Sermon given for the 1st Sunday of Lent, February 18, 2018. The Lenten sermons will be focusing on various families in the Old Testament.
Opening scripture (in the New Living Translation):
Genesis 3:2-24, 4:1-2,8-10
20 Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live. 21 And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.
22 Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” 23 So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. 24 After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
4:1Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.
. . . 8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.
9 Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”
“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”
10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11 Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
. . . 25 Adam had sexual relations with his wife again, and she gave birth to another son. She named him Seth for she said, “God has granted me another son in place of Abel, whom Cain killed.” 26 When Seth grew up, he had a son and named him Enosh. At that time people first began to worship the Lord by name.
Reflection: The Family of Adam & Eve Today
In college, I learned an e. e. cummings’ poem by memory:
Ok, I know, not a tough poem to commit to memory, but the thing is those four words have left an impression that has stayed with me to this day. The meaning of this poem is in the symbolic meaning of each word.
Fleas—one of the most basic irritations in our world
Adam—one name that represents all humanity, not one individual
Had ‘em—every body has the same basic irritations, now as well as in the past as well as in the future.
The truth is that ever since time began humans–regardless of gender, nationality, age or any other qualifier–humans have problems. There is absolutely no doubt that everybody is going to have trouble at one time or another.
Just like a poem by a contemporary poet, the Bible is filled with stories, poems, prayers, hymns, lectures, or narratives providing readers guidance since it was first published. The Bible we read today was the result of over 400 years debate [Chronology accessed on February 16, 2018 at http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-43/how-we-got-our-bible-christian-history-timeline.html%5D:
- 1400–400 B.C.Books of the Hebrew Old Testament written
- 250–200 B.C.The Septuagint, a popular Greek translation of the Old Testament, produced
A.D. 45–85? Books of the Greek New Testament written
90 and 118 Councils of Jamnia give final affirmation to the Old Testament canon (39 books)
140-150 Marcion’s heretical “New Testament” incites orthodox Christians to establish a NT canon
303-306 Diocletian’s persecution includes confiscating and destroying New Testament Scriptures
- 305-310Lucian of Antioch’s Greek New Testament text; becomes a foundation for later Bibles
367 Athanasius’s Festal Letter lists complete New Testament canon (27 books) for the first time
397 Council of Carthage establishes orthodox New Testament canon (27 books)
- 400Jerome translates the Bible into Latin; this “Vulgate” becomes standard of medieval church
Obviously the process of translating and annotating the Bible has continued since the 5th century, but the chronology reminds us that the stories of the Bible began as oral tradition even before it was put into a written or published format.
Reading the Bible’s story provides us in the 21st century the guidance it takes to live a faithful life centered around the triune God. The Church of the Resurrection’s stained glass window features a wide range of stories from the Old Testament and the New Testament around the images of the three trees. During the weeks of Lent, the stories of the Biblical Old Testament families are going to be considered. We are going to look at the life lessons that we can learn from even in this century, regardless of where the story is identified along humanity’s timeline.
Today, Adam and Eve are listed as the first family in the Bible. Their story begins in the Garden of Eden, but ends with the same challenges any family today may confront. After being cast out of the garden, they are forced to make a living for themselves and their children. They are just like us, even if the story begins in the Garden of Eden.
We all know the story of Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but let’s concentrate on what happened next. The story in Genesis 4 tells us that they had two boys, Cain and Abel. The cultural expectations or traditions identified the roles society assigns to these two men, but the gift of free choice God provided humans creates the potential for making the wrong choices.
One thing leads to another, and Cain kills his own brother Abel. The family is sent into crisis. We know that conflicts between siblings often lead to a family imploding, and Adam’s and Eve’s story is no different than families today.
The news is filled with stories of families in crisis, and even this week as we hear the stories out of Florida, we know the harsh reality of families in crisis. Adam and Eve had to have questioned what they did or did not do that led to one son killing another son. They had to confront the pain of loss in two ways—death of a son and the exile of another.
What happened to Adam and Eve? For many, the story ended with Cain killing Abel. But the story continued. Looking deeper into Genesis, readers learn that Adam and Eve had a third son Seth—along with other sons and daughters.
Life continued for the father and mother just like life continues for all living parents after a tragedy. Nothing in the Biblical record says that they gave up; instead, it tells us that they continued living and the family grew.
Why, then does the story only include the name of Seth and then simply says that there were other sons and daughters? Reading through study notes and Harper Collin’s Bible Dictionary, an answer developed: the names of children are identified when they contribute to their faithfulness to God.
Another words, the Bible identifies who should be models of faithful behaviors as well as those who are not faithful. All the other sons and daughters may be important family members, but they are not in the direct lineage of how the faithful continued the story forward to the birth of Jesus Christ.
That lineage connects the family stories that we will consider during Lent as we lead up to the story of Jesus during Holy Week. The story of Adam and Eve is the beginning and connects to Jesus as outlined in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Remember that Paul was well-educated in the Jewish history and religion. He qualified the relationship in Romans 5:
Closing scripture (NLT)
12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.
20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The most familiar story of Adam and Eve is filled with challenges that included murder within the family. Yet, God’s story continues as the family grew and a third son remains faithful. The next family story is that of Noah. He is a descendent from Seth, the faithful son of Adam and Eve.
Today, we must read the stories of the Old Testament families in order to find the lessons for our own lives today. We know the heartbreak of sons and daughters who are not faithful to God. We know the pain of loss in so many forms. These are the fleas of human life and the Bible tells us that even Adam and Eve had fleas. Our decisions as faithful followers depend on reading the stories and learning how to make the decisions, continuing to love one another as we want to be loved.
Dear loving and patient Father,
As we enter into Lent,
We wonder what there is to learn.
We hear the stories
from the ancient scriptures
seeking new insight.
Adam and Eve shared
The same challenges
We do yet today.
They made mistakes,
They struggled with family,
And still they lived knowing you.
You never left them
Just as you never leave us.
This week, let us reflect
How even when we err
Or others in our family err,
You continue to offer forgiveness.
Forgive us, Lord,
For our doubts and mistakes.
Strengthen us to continue living,
Doing all the good we can
Not only in our personal family
But in our community
So that others may know
Your unending grace and love. –Amen