Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Second Sunday in Advent, December 4, 2005, Gen 3:9-15

St. John’s, Howard, SD, November 30, 2005, Midweek Advent 1.
Genesis 3:9-15, ESV
"Adam, Where are you?"
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Adam and Eve hid cowering among the trees of the Garden. For the first time in their lives they were afraid... afraid of God. They had never been afraid of Him before... never before had the sound of God approaching sent the scurrying for cover. Never before had they needed protection... But now, as they hid trembling, covered in their newly created clothing, they realized that their enemy was approaching. God would be angry. He would be angry at what they had done. Maybe it was a dream... maybe they really didn't take the fruit, but its taste still lingered on their lips, sweet... and bitter. It was not a dream. The shame clung to them, soiled them, so that they couldn't bear even to look at each other. No amount of clothing cover covered it... no amount of washing would remove it... They just wanted to hide, away from each other and away from God.
Why had they listened to the Snake? Why had they believed what was now so clearly lies? He had told them what it would mean... to know good and evil. The Snake was evil. What was it about what he said that was so irresistible? The lies dripped from his flickering tongue like drops of honey, but they held only poison and death. He had brought them to their hiding place with his promise of knowledge. Now they longed to forget. But it was the Snake... his evil... his lies... his deception... his fault. God couldn't blame them. They were too weak to resist. The fruit was too sweet.
Didn't God know that... didn't He know they couldn't stand up to such temptation. Now they were sure that it wasn't so much that they had failed... God had failed.... He should have protected them... He should have told them about the Snake. Clearly God was at fault, anyone could see that. So they crouched there, in their hiding place, blaming God. Hoping that He wouldn't see them, hoping that he would pass them by.
Satan howled in delight to see what he had done. He had driven a wedge between God and his most treasured creation. It had all seemed too easy. The man and the woman were indeed weak and pitiful. A half-hearted promise was all it took; a glimpse of the greener grass... They were so easily led away... And now, they were... lost, enemies of God; sinful creatures cowering among the leaves, hoping for protection from God's wrath. Satan watched in eager expectation, anticipation for what he considered a glorious victory. God was coming to the Garden, the man and his wife would face judgment.
God's heart was broken... He knew what had happened. He knew what Adam and Eve had done... how they had cast aside His love. Instead they believed Satan's lie. After all that He had done for them, they had chosen... the lie. And now, they were afraid... There in their poor hiding place, they were fearful and alone, not able to help each other and not able to turn to Him. The enormity of what they had done escaped them. They only knew their fear. It was right for them to be afraid... His anger burned. The sin in them was intolerable; a dark rotting spot; a self-imposed blemish in His perfect creation. They deserved destruction... but, now was not the time for destruction... now was the time for promise. "Adam... Adam, where are you?” He called to them.
We the people of the jury in the matter of the State of South Dakota verses John Doe, find the defendant... guilty. He is guilty, guilty, guilty... guilty, we don't even like the word. We want to pass it over as soon as possible. Push it aside. Get rid of it. To be found guilty is to be discovered, put to shame, and publicly humiliated. Guilty people will go to great lengths to show that they are not guilty. And if they are found guilty, they will do what ever it takes to show they had sufficient reason to do what they are guilty of doing. You see it really wasn't my fault... I was abused as a child... I'm a drug addict... It must be genetic.
So when we see Adam and Eve afraid in the Garden, when we see them hiding from the wrath of God, we may not see what it has to do with us. We know that we sin. We don't have to look very hard at ourselves to see that. We even use it as an excuse. "Well, I'm not perfect. I'd like to seem someone else do better." But we justify ourselves by comparison. “I’m no Sadaam Hussein. I’m no adulterer. I’m no murderer. I’m no slacker.” We don’t see ourselves cowering in fear over our sin, it is just an unpleasant fact that we deal with every day. The truth of the matter is we seldom feel guilty about it. And if we do happen to feel guilty we don't feel guilty long... just like our first father and mother our guilt turns to excuses. I did it but... I was pushed into a corner. I did it but... I was only following the crowd. I did it but... I couldn't help it. I'm weak and sick. I did it but... it really isn't my fault. I'm not really guilty. When the finger of guilt points to us we stammer and shake... and push it away. Point that thing at someone else... we don’t care where it points as long as it doesn’t point at me. It is his fault, not mine.
