Our Return

The Sunday Sermon: Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – August 7, 2016

Scripture: Genesis 3:8-13, 21, 24

Hear the audio: 

Our Return

Last week we were reminded of our Original Blessing. We came at that a little bit backward, reading from the third chapter of Genesis, verses that are traditionally associated with original sin and total human depravity. We read about the moment in history when the human creature created a distance between itself and the Divine. We lived through the eternity that followed our realization that we were “naked” and God’s despondent question to us: “Who told you that?”

As we explored those verses, ones that have too often and too zealously been used by the church to keep us from being all we are called by God to be, we were reminded that before all that “damnation and separation” there was a “confirmation and union,” there was … Blessing. Before humanity’s “original sin” there was, and is, God’s “original blessing.” We were created by God … very good, in the image of the Divine, in fact, and called to care for all of creation.

We’ve got to get back to that. We’ve got to stop imagining that we are worms, incapable of doing what were created by God to do, and get to it. We can acknowledge our shortcomings, our selfish natures, and our “survival genes” that cry out for self-preservation, but we’ve got to start believing that there’s something within us planted more deeply than all that “bad” stuff! Love, compassion, concern. And we’ve got to be about it.

How? Some guidance on that this morning, I trust … Let’s pray together …

So, the story in Genesis continues, and again, we’ll come at this a little bit backward. We’ll get to our “Return” through our exile. It’s at the point that humanity refuses to accept responsibility for what they’ve done – the woman passing on blame to the man and the man passing on blame to other parts of creation – the serpent in this first telling, it’s at this point that God says, “No. You can’t stay.”

Listen for the Word of God … Read Genesis 3:8-13, 21, 24 … The Word of the Lord …

So we’re banished, we’re exiled, from Paradise. In the parable of Adam and Eve, our own fate as part of God’s creation is handed to us. We are separated from God and the Garden. But here’s the thing: We’re alienated not for anything we’ve done because we just can’t help it, that’s “who we are.” We are alienated, separated from the Divine for something we refuse to do but could choose to do. We’ve discussed this at length already in this room, several times according to my sermon notes, so I won’t spend too much time on what you already certainly know, but here it is in brief: We aren’t alienated from God because we lie and are disobedient to the will and the way of the Creator, we’re separated from all that is around us because we refuse to admit we’re lying and that we’re rebellious! God can deal with our disobedience, eating fruit which we are told not to eat, whatever that fruit may be – wealth that is not shared, land that is not cultivated for good, food that is wasted, or water that is spoiled for all. God can deal with our disobedience, indeed, God must deal with our disobedience. And God can deal with “sin,” with our separation, our perceived “nakedness and embarrassment.” But what cannot, and will not, be tolerated is our irresponsibility – our refusal to admit how badly we’ve messed up and our unwillingness to take responsibility for it. As long as we keep “eating the fruit” of “it’s not my fault” or “we can’t really do anything about it anyway,” we’ll never get back to the Garden.

What an image that Cherubim, with its sword flaming and turning, to guard the way to the tree of life, has been for centuries of artists and writers; what an impassable sentry it has been for generation after generation of human beings. Our understanding 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 we’re the ones that need to change. “Our Return” to Eden is up to us. And here’s the kicker: I believe with all my soul that God is waiting on us! We must walk back to the angelic guardian of the gate at the east of the garden of Eden and say, “I did it. It is my doing. It wasn’t Adam, and it wasn’t Eve or that serpent. It wasn’t Abraham and it wasn’t Sarah. It wasn’t Jacob or Rebekah, or David’s brothers, or Saul, or the Philistines or the Pharisees, or Herod, or Pilate, or the Jews, the Catholics, the Muslims, or the atheists or anyone other than me – and you. We, you and I, have eaten, and we continue to eat, from the tree of which God commands us not to eat.”

The apple of selfishness: Our lives are centered on self survival, we must confess that. We give – whatever it is: time, food, clothes, money, whatever it is – we give only what we can spare.

The orange of greed: Our lives are ordered on what we can consume and use, we must acknowledge that. We never, ever, ever have enough.

The grapes of wrath: We are angry so very much of the time, we must admit that. We pretty much think it is always someone else’s fault that we are in “whatever situation” we’re in.

The peach of judgment: “How much better could this world be if others were like us.” Oh, that’s a ripe fruit, that one. All those “others” could change their lives overnight, if they’d just work harder, take care of what they have, and develop some self-respect.

The plum of fear: We are afraid … let us confess that we are afraid. Of everything, perhaps most of what the Creator asks to be: Good stewards of all creation, brothers and sisters to all others, full of selflessness, giving, compassion, openness, and faith in a better way of “being human.” The way we were created by God to “be.”

As human beings, we are all created in the same image and likeness – God’s; not in “the devil’s” image, not created to be selfish, greedy, angry, judgmental, and fearful. There is a deep well of life, love, joy and promise from which we come and to which we must return. What lies between is up to us. A troubled anxiety-ridden life eating forbidden fruit? Or life in the Garden. God made us for communion with God, with each other, and with the whole of creation. Our Genesis story paints a beautiful picture of shalom “in the beginning” through harmonious relationships and its writers are deeply concerned with restoring those relationships, not at death, but in life – right now. But first we need to accept responsibility for our actions.

And guess what? It’s the first Sunday of new month. And our Annual Picnic day, no less. The communion we were created for is the life that our Christ came to renew – on earth as it was “in the garden.” We participate in this renewal and accept responsibility for our actions each time we gather at our table and celebrate Communion, and every time we gather together to beak bread and share our lives with one another. We may think of this table set before us, and our picnic fellowship only moments away now, as miniature little Gardens of Eden. As we remember Christ’s life around this table set before us in this room this morning, may we remember our own life in the garden – life as it was meant to be. As we laugh and share our lives around the tables set for us outside this room, may we remember our lives together as they were meant to be. In communion with God, in harmony with one another and with all of creation – the garden of Eden. As we “remember,” we may finally … Return.

Let’s us sing and prepare ourselves for the feast.


Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / August 7, 2016