Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:4-7

On the day the Lord God made earth and heavens, no shrub of the field being yet on the earth and no plant of the field yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not caused rain to fall on the earth and there was no human to till the soil, then the Lord God fashioned the human, humus from the soil, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living creature.

Sung Response: All Creatures of Our God and King, vs 1

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, to the east, and He placed there the human He had fashioned. And the Lord God cause to sprout from the soil every tree lovely to look at and good for food, and the tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge, good and evil.

Sung Response: All Creatures of Our God and King, vs 2&3

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Scripture Reading: Genesis 3:1-8

Now the serpent was most cunning of all the beasts of the field that the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Though God said, you shall not eat from any tree of the garden – ” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat, but from the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden God has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die.

And the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not be doomed to die. For God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will become as gods knowing good and evil. And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and that it was lust to the eyes and the tree was lovely to look at, and she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave to her man, and he ate. And the eyes of the two were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves and made themselves loincloths.

Sung Response: All Creatures of Our God and King, vs 4&5

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!


 

Here we are, Friends: back in the Garden of Eden. This is Paradise, so picture it however you like.

Because it’s Paradise you are not alone, and I mean that in the deepest and truest sense. The Lord God made one human to place in the garden, and then immediately concluded that it is not good for the human to be alone. God decided to make another human, a sustainer to stand beside the first one.

And the Lord God cast a deep slumber on the human, and he slept, and He took one of his ribs and closed over the flesh where it had been, and the Lord God built the rib He had taken from the human into a woman and He brought her to the human.

The first recorded speech of the human is here, when he is given a companion. It’s a celebration of community and intimacy and friendship- a celebration of being together.

And the human said:

“This one at last, bone of my bones

And flesh of my flesh,

This one shall be called Woman

For from man was this one taken.”

The Lord God took a piece of the human, and created another human out of that, and this was the companion that the human needed. It is not good for us to be alone. We are essentially the same, and our deepest need is for each other.

And the two of them were naked, the human and his woman, and they were not ashamed. Here in Eden they were totally vulnerable to each other, and not afraid. They’re totally together, and not ashamed.

The two humans saw everything there was to see about each other, and they lived in a love so strong that it didn’t occur to them to be ashamed. That’s Paradise.

We live in what I will call a culture of alienation. If you don’t like what she said, then just change the channel. If you disagree with what he posted, then just defriend him. If a person hurts you, then sever the relationship to protect yourself.

Build the walls up, brick by brick. Draw the curtains close.

We are terrified of being seen- this is the human condition. Eve and Adam ate the fruit, and immediately they knew they were naked. They didn’t know before?

Imagine a reporter in the Garden of Eden, moments before the fateful bite, asking the two humans if they are wearing clothes. They would have no idea what this meant, of course, and they would ask in response why they should need to cover up. What does this word shame mean, anyway?

And then they listen to the serpent’s voice. The serpent promises to open their eyes, to let them see the world as gods.

They bite into the fruit with abandon, and then they know good and evil, and then they know shame.

They knew good the whole time, surrounded as they were by good fruit and good companionship and good love. But now they know evil too. Now, knowing both good and evil, they know how to judge.

Suddenly, Adam and Eve are ashamed. They’re afraid of being judged. They want clothes. They grab whatever they can find, to cover themselves, to hide from each other, to keep away from this feeling of shame.

Then they hear their Sculptor coming. The text actually isn’t entirely clear, because the Hebrew words for Spirit and wind are the same. Could be that they just heard the wind in the trees.

But in that guilty way that humans run, Adam and Eve don’t wait to find out. Having hidden from each other, now they hide in the bushes, cowering, trying not to be seen by God.

If you were looking for a one word description of humans, you couldn’t go wrong with hiders. We hide our motivations. We hide our desires. We hide our addictions. We hide our histories. We hide our loves.

We bury it all away. We’re terrified to be seen for who we are.

God finds the two humans, and the blame game begins. Due to their disobedience they must leave this beautiful garden, but before that: the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve and clothed them. This is a very tender image, in which the Creator dresses his children.

I can’t help but think, though, that it must have been horrifying for Adam and Eve. They have never seen an animal die. Now here they are, dressed in the skins of the dead.

Death is one of the greatest separations we face, and here they are clothed in it. They’re beginning to understand.

After this moment, death becomes our trademark. Adam and Eve have two sons, one of whom kills the other. The culture becomes increasingly violent, driven by a desire to hide and control rather than a desire to know and be known.

These are ancient stories, but here we are on the 15th anniversary of the Al Qaeda attacks on our nation. I remember the horror of that day. I bet most of you do, too.

And I think we’re aware, Friends, that as horrible as those attacks were, other people in other nations face violence on a much larger scale.

That is why we have this story, so that we can see the consequences of turning away from each other. God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, in complete harmony. Then, the people insisted on being in charge of defining good and evil, and it all went into the proverbial handbasket.

Now, Adam and Eve are separate. They are alienated from God, and alienated from each other.

This is a story about us. It’s a story about the world we find ourselves in, and the redemption we desperately need.

So. Listen, Friends, as we undo the curse.

In a culture of alienation, we are called – and equipped – to be reconcilers. We’ve been reconciled to God, through Christ, and we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation: the call to speak and live peace in all our relationships, as a reflection of the peace between ourselves and God.

That is, simultaneously, more than we were hoping for and exactly what we were looking for.

Friends, listen: the shameful things that you think you have been hiding? God has already seen them, and loves you anyhow. The same is true of your friends, in that they will love you far beyond what you thought they would bear.

In fact, they might love you more for your honesty. It’s time to throw the fig leaves away.

We are human, humus from the soil with God’s breath in our nostrils. We humans are not perfect, but oh my goodness, we are beautiful. I mean that. Every one of you is beautiful.

And Friends, let me tell you this: you are seen for who you are, whether you like it or not, and you are loved. Yes, even with that on your record. Yes, even with that hidden in your past. You are beautiful, and you are loved.

The gift given to the first human was another human like himself. This is the greatest gift: we are not alone. Our imperfect beauty is reflected in all the imperfect beauty that surrounds us, in children and lovers and friends and companions and as Jesus teaches us, even our enemies.

Many promises are made in Scripture, but this is the first promise: we are not alone. Even as Adam and Eve are leaving Eden, they leave with the promise that God will work in the world to reverse the curse. The whole rest of the Bible is the story of God loving us back into fellowship with one another and fellowship with the Divine.

As high as we might raise our defenses, we are not alone. God is with us, and our friends are with us. We are surrounded by holy companions, and by the Love that brought us into being,

The temptation is always there to resist love, to say that you are not worthy, to say that it’s not for you.

Breathe deep, anyhow. Let the Spirit of Life come in through your nostrils. You are human, humus from the soil – breathe that Love in. Let it make you alive.

Here we are, Friends: back in the Garden of Eden. This is Paradise, so picture it however you like. But imagine this: being in complete unity with God, and being completely present to another.

You are surrounded by people whose struggles are much the same as yours. Drop the fig leaves. They weren’t hiding much, anyhow.

Drop the masks. Come out of the bushes, and live in love. That’s the path back to Paradise.