they have been naked the whole time.
And God calls: “where are you?”
Does God know? Does God know what is about to happen? I mean, surely, yes? God is all-knowing. God has a vision to cast the universe into place, and yet – what happens next feels like a shock. The man emerges, sheepish, from behind a tree and confesses: “I heard your sound in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked.”
It’s like he is saying: “I knew you would see me as I now see me. Flaws, bumps, lumps, bruises, scars, stretch marks and all. I knew you would see me, vulnerable. So I hid myself.”
And God aks: “how did you know?”
“How did you know? And why did you hide, when I have made you just the same in that body before you ate and after?”
And then, the man, not only wanting to hide himself from God – he decides to shift the blame. “The WOMAN, whom you gave me, she gave me some fruit and I ate!” The woman is not much better; she admits that the snake tricked her. But she doesn’t speak of her desire to be like God, too.
Sin is choosing to hide from our own vulnerability. And sin is blaming someone else – anyone else – our spouse, God, the snakes in the grass – for our decision to hide.
Sin is choosing to turn away from God. Sin is choosing our anger, our fear, and our shame, instead of facing God.
And yet, God does blame the snake, in part. God tells the serpent there will forever be enmity between its offspring and the woman’s. Take note: God specifies the offspring of the woman; Gods claims all humanity as coming from Eve.
I don’t think the “point” of this story (if such a thing can be sussed out) is that these two people were factually the first people who lived, and I certainly don’t think the “point” of this story is that women must forever suffer the fate of Eve who was clever enough to talk to snakes and foolish enough to believe them. I don’t even think this is a story of how humanity was always doomed to fail.
I think perhaps this story asks us to dare to believe that God believes in us.
Do you hear that shock, that pain, in God’s voice when God realizes what they’ve done?
And don’t you remember what God does for us? God comes into the world through another mother, Mary. Mary who is fully one of Eve’s offspring, and Jesus who is Mary’s child – and Jesus Christ as fully human and fully divine stands today in our Gospel lesson, in the thick crowd of hungry, irritable, sick, pushy people and says: you are my mothers.
You, who were told by my own self that there would be pain, and suffering – you are my mothers, and my brothers and my sisters. You are my family. No matter what.
I said at the beginning I wanted this to be a sermon about God’s love. And, actually, I think it is. I think this story of sin and sadness is ultimately a story about God’s love for us. God’s ridiculous belief that we can be good, and God’s shock and hurt when we choose otherwise.
We are God’s family. No matter what.