buy neurontin online The Sunday Sermon: Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 14, 2016
Resources Answer the Question
In August, we’re in Genesis. Exploring our origins, exploring not who we are, but who we were created by God to be. We started this back in July, actually. First we explored, through the poetry and prose of these ancient writers of the first book of our bible, the moment in existence when humanity realized we were separate from God. The point at which humanity realized we were “naked,” and were ashamed of it. Nakedness being, not a vulgar description of a physical reality, but a poetic explanation of a spiritual one: In the beginning … Creator, creature, and all of creation were inextricably bound together with nothing – not even a thin layer of cloth or animal skin – to separate them. Very early in our story, only the third chapter, all that changes. And in the moment that we realize we could be separate from the Divine, we are separated from it.
We are separated not because of anything we’ve done, or continue to do. We are separated because of what we refuse to do: Take responsibility for our actions. Our understanding of Genesis’ telling of the exile of humanity from Eden, of our separation from the Divine creating force at the center of the universe, has been so profoundly interpreted as God’s will, rather than “our doing” that we actually blame God for our “problem” and sit around wondering when this “God” will change its mind about us. But, as we concluded last week, we’re the ones that need to change. “Our Return” to Eden is up to us. We must walk back to the Cherubim guardian of the gate at the East of Eden, standing next to that flaming, turning sword and say “I did it. It was me and no one else.” To return to Eden we must accept responsibility for the relationships we destroy through our negligence and our self-centered survival.
I think we can, do this. That’s a higher “anthropology,” a higher understanding of humanity and our potential, than most religious folks have, even most of my Presbyterian colleagues, but I think we can. I know we have to try much harder. We need to accept our responsibility and acknowledge our failings. And more than with a short prayer once a week, rather through our whole lives everyday. I think we could do it. I think God, whoever whatever and wherever God “is,” is waiting for us to do it. God has shown you, O mortal, what to do. Micah 6:8 But …
As we continue our story, we find out quickly how difficult it’s going to be, how difficult it is. Again, not because God doesn’t give continual opportunities to accept and acknowledge, but because we don’t embrace them. Pray with me …
And listen for the Word of God: Somewhere East of Eden, toiling on cursed ground that brings forth thorns and thistles, anticipating eating their bread by the sweat of their faces until they, themselves, return to the ground … (the man knew his wife …)
Read Genesis 4:1-9 …
Did you hear it? Oh, we’re a stubborn bunch. And rather dim-witted. Another rhetorical question from the great “I Am” and we evade it, we avoid it. Like the question in chapter two – who told you were naked, different, “better” than all the rest – this question, “Where is your brother, Abel?” doesn’t require an answer. It requires an acknowledgement. But it’s not going to be that easy. We are a stubborn bunch … “Hmph … I don’t know …”
In fact, this encounter and Cain’s response goes even further than Eve and Adam’s avoidance. To begin with Cain doesn’t try to hide as his parents did when God came near. And then, Cain not only refuses to acknowledge his part in destroying creation, he actually accuses God of falling down on the job: Am I my brother’s keeper? Ohh, *smack* … Did you hear that accusation? Cain’s emphasis is on the pronoun in his question. You see, “keeping” in the Old Testament is not something humans do to one another. It’s something God does for humans. Only God “keeps” human beings. You know Psalm 121:
God who keeps you will not slumber. God who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; your shade at your right hand. The Lord will you keep you from all evil; God will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
Did Cain really go there? Oh, yes he did … “You should know the answer to that question, God. And if you don’t, if you don’t know the whereabouts of my brother Abel, then maybe you have slumbered and slept and are not ‘keeping’ him and maybe … (gulp) … maybe you should be blamed for his ‘present situation.’” (Mm, mm, mm …) It’s this kind of deeper exploration into the stories we think we know so well that leads us to ourselves – what we were created to be and what we’ve become. Cain is a bold sinner, isn’t he? “Maybe you’re to blame, great God.” The audacity of Cain.