It seems, after all, that we have a lot in common with our relative in the Garden. That's exactly what he did. When God confronted him with his sin, he did the 'manly thing'... he blamed his wife. "She did it... she brought me the fruit. She picked it from the tree... she listened to the snake first... I was influenced by her 'feminine ways'. It isn't my fault. And don't forget, God, you are the one who gave her to me. I think you made her wrong. She's defective. It isn’t my fault." Adam didn't linger long on his own sin. He didn't deny it... he just pushed the finger of guilt out of his face, and he didn't care where it landed. Don't think, though that Eve did any better. When God turned to her, when she was confronted about what she had done... "It was the snake. I was afraid of him. He was too clever for me. He picked the fruit... I mean he knocked it off the tree with his head. He gave it to me... so I ate it... it isn't my fault." It doesn't take much to hear those words in our own mouths.
Our unwillingness to accept blame is really a matter of fear. Fear over the guilt of sin. But, really we’ve tried to forget exactly why we should be afraid when we fall into sin. We’ve change the bible’s picture of God from a God who demands perfection, to a god who’s all excepting, a god who overlooks our little faults and problems. A god who says about our sin, “Well, that’s ok, you did the best you could.” That’s not the God Adam and Eve were rightfully afraid of in the garden. If you want to remind yourself exactly how God’s anger burns against sin, all you have to do is stand at the foot of the cross and see it. The punishment of Jesus is a very clear picture of the wages of sin, a very crisp portrayal of just exactly what our guilt should bring. Just like those two hiding in the garden, we try to cover over the fact that we are guilty. Guilt brings punishment. When they heard God approaching... they knew that he would be angry. They knew they were guilty, and they knew they should be afraid. What their guilt had done was turn the sound of their loving protector and provider in to the terrible sound of coming judgment. They tried to deflect it to each other. They tried to reflect it back on to God himself. That too is just like us. We have done that very thing; blaming God when we are faced with the consequences of our actions. Why did He allow this to happen? Why didn't He stop me? Why didn't He tell me about the Snake?
But this story is more than a story showing us the lousy way we deal with guilt. It is more than a quaint moral tale to show us a part of the human condition. It is the story of how God deals with sin. When He came to the Garden, He found Adam and Eve frightened, but He didn't destroy them. When he called out to Adam, “where are you?” He was calling for him to come out of his hiding place. “Come out here Adam. I have good news for you, instead of bad news.” Instead of destruction and punishment God was bringing a promise. Not a promise to just forget their sin, but a promise to remove it by taking it on Himself.
Think of it this way... There in the quiet darkness of his room sits a boy. He has been sent there to await punishment for something he has done wrong. He has been waiting for what seems like an eternity, dreading the arrival of his father. The silence grows loud as the anticipation of the punishment grows, the longer he has to wait to more terrified he becomes. Then way down the hallway he hears footsteps. Each one brings his dreaded punishment closer until at last they stop outside his door. He watches the doorknob waiting for it to turn... The door opens... Father walks in and sits beside him. "I have good news for you son," he begins, “I have not come to punish you."
That was the Good News in the Garden, too. God did not come to bring punishment. He came to bring a promise. It is that promise that we remember as we light the first candle of the advent wreath. It’s called the ‘prophecy’ candle for that very reason. This promise in Genesis 3:15 is the first mention of God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. With this promise Adam, Eve, and all humans began the wait for the promised Savior. We know who the promised Savior is. We know who it is who was bruised by Satan but also who crushed Satan’s head. We know whom it is who came to take away the sins of the world. Adam and his wife put their trust in the promise of God. And because they trusted God and His promise they began to wait.
When God walked into the garden looking for Adam and Eve, instead of coming as their enemy, instead of bringing wrath and punishment, He came with the Good News of their Savior. Jesus Christ the promised one is the one who solves the problem of the guilt of sin. As promised He suffered in shame on the cross, alone and afraid, not able to hide from God’s anger over sin. And even though He was totally innocent, God poured out on Him all His anger over sin. He was declared guilty for us. He bore the punishment that our sin earned. He bore the sin of Adam and Eve. He bore your sin. He bore my sin. We all have sinned but Jesus was made guilty and Jesus was made the punishment. When God pointed the finger of guilt at us, He redirected it and turned it to His Son instead. “No! He is the guilty one, not you.” He said. And we breathe a sign of relief, as the punishment passes to Jesus and our guilt and punishment goes with Him to the cross. And God says to us, “I’m not here to punish you.”
God called out to Adam in the Garden. “Adam, where are you?” What He wanted was for Adam to turn to Him and say, "Here I am Lord. I am guilty. Please forgive me." Instead Adam did as we often do... "It isn't really my fault." He said. But, Jesus makes everything different. He has taken away the punishment that your sin deserves. So when God calls out to you, “Adam... Adam, Where are you?” Through faith in the promises of God, you respond, "Here I am Lord, I am guilty, please forgive me for Jesus sake." Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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