Original Love, Original Lie & What Happened Next


Masaccio's Adam and Eve


“Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’”
“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.’”
“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.”


 What if God lied?
What if what I thought was true, really isn’t? 
What if God can’t be trusted?  
What if it is all a lie?

When those words, those thoughts, creep into the relationship, they take root and grow, like a cancer they eat their way through the system, destroying the healthy tissue, casting their shadow over what was good and strong, and making it weak and tenuous.

What if I can’t really trust this person?
What if they don’t really love me? 
What if there is nothing I can count on?
What if I am ON MY OWN?

That’s what it is really.  
After God creates this whole system to work together – a place for everyone and everything, all mutually dependent, caring for each other, suddenly you’re on your own.
You can’t really trust that you have a place. The very foundation everything rested on – that God was taking care of you and you have a place and a purpose, that the whole thing is built on something good and intentional – once that is up for grabs, then Nobody else has your back, so you’d better look out for yourself.  Whatever it takes. Even if it means disregarding someone else, even if it means demeaning yourself, even if it means disconnecting from the God who made you.

Let’s back up.

The Story began at the beginning. But there are so many important things to say about the beginning – about who God is and who we are and how it all comes together – that there are a couple of different tellings of the beginning right side by side.  The first one we saw last week: the God who brings life out of nothing - out of impossibility births new beginning.  We saw that it was all created to work together in harmony, that animals and birds, tides and seasons, God made this incredible, interdependent eco-system and set it all in motion.  
Then we saw that God made human beings, male and female in God’s image, and drew them into God’s rest and care for the world, called them to participate with God.  This first telling of the beginning reveals a cosmos-wielding God of beauty and power, of creativity and omnipotence.

The second version of the beginning is a love story.  
Not that the first wasn’t, but this one is more intimate and more revealing of God’s vulnerability and connection to humanity. 
In this story human beings don’t come last. The human creature come before the rest, held in God’s very arms with life breathed into its nostrils from God’s own breath.  And this creature is there to witness God finish creating– sees the earth begin to produce – the plants and trees grow right up out of the ground. God shares the process with the human creature, placing the human in the garden  - here is the home I made for you, for you to live in and care for.
 
And right in the center of their relationship is God’s vulnerability. 
I love this creature, I want it to love me, but in order for a yes to really be yes, there has to be a no as well.  Is it love if there is no other option?
Is there mutuality if there is no boundary between you and me, no chance for you to reject me or hurt me or choose me or trust me?
God desires that the creature trusts and opens itself to God, and so God opens Godself and trusts the creature.  God places, among all the glorious fruit trees of the garden, one tree, right in the center, and God says to the human creature, You may eat of any tree in the whole garden – but this tree you may not eat of. If you do, you will die.  This is the boundary I set up; here you do not cross. 

And then God observes the creature God has made in this home God has made for it and notices that it doesn’t work for there to be just one. There needs to be another, a partner, a helper the way God is a helper (it’s the same word in the Hebrew).  A relationship like the one that is at the center of creation and the Trinity itself needs to be hear as well, so God begins creating animals from the dust, forming them and bringing them one by one to the human creature – What about this one? And whatever the human names the animal, that is what it becomes.   Side by side, God and human, creating, naming, and the rest of the earth begins to take shape as its inhabitants come to life.  And yet as much joy as there is in creating and in naming, there is not found one that corresponds to the human creature. None of them are right.

So God causes this earth creature, literally this adam, from the earth, adamah, to sleep. But rather than from the earth, God takes from the material of the creature itself and forms another – like it, but different. 
(And this is why- the story says in a sidenote, a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife and the two become one flesh. In this differentiation of male and female coming together, there is reflected the image of God – not in one alone, but in the relationship of differentiation in unity).

So the creature awakens male, and here in front of the creature is female. And they are both naked and not ashamed.  They are fully themselves before God an one another with no reason whatsoever to hide, to be anything less, to deceive themselves or one another. They exist in wholeness and trust, together in their precious particularity.

And the first creature is delighted.  Here at last is one like him, one meant for him and he for her.  Here is his corresponding partner.  Now there is not a solitary earth creature, but humanity.  And now life is as it was meant to be. And all creation is living in harmony and wholeness.

Until…

“Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’”
 “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.’”
 “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.”

And the doubt seeps in, the distrust that separates flesh from bone has begun.
What if God lied?

So they crossed the boundary, reached out their hands, took and ate.

