Genesis 3: 9But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”13Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 14The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” 16To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” 17And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” 20The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them. 4:
8Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. 9Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! 11And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” 15Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. 16Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Romans 5:12-1712Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. 15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.
Before I went away on vacation in August, I selected the texts I would be preaching on today- that was weeks ago- not realizing how appropriate they would be for today. This morning a large portion of our country is flooded, or recovering from floods and storm damage. Another portion is preparing for a hurricane that has already decimated and destroyed so much, still another portion of our country is being ravaged by fire, and to our south, Mexico struggles, in shock from the powerful earthquake it suffered a few days ago. And as is our way, as humans, we search for answers! What is going on?
Some blame God- God must be angry with us for our immoral behavior- that was an old standby in my house growing up "You know Linda, God isn't going to put up with human beings much longer..." And what caused all of this wrath from God? Well, the liberals, of course! Or was it the conservatives this time... I get confused. The most common and most scientific answer of course, is climate change. Now something interesting happens when you admit or theorize that climate change is the cause of all of our severe weather.. because then human beings are indeed, in part, responsible. For decades, we have put our wants ahead of God's desires for us. We have abused the earth- pumped toxins into the air, water, soaked chemicals into the ground, and ripped from the earth, the resources, the respect, and the nurture she deserves. That's a lot to deal with- we've made excuses for our human behaviors, justified our need to ravage this planet, and because under all of that justification is the knowledge of good and evil written on our hearts, we try to run from the pain we are inflicting as best we can. Our eyes are open, and we know now what we've done... so we hide in the trees, naked, ashamed that we have bought in to the lies of the serpent of instant gratification- acted in greed with little or no thought to the next generation. And God calls to us- "Cain, the voice of your brother's blood cries to me from the ground..."
That's a pretty heavy way to start a sermon, I'll admit that. Especially on Kick off Sunday! We're supposed to be pumping up the church "Team" you're supposed to be getting a "Pep talk" (no pun intended) with lots of positive energy to kick off the new year! I know all of that. But, part of preparation for any team, is knowing who we are, our strengths, our weaknesses, and the things we will be carrying on to the field with us. SO I wanted to get all of that out in front, because no matter what we are talking about, or how much we would love to just move on to the field is for this year's play- the natural events of our world and our relationship to creation is always with us.
And because we feel, in part, responsible, there can be a sense of guilt that hangs heavy among us. We want to make things right again, but the environmental issues are so complex, and multi layered- and frankly, we would be at a loss without some of the things which are now part of our every day lives, but also add to the problem. I mean, do we go without heat? Do we stop driving our cars? Dump the IPhones? In Step 9 of the 12 steps, we learn that we need to make amends to those we've hurt through our addiction- and face it, it's our addictions to comfort, wealth, and our own ego which have gotten us to this point. And as much as every small step we take toward environmental healing is exactly how we make direct amends to the earth, that sense of guilt often lingers, even after we have confessed our sin and are doing our best. We can feel as if we have disappointed God, and that perhaps God is angry...
And that brings us to the beauty of both of the scripture texts for this morning. In the Genesis story, we can almost feel the anger of God when Adam and Eve and the serpent face the consequences of their actions. The garden, the place of perfection and innocence, is not open to them any more. That's so harsh, isn't it? One mistake! But if you think about it, doesn't every choice we make affect the rest of our lives? And then in the Cain and Able story, well, we see a little more justification because that was a really big thing that Cain did- murder- maybe Cain got off easy with a life sentence. But in both stories, did you notice that after God lets the guilty parties know that they will be living out the consequences of their actions- God was still going to provide for them. Before Adam and Eve left the garden, God made clothes for them. Before Cain went out in the wilderness to be a wanderer, God put a mark on him, that no one should harm him. My friends, that's love.
So here we are- we've made these choices, and continue to make choices that affect the world we live in, and yes, we see the effects, the consequences of the actions of humanity on the environment- but as we begin to make amends to creation, and to the generations that will come after us, let's not forget that God has not gone anywhere, that God has given us clothes, or a mark, or whatever metaphor you want to use to say that God has given us everything we need to make it through this. But here is the thing about making amends... it's not enough to own up to what you've done. We need to live out that reality- once we make amends with someone, or to our planet, we live out a new way of being, a new way of thinking, and acting toward whomever or whatever we've made amends to. And if that sounds difficult- you are right- it is. Thank God we have each other to remind us to stay the course.
Now lets take this beyond the environment- lets bring it down to the personal. Because when it comes down to it, we've made choices beyond the environment that affect how we live our lives, how we relate to one another, how we interact as a church community. We are after all, living out the sum of our choices. So what do we do with the reality we've chosen, specifically in our life in community?
First, we take stock of ourselves. We can do this both individually and as a church. (That's part of why we have congregational meetings and chats- so we can check in with each other.) What are we bringing to the field? Some of us have been hurt- so we may be gun shy. Some of us have hurt others, and we may feel like there are gaps between us that we need to heal before the season gets started, and make no mistake, if that is so true if we are to play our best. Some of us are new- and we aren't sure where we fit on the team yet- that's ok too- God has brought you here for a reason, and your gift, no matter what it is, is needed in this community- I promise you that. Some of us may be missing members of the team who have gone on to other playing fields- that's ok too. Remember that in God's league, players are used, no matter what team they are on.
And no kidding- look at our strengths! We have the opportunity to do miraculous things this season, with the help of the Spirit. We just need to follow her lead- not my lead- not the Leadership Team, though we can try to guide- but it is the HOly Spirit who will ultimately lead this church to where God will have us go. And not just that, God's love and desire for us to be our best is so strong that God is our biggest cheerleader. No matter what happens, no matter what choice we make, God continues to root for us to live into something more than we are right now. God's on the sidelines giving a coach Knute Rockne "We're going inside of ‘em, we're going outside of ‘em -- inside of ‘em! outside of ‘em! go go go go go" Does God love us exactly the way we are? You bet. And God also pushes and supports and never ever gives up on us to grow into our best selves! That is an amazing God right there! Welcome to the new season!