But then: God is blamed for the escalating violence in countries around the world even as, in countries around the world, the gap between the haves and have-nots, the “enfranchised” and the “dis-enfranchised,” expands exponentially; God is blamed for the increasing severity of Caribbean hurricanes even in the undeniable evidence of global warming’s effect on Gulf waters; God is blamed for world hunger even when the wealthiest twenty percent of the world’s population consumes seventy-seven percent of the world’s food. O brother Cain, where art thou? You are right here … You are me … We are you. But that is not who we were created to be!
We didn’t read past the “denunciation of the divine” yet this morning, but I’d say Cain is pretty lucky the Creator of the Universe ignores his counter-question and moves past the affront. Given our belief in a supernatural God that could strike us down at any moment, I’d say we’re pretty lucky to be together this morning, ourselves. Maybe that, as much as anything else, ought to get us to re-think our expression of the Holy, Sacred, Divine center of the Universe. The God we’ve created wouldn’t stand for this, frankly, wouldn’t stand for us. But the God of Genesis, Sacrificial Love always does … move past the ugly and the blame allegations of this world. What we learn in this second story about avoidance and evasion is that those who choose less than Sacrificial Love are not going to move past the ugly or the blame game of this world anytime soon. These writers know us well … “Life is perpetually skewed when the one thing required of us (reconciliation) seems too much.” (W. Brueggemann, Interpretation: Genesis, 63.)
So, now, let’s read a bit more. There’s another banishment after Cain’s smokescreen. We’re sent further East of Paradise to a land called … (anyone?) … Nod, which means wandering. And, oh, how we wander … and “wonder … as we wander … out under the sky …”
Read Genesis 4:11-16
This story expresses to perfection the fearfulness that each one of us carries around when we refuse to be reconciled to Creator and to the creature we were created to be. The murderer in this story fears being murdered. The denier in our own story fears being denied; the consumer fears being consumed; the angry fears being yelled at. So it all escalates – the denial, the consumption, the anger. How much life is bottled up because we refuse to be reconciled, because we fail to understand how inextricably woven together we are with the Creator and one another, all others? But even when, in times too numerous to count, we give up on God, the Creator doesn’t give up on us.
Even in this deeper exile we are not without the “mark” of God, the “mark” of the Divine that was ours at creation, the “mark” of the Love that could change it all. We are the crowning glory of creation. But we are also its central problem. Can we live in God’s world on God’s terms?
Our answer has been “no, we can’t,” or more accurately, “no, we won’t.” As it was in the beginning we continue to respond to Love’s question with other questions rather than the answer that we know will set us free; we’ve continued to ignore what’s happening around us in our world today; and we’ve continued to blame anyone and everyone else around us, even the God we’ve created. That’s not easy to hear, I know. And many don’t buy it, I know that, too. The truth is, I don’t like it much. But once we accept it, we can read and hear these scriptural testimonies properly. And we can more fully engage our lives today and tomorrow and in the year ahead.
As we align our energy, our Spirit, our lives with others in our world and with the will of God for peace and security for all, then our lives become the first step to that peace. And we keep “stepping” forward. We are each other’s keepers and when our prayers for and our connections to everyone are released into the world the “central problem of creation” begins to become once again its crowning glory and we answer the question of Cain the way it is supposed to be answered: “I deny by brother life. Help me to live as you intend me to live.”
Our lives must be lived in service to a creative, loving God, who calls us into relationship – not to a hopeless, helpless “human predicament,” that alienates us from one another. Our lives must be lived in this service each and every moment of each and every day in big ways and in small ways. More often than not, in those small ways. Can it be done?
Let’s try this … this week – whenever you hear or read or experience any news that tempts you to blame someone else, or to otherwise disregard as “not your problem,” (this week) take the time to stop and think, pray, in whatever way you decide, just point your life in the direction of God, of Love (with a capital “L”) and connect: globally, locally, or personally. Be your brother’s keeper. Answer the question the way it’s supposed to be answered.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / August 14, 2016