DID God lie?
Did they die? 
What is death?
Where once there was wholeness, trust, mutuality and interdependence, now there is brokenness, disconnect, distrust. 
Where once there was freedom, dignity, self-awareness, now there is a fear, shame, self-deceit. 
Did they die?
Not at that very moment, not physically, anyway.  But also, yes.  This was the death of them. 
They looked at one another and realized they were naked
So they scrambled and wove together loincloths of leaves, to cover and hide their vulnerability, their difference.
When God came walking in the garden they hid and cowered.  
And the grief that must have ripped through God’s heart.  My children? Where are you ? Why are you hiding from me?
We heard you coming and we are naked!
What? Who told you that you were naked?  Did you eat of the fruit that I commanded you not to eat?

And now that they’re on their own, protecting themselves above all others, now that they can’t trust one another and they’ve hidden their weakness and put on shame, the finger pointing starts.  It was this woman you gave me! 
It was this snake that tricked me!

But they had seen that the fruit was to be desired to make one wise, they had decided that God could not be trusted, and they would each take into their own hands God’s role, and forfeit their own role as God’s beloved children in order to instead be like God, and they ate the one fruit in all the garden that God told them not to eat.

And then God spells out the consequences of getting what they wanted- what it is to truly know it all.   
You chose to see everything, to know everything, all the potential for things to go wrong as well as right, all the places for pain and deception, all the ways we are different and could hurt each other, you have chosen to have your eyes opened to all of it, and this is what life looks like now:
You'll bring children into this world on your own, in pain.  And when you till the ground you will see that it is hard work. The earth will not yield easily to you, your own body will not cooperate with you.  I made you for one another, to exist together, but you've made yourselves against each other, to exist alone; you will seek to tear him down, and you will lord power over her.
You have placed yourself over and against and that is how you will live.
And I can’t have you now eating of the Tree of Life and living forever in this broken state, and so you must leave the garden. This home is no longer yours, you have rejected the life I have made for you, you could no longer function here as you were meant to, you have chosen instead to forge out on your own.

And then God, who meets us where we are –even in the consequences of our actions, even in our self-inflicted pain and our brokenness, even in the shame God never intended us to have but we’ve clothed ourselves in anyway-  God takes off their flimsy leaf coverings and gives them instead animal skins.  
And God clothes them. I imagine God peeling off their dead leaves and draping the skins around them, like a parent dressing their child in jammies before bed.  And then they are out of God’s arms.

And there it is. 
How can you ever again make whole what has broken? How can the trust ever be regained?  Once you’ve shattered the relationship, once you’ve allowed distrust to color your vision, once you’ve betrayed your beloved so egregiously, and there is no taking it back, how do you move forward? How do you go on?

Well, herein lies the grace. 
The grace of the Creator and lover God, the the God who decided from day one that God would never be cut off from these beloved creatures, made in God’s own image. The God of covenant, whose promises to us hold us even when we can’t reciprocate.
This is God who brings life out of nothing, right? Who brings hope out of impossibility? What more impossible situation was there ever, than that of humanity living in the consequences of their rejection of God?   Impossible to make things right. Utterly incapable to patch up what they have torn.

If the story ended there, we’d be screwed.
And we often act like it did end there.
But it didn’t.  And it doesn’t. 

All those places in our lives, of insecurity and doubt, all the original lies that underlie original sin,
the ways we act as though we don’t need God or one another,
the shame we feel over who we are, terrified to reveal our vulnerability, hiding our differences, doubting our place,
that ways we give into desire, self-gratification, individual fulfillment, as though that – and not the image of God- gives us our identity,
the ways we throw others under the bus, protecting ourselves over and against those closest to us…
These could have been what we were left with. These could have been what defines us.
But they are not.
We are God’s beloved from the beginning.
God never lets go. God never gives up.  God wraps us in God’s care, and sometimes God’s care looks like compassion for our shame itself, meeting us right there and giving us what God knows we don’t need but we desperately believe we do. 
And in the beginning, and in all of our beginnings and our falls, God keeps the story going.

All these stories carry the taste of a promise.  Where we try and fail to truly love, God loves completely.  And God’s vulnerability in loving again and again despite multiple rejections, like a parent who will never give up on their children... God keeps coming back. 
And one day God’s vulnerability would be exposed in sharing humanity with us so completely as to take on this very death – head on-  that threatens always to separate us from our Creator.  To suffer under it with us, for us. 

But for now, we’re holding our finger in the book on a chapter that is filled with pain and doubt, with a poignant tear in the fabric of creation and a split through the relationship between God and humanity. 

And we recognize its reality still within us. Around us.  In our DNA and the air we breathe.  In a thousand little and big ways, we participate in sin and death, and we recognize it today.  It is right here in the center, and we swallow the lie daily. The belief that we are on our own. That God can’t be trusted.

May we see it and face it with open eyes, and may it drive us back into the arms of our God.

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