Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lent 1, 2014: Sustained in Love

Lectionary: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
Preacher: The Rev Dr Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo,y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Franciscan priest and theologian, Richard Rohr, says “The Hebrew Scriptures, in their development, reflect the development of human consciousness. (Source: The Genesis story of Adam (ádam which means ‘human’ in Hebrew) and Eve (eve which means ‘first’) illustrates the beginning of development of God-consciousness among humans.

As Episcopalians, we own that this story is a myth, which, as the Oxford dictionary says, is a traditional story about the history of a people, in this case the Jewish people, that explains natural and social phenomena (Oxford dictionary). Myths contain deep truths, and the story of Adam and Eve in the garden contains one of the deepest truths we hold – the truth of our identity – that we are created by and beloved of God whose love sustains us every moment of our lives in every circumstance we face.

Like most children who are learning to differentiate from their parents, the humans in Genesis believe that their mistakes are the cause of all the problems in the world. They aren’t. In fact, their mistakes provide important opportunities for them to learn what they need to grow and thrive.

For example, it is impossible to live among humans and not learn right from wrong. It’s also impossible to live in relationship with God and not learn trust and humility. These are the things ádam and eve are learning in this story from Genesis.

We hear that at one point, Adam and Eve’s “eyes were opened” and they “knew they were naked.” Remembering that the biblical meaning of naked is ‘vulnerable,’ the truth being conveyed here is that in our vulnerability, God, who is always near and always watchful, will show us how to go.

I think there are two things humans fear most: being totally alone and being totally unlovable. The story of Adam and Eve affirms for us that we are never alone because God is always faithful, always present, and always ready to redeem; and that God loves us so much that God will seek us out to maintain relationship with us.

In the Gospel from Matthew the temptations Jesus confronts are also about his identity. Jesus’ tempter says to him: “IF you are the Son of God…” Then (basically) prove it. Like the serpent in Genesis, the tempter in Matthew speaks a fear to Jesus.

In biblical terms, to speak something is to create it. Jesus, in his humanity, is confronting a very real fear here and it’s the same one we all still face: are we who we think we are? Are we really beloved children of God?

‘If you are a son or daughter of God,’ the tempter says, ‘then prove it.’ Prove God loves you. Prove God is with you. Prove God cares for you.

It’s a refrain all too familiar in our world today. We see picket signs in the hands of some children of God proclaiming that God hates other children of God because of their sexual orientation. Around the world male children of God continue to oppress female children of God and exclude them from education, independence, and even leadership in the church. Rich children of God vilify poor children of God. Younger children of God disrespect and exploit elderly children of God. The list goes on and on…

I have Good News to share about this though. Are you ready? God hates nothing God has made.

This isn’t just my opinion. It’s in our Prayer Book. Did it sound familiar? It’s in the first prayer we prayed together at our Ash Wednesday service.

How do we know God hates nothing God has made? Because we believe that God who is our Creator, and Redeemer, is also our Sustainer. The breath God breathed into us when we were formed from the dust of the earth, God continues to breathe in us until we return to the dust in death. Every moment in between is a free gift to us from God.

In biblical language to ‘love’ means to be loyal to, to be faithful to; and to hate means to turn away from, to desert. God hates nothing God has made.

The temptation we face is to listen to those voices that lie about our identity, planting seeds in us that maybe we aren’t children of God. Those are the voices of Satan (satan which means tempter) and they can come from within, in the form of insecurity and self-hate and from without, from cultures and individuals in the world who have a bit farther to go in the development of their God-consciousness.

Jesus showed us how to deal with these voices: “Away with you, Satan!” he said, and we can say it too: “Away with you, satan!”

And we are given the gift of Lent as a time to practice saying this; and to practice living into the truth we know – that we are all created by and beloved of God whose love sustains us every moment of our lives in every circumstance we face. Amen.

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