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"How can this be... the beginning?"

Adam and Eve knew so little before. They knew that God loved them and that Eden would provide all they needed. That’s all they need to know.

“Jesus Mural” In Uptown Chicago, IL

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7

February 26, 2023

Dr. Todd R. Wright Despite historical interpretations of this passage, you will note that words like sin and fall, satan and apple do not appear in this story. Instead, it is full of words about eating and knowing and seeing, about freedom and limits, about good and evil. So let’s take a fresh look at this well known beginning as we begin the season of Lent.

 

In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth, Genesis tells us, and formed a human being from the dust of the earth, gave it breath, made it a partner, and placed them in the garden to tend to it.


God said you may freely eat of every tree in the garden – date and olive trees, mangos and oranges, peaches and bananas, and so many more – such abundance, of flavors and textures and colors, good for pies and smoothies and fruit salads! But one tree was off limits. Only one. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And as a warning, God said, “If you eat of this one tree, you shall die!” You’ve heard this story before. You’ve lived this story before. Abundance is never enough. We find ourselves wanting the one thing that is forbidden. So they ate of it. The details don’t matter as much as the result. When they ate, they did not die. They saw more clearly. “But,” as one scholar notices, “it turned out that seeing more clearly wasn’t really a blessing. Something did die.”[2] Call it innocence or ignorance, something was lost that day. Or maybe it was their initial relationship with God that was lost, a relationship based on unchallenged trust.

 

What did they see with their costly new knowledge? What do we, their descendants, see when our eyes are open to both good and evil? The Creator made paradise and plunked us down in the middle of it … but with Eden in our past, we look around and see the good and beautiful as if for the first time: rain drops shining on the tips of tree branches and children laughing at something silly; we see an older couple holding hands, a lifetime habit, and a welcoming table spread with comfort food; we see a collection box filled with donated cans and a parent healing a scrape with a band aid and a kiss. All of that would have been ignored or unnecessary or unthinkable before. Now we see them. But after disobeying God’s loving limits, we also see evil and heartbreak, again and again: a residential apartment building struck by Russian missiles and a black man kneeled on until he died; we see images of people who climbed out on their roofs to escape hurricane flooding being ignored by their own government as worthless and celebrities boasting, in graphic terms, that they can get away with anything; we see a refugee child washed ashore, dead, because no nation will welcome him and piles of shoes taken from people killed for their faith. All those inevitable outcomes of disobedience, and fear, and selfishness that we try and blink away, are now seared into our consciousness. We see them and wish we didn’t.

 

Adam and Eve knew so little before. They knew that God loved them and that Eden would provide all they needed. That’s all they need to know. And then they ate the one thing forbidden and they gained the knowledge of good and evil. That one instant was enough to make them cower. A flood of knowledge of how good life could be could not keep up with the deluge of the power of evil to twist and taint everything. Genesis says they sewed fig leaves together to cover their naked, and suddenly vulnerable, bodies. (If you had ever tried sewing together and wearing such a garment, you’d know it was a fool’s errand.) No wonder the artist who painted the cover art depicts them as miserable. But that is not the end of the story. If you read on, toward the end of the chapter, after God has confronted them, God comforts them by making garments of skins for both of them. Considering God’s previous work, I imagine their new clothes fit well and were as comfortable as a well-worn sweatshirt. And I bet they were as colorful as the flowers and had thoughtful features like pockets! So every time Adam and Eve dressed they were filled with the knowledge … that God still loves them. This is quite the story to start Lent with. I invite you to spend the next seven weeks noticing what you see – both sights that are so good they fill your heart with joy as well as those that are so evil they turn your stomach. As descendants of Adam and Eve we now have to deal with both. We should not ignore the good and we cannot ignore the evil. Let that give you inspiration. I also invite you to consider God’s enduring love every time you get dressed during Lent. Every piece of clothing was designed and sewed by someone made in the image of God. Can you feel the residue of God’s touch on your skin? Let that give you comfort. Amen

[1] “Adam and Eve” by Michael Cook [2] From Samuel Wells’ reflections on the text for The Christian Century, 3/1/11
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