Sermonette: March 2, 2020
March 2, 2020
“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.’” — Genesis 3:1-3
This scene between the couple and the serpent might be one of the most famous scenes in all of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is well known even by many who don’t see the Bible as sacred writings. Often when I reflect on this story, I remember one of Aesop’s fables about a turtle who envied the ducks who swam in the pond where he lived.
As the turtle listened to the ducks describe the wonders of the world they had seen, he wanted to travel too. However, since he was a turtle, he was unable to travel far. Finally, two ducks offered to help him. One of the ducks said, “We will each hold an end of a stick in our mouths. You hold the stick in the middle in your mouth, and we will carry you through the air so that you can see what we see when we fly. But be quiet or you will be sorry.”
The turtle loved the idea. He took hold of the stick and away into the sky they went. The ducks flew up above the trees and circled around the meadow. The turtle was amazed and overjoyed at how he now saw the world. He’d just noticed flowers on a hillside when a crow flew past. Astonished at the sight of a turtle flying carried by two ducks he said, “Surely this must be the king of all turtles!” Filled with pride, the turtle began, “Why certainly… ” As he spoke, he lost his grip on the stick and fell.
Aesop’s turtle has something in common with the couple. The temptation to be like God was great. The fruit was so inviting and the serpent so convincing, they couldn’t resist. The woman ate and gave some to the man and he also ate. Of course, those of us who have read ahead know that this eating leads to all kinds of trouble.
Did you notice that it was a question that was the subtlest of corrosion that ate away at the bonds of trust in the couple’s relationship? I think it may be true for every relationship. Where there had been absolute trust before, which allowed the couple to be naked, or vulnerable, before God and each other, now the question drove the smallest of wedges into all of the relationships. Now the couple stood back and weighed the possibilities where before trust had been an integral part of their relationship with God and with each other.
Prior to the question, the couple knew what God wanted and trusted that this was what they wanted as well. To have the knowledge of good and evil is to assume that you have the platform from which you can objectively evaluate the situation. This automatically distances one from the relationship. “Did God say… ” places one in the position of evaluating God. That same sense of distancing and judging drives a wedge into all our relationships.
Sin results in that sense of distance, even alienation, from the love that allows us to be naked and not afraid in our relationships. As we begin the season of Lent, we are offered the opportunity to reflect on all of our relationships and seek to extend ourselves in love that overcomes that distance. I pray that all of us would live in that kind of love. Glory be to God!