The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
The First Sin and Its Punishment
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.
Throughout Lent, this year, we're going to be journeying through the Old Testament on Sunday mornings, looking at some, probably quite familiar passages and reflecting on those in the light of the season - with the perspective that we have of Jesus making his way toward the cross, demonstrating the love of God for each of us.
And so this Sunday, we start at the beginning. The story of Creation.
But a particular part of that story.
The temptation in the garden.
God created men and women in the image of God.
Along comes the serpent, seeking to undermine that relationship.
First of all, by sowing seeds of doubt: Did God say?.. Asks the serpent. <b>
“Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?
And the woman asserts that God said that they could eat from any tree except one, the tree of the knowledge of good or evil. If they ate of that tree they would die, God said.
But the serpent assured her that they would not die if they ate of that tree.
Undermining what God said.
But undermining too the relationship that they had with God.
The serpent tells them that the reason God does not want them to eat of that tree is that they will then become like God.
And, when we read this story, we often imagine that what the man and woman did wrong was to imagine that they could be like God.
When, in fact, what they failed to do was realise that they were already created in the image of God.
They didn't need to eat a special fruit to be like God.
For they were already created in God's image.
And so the serpent undermines what God said, undermines the man and woman's relationship with God and undermines their likeness to God, since they were created in the image of God.
I often use the phrase: "Looking for the divine spark that is in each of us" because I believe that we are all created in God's image and, though that divine spark may be more difficult to see in some than in others, though for many,that divine spark has been pushed down so far that it's almost impossible to see, it is there, placed in each of us by God as we were created.
And so we have the man and the woman, in the garden, being tempted by the serpent to forget in whose image they are created.
And it is as they lose sight of that, as they try to compete with God, to grasp the very gift that God has already created in them, that their relationship with God falters.
Losing sight of who we are and in whose image we are created is a temptation to which we all too readily succumb today.
And yet the truth is that you and I are created in God's image, created to be loved by God.
I've just finished reading the book Philomena, a story that was made into an award winning film that was released last November.
It is the story of a woman searching for her son whom she was forced to give up for adoption when he was born out of wedlock in an unforgiving Irish society.
The son, knowing himself adopted, constantly seeks love and affirmation in all the wrong places in an attempt to fill the void created by his feelings of rejection by his birth mother.
His quest for acceptance and belonging plagues him all his life.
He knows not where he has come from and to whom he belongs and so is prey to all manner of temptation.
And, on this first Sunday of Lent, it struck me that that is a common predicament we too find ourselves in.
We, who crave acceptance.
We who want to belong.
Are tempted to fulfil those needs in unhealthy ways.
Are tempted to seek affirmation in the wrong places.
Or are tempted to isolate ourselves so that we cannot experience any more pain.
And the insidious voice of the serpent drowns out the constant whisper of God that affirms us as beloved children, created in the image of God, belonging to God.
The temptations before us in this season of Lent have nothing to do with chocolate or wine or whatever else you have chosen to deny yourself.
The temptations before us are those things that take us away from living in relationship with God and with each other
The temptations before us are the voices that drown out the insistence of God that we who contain the very spark of God are beloved and belong to God.
But this season, in alerting us to the temptations to which we might succumb, also offers us a way out.
Because the season of Lent offers us space for reflection.
The six weeks between now and Easter invite us into re-discovering who we are as children of God and rediscovering Gods divine spark placed in us as we were created.
I'm going to invite you now to take the flower that you received as you came to worship this morning.
Take a moment to reflect on God's image in you.
Whether, for you, that comes easily or whether it comes with much struggle, I invite you, as you reflect in the quiet of this sanctuary, to fold in the petals of your flower.
And, as you fold the petals, enfold all the anxieties you carry about who you are and about your relationship with God and with others.
Then, when you have had a moment to reflect, I invite you to come forward and to place your flower in the bowls of water around the sanctuary....
As you see the petals open, may you feel your heart being opened to hear the voice of God claiming you as a beloved child, rekindling the divine spark that is in you.
YOU are created in God's image.
Thanks be to God.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad