Sermon for the First Sunday of Lent
March 9, 2014
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
You know, that if you sneeze with your eyes open, they will pop out of your head. And, did you know that if a woman sings at just the right pitch, then she can shatter a glass? And, did you know that without a point of reference, it’s impossible for a human to walk in a straight line? Of course, these are urbans myths explored on Discovery Channel’s show, “Mythbusters.” It’s a great concept for a show. Take any urban myth, and test it out. For instance, does the tryptophan in turkey really make you sleepy?
And if mythbusters is a great idea for a television show, it’s an even better idea for a sermon. Today we read the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We get the whole effect: the tree, the snake, the fig leaves. It’s all there. And we’ve come up with all sorts of myths about the story. And it’s time to see if they hold any water.
Myth number one: This story is about “the Fall.” Adam and Eve were living in a perfect state of bliss. They enjoyed God’s grace completely until they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Ever since, humans have been struggling with sin.
Reality: This story is not so much about what happened to Adam and Eve. This story is about us. We do the very things that we know that we should not be doing. Then, after we have done that thing, our eyes are opened and we experience guilt in the aftermath. A kid steals a candy bar from a grocery store, or a big shot investor rips off his clients, or Adam and Eve eat the fruit. The story is the same. Every time that we rebel against God, we live into “the Fall.” And we fall over and over and over again.
Myth number two: It was the devil that tricked Eve into eating the piece of fruit.
Reality: Read the story closely. It’s not actually the devil or satan. It’s just a talking snake, which is, admittedly, awfully evil sounding. But the serpent is identified as being crafty. In the Old Testament, the devil is the accuser. And there is a big difference between being crafty and accusatory.
Myth number three: It was all Eve’s fault.
Reality: God never told Eve that she couldn’t eat of the fruit of the tree. God only told Adam that. It seems that maybe Adam didn’t tell Eve. Ladies, would that be surprising if your husband forgot to tell you something important? The tragedy in all of this is that woman have been oppressed for centuries because we’ve managed to twist this story into being Eve’s fault. But read the story closely – they both eat of the fruit. It’s both Adam and Eve’s fault. Sorry fellas, I’m not letting you off the hook this time.
And finally, myth number four: Adam and Eve gave us sin. That sin ruptured our relationship with God. But God wanted that relationship again. So God waited around for a while, then sent Jesus. Jesus was born, lived, died, rose again, ascended into heaven. And if we believe in Jesus, then all the sin will be washed away. If only we believe in Jesus, then we humans can finally have a relationship again with God.
Reality: That story has totally missed the point. That’s not what the Garden of Eden story is about. That’s surely not what the story of Jesus is about. That myth that I just gave, says that it’s all about our relationship with God. Well, that’s part of it. But that would be like going out to a Mexican restaurant and only eating the chips and salsa. That would be like learning the alphabet, but never reading a book.
See, there is a purpose to having a relationship with God. God, by creating humanity, has endowed us with a responsibility and a vocation. And, in fact, this responsibility is deeply embedded in the Garden of Eden story. Read closely, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” To watch over the Garden. To care for the Garden. To cultivate the Garden. But most importantly, rather than translating this as “to till it,” we can translate that word, “to serve it.” The Lord God put man in the Garden of Eden to serve. That is the first purpose of humanity in the entire bible. That is the first task that God has people perform. To serve.
Indeed, the entire point of humanity is to serve God, to serve our neighbors, and to serve the world. Yes, we must have a relationship with God to understand how to serve. But the relationship is not the point. Serving God and serving the world is the point. This is precisely what Jesus was all about – “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.”
The myth propagated in so many corners of Christianity, is that it’s all about your relationship with God. The myth is that you can erase the sin of Adam. You can believe in Jesus and have that relationship. As if that is what Christianity is all about. Service is only nice afterthought. But it’s not. As Christians, as people, we have been created to serve one another. That is our purpose. And it is our task, as Christians and as people, to serve the entire world.
Let me put it this way: it’s as if God wrote a symphony. That symphony is grandiose and magnificent and God wants the whole world to hear it. But God had no orchestra to play the music. So God creates humanity, and God gives us the talents and the skills necessary to play in the orchestra and to perform God’s great symphony. But something happens, we all forget how to play our instruments. And we walk away from the performance stage, and leave God alone on the conductor’s stand. God then sends Jesus to us as a music teacher. Jesus comes to each of us and teaches us again how to play our instruments. And slowly, over time, we re-learn what it takes to play the violin or the cello or the trumpet. Yes, Jesus came so that we could hang out with God on the performance stage. But Jesus really came to us so that we could play God’s beautiful symphony for the world.
During this holy season of Lent, I invite you to learn how to play again in God’s symphony. And this is a two-fold process. Yes, you must work on your relationship with God. Through prayer, meditation, reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. You must work on your relationship with God by coming to church, by connecting with other Christians. We can take this time of Lent to be more thankful, to be more disciplined, to recognize the beauty of our relationship with God. But that’s just getting you back on the performance stage.
You must also learn how to play your instrument, to play the beautiful music that God wants the world to hear. This means that you must serve the world, and serve each other. That is the point. I ask you to consider participating in our 40 Days of Service. To serve the world in God’s name so that God’s beautiful music can be heard by everyone. To help build a house, to serve food to the poor, to care for battered women. To keep, till, cultivate, and care for the world.
That is the point. Your purpose, as Christians, is to serve the world.
Now is the time for you to reclaim what God has always intended for your life. To pick up your cello, or your violin, or my favorite, your tuba. And to learn again what it takes to play in God’s symphony. To learn again how to serve.