Saturday, March 11, 2017

A World Created in Balance--Sermon for Year A, Lent I, St. Mark Hope and Peace

Sermon for SMHP, Year A, Lent 1, March 5, 2017
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
                15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but 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.”
           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’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3but 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.’“ 4But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
                6So 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. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

           Lent is a time for renewal. So we’re starting at the beginning.  Genesis, Chapter 2.  So almost the beginning.  In fact, I think it would be helpful to go back a chapter to the very beginning.
           A reading from Genesis, the first chapter:
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
           The story of creation is a story of balance.  A story of harmony.
           Light.  Dark.  Day.  Night.  Evening.  Morning.
           As the story goes on, each new day is filled with elements that balance one another:  sky and earth, land and water, creeping things and flying things.
           UNTIL the sixth day, when God created human beings in God’s image.  In the first account of creation—the one in Genesis One—God makes human beings and gives them dominion over the earth. 
           Now, at first, everything seemed okay.  In fact, it was going so well that on the seventh day…
           …God rested.  Which is good, because right after that, all hell broke loose.  Literally.
           There was this moment of balance.  I’m sure you’ve experienced it.  That moment when everything is in harmony.  Everything is flowin’ and groovin’. 
           And then it’s not.
           God made the humans—either all at once or the man first and then a helpmate for the man, depending on which account of creation you are reading and that’s why we are not biblical literalists because you can only be a literalist through Genesis, Chapter One, since Chapter Two offers a different account.
           And also because literalism is a terrible lens for a document of faith.
           But I digress.
           Genesis.  Chapter Two.  God made the humans and gave them the garden and responsibility and dominion over every living thing and God asked just one simple thing:  “Don’t eat that.”
           Enter the serpent.  Who is the serpent, according to tradition?
           The devil.  Which isn’t what the story says but is more or less accurate, since the devil is more of a presence than a little red cartoon man with a pitchfork.
           So the serpent came and convinced the humans to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and they did…
           …and so much for balance.  Harmony.  It all went away. 
           It went away because the real balance wasn’t between the man and the woman or between the humans and the rest of creation…
           …the real balance was between the humans and…?
           God ordered creation and created harmony among all living things.  And then God created humans, in God’s image, and God made the first covenant with the humans, in order that we would live in harmony with God.  God gave the humans everything, and in return, the humans agreed not to eat of the fruit of one tree.
           Should have been a pretty easy covenant for the humans to keep, shouldn’t it?
           You get everything.  Except this one thing.  One thing!
           And we couldn’t do it.  Couldn’t not eat the one thing. 
           That was just the beginning, wasn’t it?  Just the beginning of human beings looking at the world which God created with such love and knowing that we have the responsibility to care for that world and deciding that we want to know more than God. We want to take care of ourselves.  Make our own decisions.
           How are we doing?  How’s our balance right now as a species?  How’s our balance with all of the other species?
           Not so good.  God’s beautiful creation is taking a beating.  And we are generally looking the other way.
           The polar ice caps are melting faster than the folks who study climate change predicted.  This will surely be the warmest year on record, topping last year, which beat out the year before.
           All because we have decided that we know more than God.  And science.
           Clearly we are out of balance with creation.
           How’s our balance with one another?  Not so good, is it?
           God created this world and called it good.  Created it so that all creatures would live in harmony with one another.  Gave the humans all that we could possibly want.  Including more free will than is good for us.  And almost immediately, we exercised our free will to do the one thing God said not to do.  The fancy word for that is “concupiscence.”  The word we all know is “sin.”
           During the season of Lent, we are invited to think about our “concupiscence”—all of the ways in which we have turned away from God’s created order and chased after our desires to the detriment of our neighbors.
           During this Lenten season, we will be focusing specifically on justice. 

           What does justice look like?  What’s the symbol of justice?
           Balance.  This Lent, I want to invite you to consider balance, in your own life and in your relationship with the world.  What’s in balance?  What needs work?
           How are we out of balance with our world?  How is our world out of balance?
           We will be exploring these themes as we talk about justice this Lent. 
           God created a beautiful world and called it good.  And it is good.  Let us also live into that goodness.