Today we begin at the beginning, we focus on Genesis, the first book of the Bible.
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” That is how Genesis begins. After God divides light and dark God continues creating as plants grow, water, earth, and land form, flying, swimming, walking, and running animals and insects appear, and God creates us, humanity, in God’s own image, filled with God’s very breath. At which point, we encounter our specific text for today, commonly interpreted as when humanity messes it all up, gets kicked out of paradise, and sin enters the world. You may have also heard chapter 3 of Genesis described as the fall and original sin.
And those interpretations are not wrong, but they are narrow in focus. Those descriptions and interpretation are really only part of the story.
What if Christianity has spent so long focusing on the sin, fallenness, and poor choices part that it has missed something?
What if, instead of stopping at sin, we kept reading, and read with a freshness like we’d never heard the story before?
What if the story of Adam & Eve is ultimately a story of God’s grace and love? A story about God bringing beautiful things out of dust of our mistakes, pain, and struggles.
8 During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God in the middle of the garden’s trees. 9 The Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
10 The man replied, “I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?”
12 The man said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.”
13 The Lord God said to the woman, “What have you done?!”
And the woman said, “The snake tricked me, and I ate.”
14 The Lord God said to the snake,
“Because you did this,
you are the one cursed
out of all the farm animals,
out of all the wild animals.
On your belly you will crawl,
and dust you will eat
every day of your life.
15 I will put contempt
between you and the woman,
between your offspring and hers.
They will strike your head,
but you will strike at their heels.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pregnancy very painful;
in pain you will bear children.
You will desire your husband,
but he will rule over you.”
17 To the man he said, “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and you ate from the tree that I commanded, ‘Don’t eat from it,’ cursed is the fertile land because of you;
in pain you will eat from it
every day of your life.
18 Weeds and thistles will grow for you,
even as you eat the field’s plants;
19 by the sweat of your face you will eat bread—
until you return to the fertile land,
since from it you were taken;
you are soil,
to the soil you will return.”
20 The man named his wife Eve because she is the mother of everyone who lives. 21 The Lord God made the man and his wife leather clothes and dressed them. 22 The Lord God said, “The human being has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Now, so he doesn’t stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever, 23 the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to farm the fertile land from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the human. To the east of the garden of Eden, he stationed winged creatures wielding flaming swords to guard the way to the tree of life.
We focus so much on the mistakes, we focus so much on what we commonly call the sin part that we miss how beauty, grace, and love are active and present.
Verses 8 and 9 – Adam and Eve feel shame and hide and God looks for them. God does not leave them to sit in their pain and shame but looks for them.
Verse 20 – the woman finally gets a name and her name is Eve. And what is the meaning of that name connected to? Life, giving life. Her name isn’t based off the fact she ate the fruit, it isn’t based on the fact that she pointed blame, it isn’t based on sin or fallenness or brokenness. Her name is life-giver. She is given that name after she messes up but that mess up does not define her. What defines her is that she would help give life to all of humanity.
Verse 21 – God gives them clothes and dresses them.
Verse 22-23 – When we studied Genesis 3 back in my OT class in seminary, our professor asked us a question. He asked, Why does God make Adam and Eve leave the garden? We answered, again like duh, as final punishment for eating the fruit God told them not to. Banishment from Eden was a punishment. Really, he said, and we went back to the text. I tell you that room went silent and then filled with whaaaatttt when we saw that here, in those verses, the words punishment and curse are nowhere to be found. Earlier there is cursing, the snake is cursed the land is cursed. But here, their expulsion for paradise, was to keep them safe. God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden to stop them from eating from the tree of life and making a bigger mistake or causing greater harm.
Now, I want to be very clear. I am not intending to make light of the fact that Adam and Eve royally mess up, perhaps the most royal mess up of all time. I don’t want to minimize the part of this chapter that can be interpreted as sin entering the world. I think sin is important to talk about. This entire season of lent is based on taking an honest look at our lives and we cannot do that without acknowledging all parts of our life. If we want to live the fullest life God offers us and wants us to have, we have to acknowledge sin. Whether in the world, in systems like businesses, governing bodies and procedures, or in our personal lives, if we do not recognize and acknowledge something it cannot change. Greed, rage, racism, jealousy, sexism, if you cannot name it you cannot change it. And, I believe Christianity has focused so much on the mess up that we’ve missed the other parts of the story.
We’ve missed how God tenderly clothed and dressed Adam and Eve after they realized their nakedness and felt shame and guilt.
We’ve missed how Eve is defined by life not by the fact that she ate the fruit.
We’ve missed how God expelled humanity from the garden for protection and not punishment.
We’ve missed how Adam and Eve are more like children in the hands of a loving parent instead of sinners in the hands of an angry God.
Is this a story that includes mistakes and sin? Yes. But the mistakes and sin do not define the story. Ultimately, I believe Adam and Eve’s story is about God bringing beautiful things (compassion, care, protection, love) out of the dust of mistakes, shame, and fear. And hearing that part of their story is important at the start of lent.
As we journey through this season and consider our habits, patterns, and actions, we may discover things we don’t like. That is normal. Unless you are secretly an alien, an elf, or a werewolf, everyone in this room is human which means we will mess up, or miss the mark, or sin, or cope with something in less than healthy ways. But whatever you discover, it does not define you. You begin your Lenten journey with the knowledge that no matter what, you are a beloved child in the hands of a loving, forgiving, and present God. And as you start Lent this year, however you honor and engage with this season, I want you to remember that God brought beauty from dust for Adam and Eve and God can bring beautiful things out of the dust for you as well.