First Sunday of Lent
March 1, 2020
Today, in Mercy, we encounter themes of creation, life, temptation, sin, death, and repentance. I’d say that’s a pretty loaded Sunday!
We start out with the simple, but heavily misinterpreted, story of Adam and Eve. This creation myth shared by Judea-Christian and Islamic religions serves as a foundation of these great faith traditions.
The story is often the first we learn as we are introduced to our family’s faith practice. We imagine Adam and Eve as historically real personalities and the snake as a flesh and blood devil. Some of us never get beyond that elementary understanding of the story.
A few decades ago, I taught New Testament Studies to a class of men aspiring to become deacons. During the session on today’s reading from Romans, a discussion arose about whether an entire human race could descend from just a “first man and woman”. When I pointed out that the creation story uses mythical elements to represent a broader reality, one man reacted adamantly. He could not imagine that there were not a specific “Adam” and “Eve”, but that instead these names represented humankind in their evolving relationship with God. The thought was so shattering to him that he dropped the class.
That made me sad. But it also caused me to focus on the creation story myself to examine ways in which I might be missing or blocking its deep spiritual significance. Is it really just about temptation, sin, punishment, and death? Or is there a much deeper message for our faith?
One of my go-to theologians has helped me significantly. Walter Brueggemann says this about our consideration of the Creation Story:
Like the people in this narrative, our concern is not finally the danger of sex, the origin of evil, the appearance of death, or the power of the fall. It is, rather, the summons of this calling God for us to be his creatures, to live in his world on his terms.
We struggle throughout our lives to understand God and God’s ways – to live on God’s terms. We will never accomplish it. We will always meet the “snakes” of questions like:
- Why is there evil in the world?
- Why does God let innocent people suffer?
- Why is “this” (Whatever trial) happening to me?
- Why did he or she have to die so young?
- Why don’t the bad people die instead?
- Why? Why? Why?
We want KNOWLEDGE – just what the “serpent” facetiously offered from the forbidden tree!
But this beautiful creation story teaches us that what God desires from us is not knowledge but rather TRUST – trust to live in the unfolding, but never fully-unfolded, mystery of God’s faithfulness to us.
So much in us wants to pluck the magic apple that will make us the “gods” of our existence, controlling life as we would like it to be.
God says instead that we should trust, and delight in sitting under the mysterious, nurturing tree of God’s irreversible, covenantal love – the same love Jesus trusts in today’s challenging Gospel.
Music: Nothing I Hold on To – Will Reagan ( Listen to it like a mantra and let your breathing synch to it. Breathe in Love. Breathe out Trust. No apples necessary.)