15.3.14

What went wrong with Adam and Eve?


And so here we are in Lent. 
Some marked the beginning of this season by being themselves marked, with the imposition of ashes. We acknowledge with this symbol that we are finite, frail and dependent.

And now we venture into Lent with Jesus and with Adam and Eve into times of frailty and testing and challenge. How appropriate when those things that you have given up or decided to take on still compete for your attention or your forgetting. For Jesus the memory of his being called, chosen and baptised is still fresh, for Adam and Eve, the beauty of the garden is all around them and yet into the peace of Christ's mind and into the peace of the garden, the tempter comes.

With Jesus in the wilderness and our kin in the garden, we are given a window into understanding how temptation works and how it can be overcome.

We might begin by exploring doubt, division and dependence.

Doubt

You're half way down the motorway and that voice from the passenger seat says, “Did you lock the front door? Did you? Cos I can't remember. Perhaps we didn't lock the front door!” Has this ever happened to you? It stays with you all day until you're home and it's dark.

You did. What a waste of energy.

Doubt – it's exhausting.

Did God really say...?
Did God really say...?

It would seem that the first thing the tempter does is to cause those first humans to doubt God's goodness. 'Has God said you shall not eat from the trees of the garden?' He suggests to Eve that God is denying her some good gift out of spite. Notice how quickly the thing she is denied takes centre stage in her life. “the tree in the middle...God told us not to eat [from it].” So obsessed she becomes by one contraband tree that she places it in the centre of her story of the garden. We were not told of its location before but now it triumphs over all other trees for her attention. And in forgetting God's goodness and doubting his character, we have the first moment of idolatry where God is replaced with self at the centre and that tree which is promotion, or new house, or new car, or new partner, or new church or better building or larger, younger congregation, replace it with what you will...but from where ever we derive our confidence, if it is not in our identity as children of God, then we have passed God over and trees loom large on our horizons.

In doubting God and his love and provision for us, we do not lose our need for security and status and safety, we just invest this need in other things and when those things let us down, we become susceptible again.

He's upped his game when he swaps Adam for Christ has the tempter and he points Jesus to the very words of God, not just the memory of them, Not just “Did God really say” but look here, I have it in print, let me show you the words and he quotes psalm 91 and assures Jesus that if he were to jump from the highest place in the desert, Angels would surely bear him up. “You're the Son of God, God will do this for you, Go on, jump, what's the matter, don't you think God loves you?”

“God doesn't love you, God doesn't want the best for you, God can't be trusted,” are the whispers of the enemy as real today as they were long ago. The devil delights in our questioning the goodness of God. When we forget that God is 'for us,' we become vulnerable in our self-reliance. Self runs out, gets tired, becomes lonely, self is finite as we symbolised with ashes, but God is not and this is what we forget. This is sin as I think we should define it.

The attraction of having no limits, being self-made and self-sufficient, aspiring to become our own god is always something we will wrestle with, all of us, presidents and pastors, people young and old. There are many trees from which we want to eat, there are many ways in which we want it all. This is what we acknowledge with ash on our foreheads, that we will return to dust because from dust is where we came.

On Ash Wednesday for a moment, we were spoiled and even humiliated, marked, smudged and stained, we acknowledged for a while that we were not God that we are not self-made!

So the temptations the devil feeds Jesus in our gospel today are those we all face as we strain towards independence. “Become your own food.” Be full, found and fed. With a small act of power turn these stones into bread but Jesus refuses God's word is his food.

“Show your stuff; mete out magic. Jump from that temple in full self-assurance." But Jesus will live by God's power not his own.

“Look out from the highest mountain for all you see will be yours.' But Jesus declines, he knows a glory unseen and reserved only for God.

And so the sin of the first humans was to reject their very humanness, to deny the dust and try to make themselves gods. We still do this today.

The temptation overcome by the Son of God, was to accept limitation, to welcome it and welcome it to the point of complete self-abandonment, to put himself on a new tree to replace the old contraband one, to put a cross at the centre towards which we journey this lent. Jesus does human, he does limitation, he does dependence when we are so unwilling. The gift of the new Adam is his acceptance of frailty, his living our limitedness, suffering sin's consequences, his denial of his own ego to the point of eradication. The ultimate denial of the self is surely seen in the welcoming of the death of the self. Your being extinguished.

So what do we do to rewrite our place in this story, to cut down trees of temptation and replace them with crosses, to put God at the centre and silence the tempter's whispers?

The answer lies in a dependence that overcomes division. The Spirit took the Son of God into desperate isolation in the desert but he could, because he was God. In himself Jesus is community. He is able to withstand. The devil in his craftiness exploited the vulnerability of man and isolated the first humans from one another. Eve without Adam was no match for Satan. We need one another. Had it been reversed Adam would surely have fared just the same.
And so know this: You need one another.
Stick at church, keep loving one another, don't go it alone in your quests to know God, we have to do this together and help each other in our weaknesses.
Depend on one another.
The whispers get quieter.

Begin to acknowledge too your dependence on God, let's not be perfect in this place we call church, let's acknowledge instead our lack and our unfinished-ness, in that way we make more room for God in his limitlessness.

The greatest gift we can be to a world that sures up self-reliance is to be a place for broken boats needing time in the harbour. Let's do nurture. Let's do weakness.

For God's sake, let's show our need for a Saviour!
Celebrate your limits and your humanness and don't deny it. God will come and meet you and more than make up for it.

As you press on as a church into whatever lies ahead of you begin before you're ready and trust in resurrection for after the cross comes the life and nothing can stop it.

Let your dust and stains show and trust Jesus to deal with it. 
Let's acknowledge our dependence this Lent and our dustiness. Amen.

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