Traditionally during advent we come face to face with some challenging themes including death, hell and judgement – so hold onto your harts today as we enter the garden of Eden and retrace our first parents and their battle with good and evil!
Genesis 3: 11-11 NRSV
Now the serpent was craftier than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’”
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
They heard the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
How we read scripture really matters when we think about how we apply scripture. And today’s reading is an example of a passage that can help us understand our relationship with God and temptation (which we all experience) but I can’t put my hand on my heart and tell you this text is exactly what happened, because I don’t know that it is. However, it contains some important lessons for life, not least the way that God, all knowing, goes looking for his children in the garden for God searches us out, even when we have failed to live in his light and love.
The story starts with a talking serpent, as many tales do, and this creature is cunning and suggests to Eve that she can eat the fruit that had been forbidden by God and all would be well. We have often thought of this moment as Adam and Eve taking a bite from a beautiful red apple – much art on the subject depicts the scene in vivid colour. However, the Hebrew doesn’t specify an apple – it is fruit. Indeed, every decision we make, every action we take results in fruit – consequences. Here the temptation isn’t to do something in absolute opposite from God, but it’s a temptation to doubt God’s word just a little bit…so the craft snake says, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
We all know that’s how temptation works… oh go on a few mouthfuls more of chocolate, that extra sweat, that third portion of roast dinner, and many more things less appetising besides. Because friends, that’s how sin works. Rarely are any of us tempted to do something truly awful, truly evil, truly dreamful. Often bad decisions are made because we put ourselves before others and worst of all, as with Adam and Eve, put ourselves before God. We all miss the target from time to time.
Eve eats from the apple and passes the fruit to Adam her husband who does the same. “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Feeling naked, vulnerable or even guilty is a classic reaction to sin. Another way of explain this biblical story is that Adam and Eve were unmasked – yes they did now know the truth, but what was revealed was their human frailty – and that is why the story is important to us today, because we too are frail. As Christians we believe that at such times all we have to do is to turn to Christ, because in the name of Jesus we can be forgiven, reconciled back to God because we are loved unconditionally in the first place. This is not some kind of cop-out, our mistakes, sins, selfishness all matter – they really do, and the come with consequences. But God doesn’t ever stop loving us. In the Genesis 3 story God looks for Adam and Eve because he loves them. May we remember, when we have let others or ourselves down, when we have made mistakes, when we have sinned, that God always longs to reconcile us, to help us make amends and to lead us back into life and light.
God forgave my sin in Jesus’ name;
I’ve been born again in Jesus name;
And in Jesus name I come to you
To share his love as he told me to.
He said, “freely, freely, you have received; Freely, freely, give.
Go in my name, and because you believe, others will know that I live.”
All power is given in Jesus’ name,
In earth and heaven in Jesus’ name;
And in Jesus’ name I come to you
To share his power as he told me to.
God gives us life in Jesus’ name,
He lives in us in Jesus name;
And in Jesus name I come to you
To share his peace as he told me to.
Lord of love, we thank you that you always search us our and know us. In times of self doubt and temptation, help us to navigate life’s challenges. In times of failure or selfishness, restore us to your love. May we know how to make amends and love others, and even ourselves, for your sake, the one who brings light, hope and peace. Amen.