We Are God's Creation
First Sunday in Lent - February 13, 2005 - Year A
Marsh Swamp Original Free Will Baptist Church
Lessons: Genesis 2:4b-9,15-17,25-3:7
Psalm 51 or 51:1-13
Genesis 2:7Yahweh God shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living being.
We are God’s creation. We cannot take credit for our own creation. We are not some cosmic accident. We are God’s creation. God has formed us from the dust and soil of the earth and has breathed life into us. The same Divine Spirit that moved over the waters at the beginning of creation is breathed into our nostrils. God has claimed us from our very beginning. God has breathed Spirit into our nostrils. We are God’s creation in body and in spirit. Just as we cannot deny the dust and soil of our being, neither should we dare deny God’s Spirit that resides at the center of our being.
There is much discussion and even argument over whether Adam and Eve were real people or if the stories of Genesis are true at all. Most of the discussions, arguments, and even the conclusions often miss the point entirely. This wonderful and foundational story from Genesis has at its core the most important and central truth of all Judeo-Christian faith. God created us, both our body and our spirit.
Once, when I was in high school, after a bitter argument with a classmate, I was told, “Phil, you are so mean, I don’t think you were born, I think you were hatched by a buzzard.” I can’t deny that I have often acted like a buzzard hatched me but the sober truth is that I am God’s child. I am formed in God’s image and God has breathed life into me.
All of our beliefs and our faith flow from this one premise. When we deny our humanity and when we deny to whom we belong, we find ourselves doing what Adam and Eve are doing in this story, trying to be God rather than belonging to God. Denying our humanity and not being satisfied with the holy breath of God that gave us life, has always been our ticket out of Paradise. The story of Adam and Eve is our story. I am Adam; I am Eve. You are Adam; you are Eve.
Just as understanding that God created us and breathed divine spirit into us is the foundation of our faith, so too our denial of who we are and whose we are become the foundation for our sinfulness.
Romans5: 18One man’s offence brought condemnation on all humanity; and one man’s good act has brought justification and life to all humanity.
Here Paul reminds us that we are community and that all humanity is like one organism, an organism contaminated by sinfulness but yet an organism swimming in the love, grace, and forgiveness of Christ Jesus.
Another sign of our sinfulness is that we often deny community. We think we can navigate life’s troubled waters relying on our own skill, our own self righteousness, and the heresy that says, “Ain’t nothing me and the Lord can’t handle.”
Jesus believed in community. He began His ministry calling others into community. He taught them and us to pray, “Our Father…” not My Father. The last recorded thing he did in community before His execution was to wash the feet of His followers, even the feet of Judas who would ‘rat him out’ to the authorities. On His way to Golgotha, the Son of God falls and has to have help from Simone of Cyrene to carry the cross. After His resurrection He is concerned with the community. “Go and tell them…”, He tells the women. When the community is in hiding, He goes to them and greets them with, “Shalom”.
So, who do we think we are? Can we, who are called to follow Jesus, navigate life alone, outside community? Can we, who are called to model our lives on His example, pretend that community is not important? I think not!
It is true that the community of faith to which we are called is broken. But it is no more broken than we as individuals are broken. The brokenness of our community is not our excuse to leave the community! That is our call to participate in the redemption of our community! Paul says that Christ ‘has brought justification and life to all humanity’; that would include our community too, even the church.
While sometimes we feel the sting of sin in community, we must remember that Christ’s love, sacrifice, and forgiveness is not singular, it is for all. Salvation and redemption are not our personal property. Christ died for the community as surely as he died for each one of us. Christ died that the whole of creation might be reconciled to God.
Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the desert to be put to the test by the devil.2He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was hungry,3and the tester came and said to him, ‘If you are Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’4But he replied, ‘Scripture says: Human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ * 5The devil then took him to the holy city and set him on the parapet of the Temple.6‘If you are Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says: He has given his angels orders about you, and they will carry you in their arms in case you trip over a stone.’ * 7Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ *8Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour.9And he said to him, ‘I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.’10Then Jesus replied, ‘Away with you, Satan! For scripture says: The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone you must serve.’ *11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels appeared and looked after him.
