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Friday, January 24, 2014

Scripture Reading: Genesis 3:1–24
Now the serpent was more crafty 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 sound of 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?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the serpent,

    “Because you have done this,
        cursed are you among all animals
        and among all wild creatures;
    upon your belly you shall go,
        and dust you shall eat
        all the days of your life.
    I will put enmity between you and the woman,
        and between your offspring and hers;
    he will strike your head,
        and you will strike his heel.”
To the woman he said,
    “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
        in pain you shall bring forth children,
    yet your desire shall be for your husband,
        and he shall rule over you.”
And to the man he said,
    “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
        and have eaten of the tree
    about which I commanded you,
        ‘You shall not eat of it,’
    cursed is the ground because of you;
        in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
    thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
        and you shall eat the plants of the field.
    By the sweat of your face
        you shall eat bread
    until you return to the ground,
        for out of it you were taken;
    you are dust,
        and to dust you shall return.”

The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.

Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life. (NRSV)

I thoroughly enjoy reading Genesis. I picture its stories read round a fire, some children fading into the arms of a night’s slumber, nestled in their mother’s lap. Others are wide awake with wonder, imagination, and curiosity—something like Christmas morning or like the elaborate imaginations shown in Rugrats. Adolescents, adults, old men, ancient sages, medicine women, and healers, all gathered around the stories that tell of where they come from, why the world is as it is, and who they are in the midst of it.

This story is a piercing one, as it’s not full of details that a modern novel would have to describe, but in between the lines are jarring realities. Just before this passage, we are being told of paradise, and by the end of today’s reading, the first humans find themselves “east of Eden.” Our ancestral storytellers knew something about human tragedy, existence as struggle, and about the world as it is and as it could be.

We know this well, don’t we? We see the world as it is and imagine what it could be. We know something has gone wrong—that it includes systems already present (the serpent was already in the Garden) as well as personal choices and responsibility (the blame game doesn’t take responsibility away from Adam and Eve).

There’s something else that our storytellers knew. The first humans lose paradise, perhaps because they would otherwise destroy it, but they don’t lose God. God remains and will one day walk amongst them in Jesus as the Christ and in us, temples of the Holy Spirit, until we cultivate paradise again.

We are thankful, that in the midst of a tragic world, you are with us. Lead us as your partners in cultivating paradise, in thy kingdom come. Amen.

Written by Edwin Estevez, Pastoral Resident

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