Pentecost 3 (Proper 5), June 10, 2018
Text: Genesis 3:8–15
Today we are going to talk about tragedy. You know, like a play. I did a little research on this and a tragedy is a story that does not have a happy ending, especially with the downfall of the main character. The plot of a tragedy characteristically describes a central figure who has a lot of good qualities, but due to one flaw, ends up in a horrible state.
The ancient Greeks were famous for coming up with plays like this. They influenced such writers as Shakespeare, who drew upon their work in his tragedies. If you had to read Romeo and Juliet in High School, as I did, you know that is considered a tragedy. More recent examples would be movies like Terms of Endearment or Titanic. I would also include TV shows like The Wire or Breaking Bad.
Today’s text describes the greatest tragedy in all of human history! Genesis 3 shows us how this world went from a perfect paradise of unending life with God to the awful reality of a world filled with sin and death.
And here is the important part: it is not fiction! This really happened. This is a real tragedy! And it is not something that you and I can merely observe. This is not meant to entertain and educate as were the ancient Greek plays. No, this real tragedy is one in which you and I are living! This tragedy is about us. It is about Adam and Eve, but it is also about us.
Quite simply, the first people, in their desire to be like God, lost paradise. When they were in Garden, everything was perfect. Literally. This isn’t “perfect” like when Erica and I walked into our house the first time and said, “This is perfect.” It REALLY was. Adam and Eve had it so good. We can’t even imagine what their life must have been like before they sinned. They hung out with God like you do with your co-workers or fellow students or neighbors.
Adam and Eve were the peaks of God’s creative work. Only they were created in His image and likeness (Gen 1:27). Genesis 1 and 2 show us the many, many ways that God showed His love and His ability to give. God does a lot in the first two chapters of the Bible, and everything He did was for Adam and Eve. God gives and gives and gives.
He is the giver of the heavens and the earth.
He is the giver of the sun, moon, stars, and seasons.
He is the giver of the seas and all the life in it.
He is the giver of the land animals.
He is the giver of language.
He is the giver of marriage and family.
And, in another act of giving, He gave Adam and Eve free will. That is, they had the capacity to turn from the One who had given them all things. Many people wonder at this, but the fact of the matter is that God did not create, in us, mindless robots. (Bruce Almighty) And this is where the greatest tragedy occurs, because instead of being content to have ALL THIS STUFF God gave them, they wanted to be God themselves. God said not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan told Eve that God was just keeping her down, that if she ate, she would be just like God. That was ultimately their sin. They turned to selfishness. This is the origin of sin. Putting oneself first, even ahead of God. And this is where the tragedy becomes ours, for we all know how easy it is for each of us to turn to selfishness at the expense of God and our neighbors.
We, too, have wanted to do our own thing. History, as well as our current culture, shows how everyone is really just out for themselves. Think how many people fit that description, versus those who are truly here to help, instead of being helped. And what are the results of this? Just look at all the sins that are reported in the media every day: the scandals, the murders, the crime sprees…
I think it is easy for us since we don’t know anything else, to forget all the ways sin ruined everything:
Sin breaks our relationship with God. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve hid from God.
Sin breaks our relationship with our neighbors. In Genesis 3, Adam blamed Eve.
Sin breaks our relationship with the world. Now labor and toil will be required to live. There was work in the garden, but work, in and of itself, is not bad. After the SIN, work became hard, a stressful thing, annoying.
Sin breaks our relationship with our own being. Now when we think we are good people or better people, we are wrong.
But the Good News, and you know every sermon ends with Good News, God did not abandon Adam and Eve or us. Rather, He promises that the “offspring of the woman” will reverse the curse that has now descended upon creation. Because if you didn’t know, the “offspring of the woman” in Genesis 3, is Jesus.
And His promises continue through Genesis and through all the Old Testament. In the “offspring of the woman,” in Jesus, our relationship with God is restored. God is already in Genesis 3 looking ahead to Bethlehem and Jesus. As St. Paul so succinctly states in Rom 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
In Jesus, our relationship with our neighbor is restored. Jesus states: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Lk 6:27–28).
In Jesus, our relationship with the world will be renewed. As Isaiah looks into the future and promises: “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (Is 65:17).
In Jesus, we are forgiven; our identity as God’s beloved children is returned. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).
So rejoice and be glad! In Jesus Christ, the tragedy of our sin and selfishness has been reversed. Unlike the Greek tragedies that ended in despair and death, our tragic situation has been reversed by the One who took all our sin—all of our selfishness—into His holy body on the cross. There God gave us LOVE, the gifts of His Love. He has given His very Son for our redemption and restoration.
Our Tragic Situation Has Been Reversed by God’s Gracious Will and the Gift of His Very Son. The darkness and death that was our destiny as children of Adam and Eve are now gone. The days and nights of our lives are no longer limited by our selfishness.
Rather, our lives—our identity—are defined by Jesus’ death and resurrection, to which we have been joined in Holy Baptism. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4).
So rejoice and live out the new life that is yours in Christ. From His throne at the Father’s right hand, He speaks to us: “I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5). When it comes to Jesus and what He does for us and what He gives to us, our story is not a tragedy. Our movie, our series, our lives have a happy never-ending.
In Jesus’ Name.