Pastor Adrianne Meier
26 February 2023 — First Sunday in Lent
Saint Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Indiana
The Deep Resolve of the Creator
Please click here for a printable version of this sermon.
Genesis 2:7-9, 15-17, 21-25; 3:1-7, emended
Then the LORD God formed the human from the dust of the ground and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living being. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there God put the human whom God had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The LORD God took the human and put it in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the human, “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.”
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the human, and it slept; then God took the human’s side and closed up its place with flesh. And the Lord God built from the human’s side a woman and brought her to the human. Then the human said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
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.
I don’t think I’ve ever successfully carried a Lenten fast all the way to the end of Lent. Forty days plus Sundays is a lot of time to go without something. Or, it is a long time to remember that you intended to go without something. Generally, my family abstains from red meat on Fridays in Lent, but at least one a season we accidentally order a pepperoni pizza on Friday. How could we forget? Of course, there have also been years where my Lent fast just went up in flames. I gave up swearing one year, which ended in a tirade that I probably shouldn’t even speak about from the pulpit—but for good reason! I was presiding at a funeral, where the funeral director spent the entire service texting—with the sound on, a little trill sounded with each message and the keyboard on his nine-button flip phone beeped and booped with every letter. So much for that fast. It is like so many things, though, I have the best intentions, and the poorest follow-through. Well, I have the best intentions and the poorest follow-through and, sometimes, I am just a really horrible person and I know it. I doubt I am alone. Walt Brueggemann has noted that there is, within us, a “strange resistance” which is, thankfully, matched by “the deep resolve of the creator.”
In the beginning, God created the first human, but when the human was alone—and the birds, animals, trees and plants could not help—God took a big chunk out of the human to create another. God knows the human needs community, but the very formation of community creates division. The people are separated from each other. Even when they are joined back together, they are not quite as they once were.
We call this story from Genesis “The Fall.” Throughout Christian history, since Paul, we have looked to this story to pinpoint the exact moment when humanity fell from grace, the precise first sin, and the cause of our separation from God. The story refuses to yield (though many theologians refuse to admit it). It becomes a story of separation, yes, but of humanity separated within itself, a separation required because it is not good for us to be alone. How ironic. It becomes a story of how we question God’s intention for us, a story that assumes that God’s prohibitions are unfair to us without regard for how they might protect our neighbor. It is a story about the strange resistance of the world to the grace of God.
The trouble is amplified when they see each other. In the Hebrew there is a word used for human, adam, the person made from the adamah, the humus—it is something like mudperson, who was made from the mud—but when the human is divided, the divided part first becomes woman and when what is left starts talking to the woman, it identifies itself as the man—ish and issha.
After the human is divided into woman and man, everything seems to crumble. The people are more vulnerable to exploitation and blame, which happens almost immediately. After the trouble with the fruit, Adam will try to name Eve, to exert control over her. They seek power over each other. Eventually, God expels them from the garden. I have to believe that this was never about the fruit. It is about how God gave humanity everything it needed, but they resisted it—and they resisted each other.
Things haven’t really changed since the garden. The world is a terrible and cruel place. We resist one another, refusing to see each other in the light of God’s grace. We are jealous, resentful, suspicious of one another. We exploit God’s good creation for our own purposes. We delude ourselves into believing that if we just follow the rule perfectly, nothing bad will happen, and then spend a lifetime blaming others for the bad things that happen. We are unimaginably cruel to each other. We ignore God’s promises and commandments.
But we are creations of the creator. Even though we are resistant, there is still the deep resolve of the creator. It is too easy a thing to jump from the pain of this story to God’s ultimate victory. To brush off the distance between people, between humanity and creation, between creature and creator. Sure, I want to believe that God has everything well in hand. That our resistance is predicted and prepared for. But I have seen too many miracles go unworked and too much pain remain unhealed and too much division remain unresolved. In the end, I think the greater comfort isn’t that God will win the day. The greater comfort is in God’s stubborn resolve not to leave me alone in my sin.
I really struggled to write this story this week because there are more than a few of us at St. Thomas that are a little raw and banged up. Life itself is rough enough without the added dimension of human cruelty. I didn’t want to write a sermon about sin. I resist! But perhaps this is exactly what we need to hear: that in a world that stubbornly resists God’s grace, God has deeply resolved that in our pain, our sin, our fallenness, God will never leave us.