In Genesis, Adam and Eve deny their humanity and, in seeking to be God, are shown the exit from Paradise. In the wilderness, Jesus accepts His humanity and ‘suddenly angels appeared and looked after him.’
One of the great preachers and authors of our time is a woman, Barbara Brown Taylor. In 1996 she wrote an article for the magazine, The Christian Century. In that article she wrote these words and I offer her words to you today as one of the best explanations of the Temptation of Christ I have ever read or heard.
She says, “I do not think these stories are about the temptation not to be a good human being. I think they are about the temptation not to be human at all. As far as I can tell, what Adam and Jesus are both tempted by, is the chance to play God…But whereas Adam stepped over the line and found humanity a curse, Jesus stayed behind the line and made humanity a blessing. One man trespassed; one man stayed put. One tried to be God; one was content to remain a human being. And the irony is that the one who tried to be God did not do too well as a human being, while the one who was content to be human became known as the Son of God. They are both alive and well in us. You can feel them both tugging at you most of your life. But if Adam’s story is our story, then Jesus’ story is ours as well. We have both sets of genes in us. We are kin to both of them.”
Yes, indeed and Amen! We are kin to both Adam and Jesus. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.
There are some other observations about our Gospel lesson that need to be made. First it is God’s spirit that sends Jesus into the wilderness and this wilderness experience comes immediately after John baptizes Jesus.
We can conclude from those facts that sometimes the wilderness or desert experiences in our lives are gifts to us from God’s Holy Spirit and they may come at the most unusual of times, perhaps at or near the times when we have had an important God encounter or conversion experience.
Secondly, Satan uses the ‘if’ word a lot. ‘If you are Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ ‘If you are Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down.’ ‘I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.’ ‘If’ is Satan’s word. God’s word is ‘Jesus’. ‘Jesus’ is the living word of God. In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God.
Third, notice that Satan is quoting scripture as well as Jesus. This might be a warning from Matthew to us that not everyone who quotes scripture to us has our best interests at heart. There are some who will use scripture to manipulate us and manipulate the community to an evil purpose.
One of my first serious Bible teachers told his students to listen to the scriptures as you would listen to a great symphony. He said for us to listen for the themes that run through the entire symphonic score. The themes of God’s symphony, I believe, are love, healing, and forgiveness and I believe that those themes start at Genesis 1:1 and continue through the last note of Revelation. Whenever someone bends scripture so as to obscure or drown out these themes of love, healing, and forgiveness, I get very suspicious.
Finally, in the temptation passage, Satan is trying to define who Jesus is. The Greek word for test is peirasmos. The word quite literally has the meaning of conducting an experiment to see what we are really made of. In The Lord’s Prayer, this is what we are asking for deliverance from, peirasmos. Satan is conducting an experiment to see if Jesus can be manipulated and redefined.
Then Jesus replied, ‘Away with you, Satan!’
Jesus says something very similar to Peter later in the Gospel when Peter tries to define what kind of Messiah Jesus should be. “Get behind me, Satan”, Jesus says to Peter in Matthew 16:23.
Jesus will not allow Satan, or Peter, or us to define His Messiahship. He claims His humanity and thereby proclaims His Divinity. He will not be made small and in the image we imagine. He has come to reconcile us all to God. He has come to the whole community of humankind. In John 3:17 He says, “For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.”
Beloved, if any here have not made a commitment to follow Jesus and to journey with Jesus in community, I invite you to come forward during the commitment hymn. Pastor Wells and members of this faith community will pray with you here at the alter rail.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, majesty, power, dominion, and glory, this day and forevermore. Amen.
* Dt 8:3.
* Ps 91:10–12.
* Dt 6:16.
* Dt 6:13.