“No matter how enlightened we become, how educated, how affluent, how socially aware and self-reflective, we must, if we are honest with ourselves, admit that there is something wrong with us. We can’t seem to get past hurting ourselves and this planet. Is this brokenness, this sin, this evil . . . is it personified? Is there really some personified evil, and even an ultimate higher power who embodies evil itself?”
A sermon by Pastor Bob
March 11, 2012
Text: Genesis 3:1-7
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
–I had the flu a few months ago and I watched the Star Wars movies.
–I had seen all of the movies before, so I asked myself:
–“Do I want to start from the first movie that was actually made which is really towards the end of the series, or do I want to start with the movie in which the story chronologically begins?”
–These are the kind of heavy-duty questions one asks oneself when sick in bed.
–My first impulse was to start with the order that the movies were made.
–Something inside of me liked the simplicity of the first movie.
–I mean, everything is straightforward.
–Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, c3PO, R2D2, Chubakka, and (most of the time) Han Solo and the rebel alliance are the good guys.
–While Darth Vader and crew are the bad guys.
–Luke Skywalker swings from ropes saving the princesses, while Darth Vader kills everyone who displeases him.
–The rebel alliance seeks to save worlds, while the evil empire seeks to destroy worlds.
–You’re either working with the good side of the “Force,” or you are on the “Dark side.”
–Good, bad—everything is clear for the first Star Wars movie.
–But then things get more complicated.
–In the following movie, the possibility arises that Darth Vader is really Luke Skywalker’s father.
–Is Darth Vader good or evil?
–Will he spare his son’s life or will he kill him?
–The next set of movies that are made then go back in time to try and make sense of this mess.
–Darth Vader starts out good, and then becomes kind of bad, and then really bad.
–And in the midst of these movies, although there is clarity as to who to root for, the shades of gray between those who are good and those who are bad set in.
–This is the nature of good and evil, and our discernment of it.
–We of course always perceive ourselves as being on the good side, and someone else is on the other side, the bad or evil side.
–We hear this language used freely by politicians and the press and we hear it in our own relationships.
–Countries are declared evil, spouses in the midst of divorce are decried as bad, and in the subtle and not so subtle ways, we consciously and unconsciously label people as either being for us, or against us.
–Essentially good or evil.
–Yet evil does not seem content to be wholly in something or someone.
–Evil seems always partial, always entangled and enticing.
–Like forbidden fruit.
–We hear this in Genesis story of the Garden.
–God creates two trees:
–The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
–The tree of eternal life.
–It is in this Garden that the first temptation that we know about comes through a serpent:
–To know good and evil is to be like God.
–This is the temptation that the serpent offers.
–To “know” evil is to have intimacy with it.
–To allow it to become a part of us.
–And this is truly the reality we live in.
–Not only do we live in a broken world—one of disease, death and selfishness.
–But, somehow it is part of us.
–Now, whether you call it original sin, or some other label, it seems to be a part of our human condition.
–No matter how enlightened we become, how educated, how affluent, how socially aware and self-reflective…
–If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that there is something wrong with us.
–We can’t seem to get past hurting ourselves and this planet.
–Now here is the tricky part.
–Is this brokenness, this sin, this evil…is it personified?
–Is there really some personified evil and even an ultimate higher power who embodies evil itself?
–The Bible certainly speaks of a Tempter named Satan or the Devil.
–And if you carefully read through your Bible, this presence takes many forms, from a slithering serpent in Genesis, to a kind of accusative attorney in the book of Job, to the antithesis of Christ in the New Testament and your worst nightmare in the book of Revelation.
–Certainly, Martin Luther took this personification seriously.
–Luther viewed the world in terms of a type of “cosmic battle” with God and the Devil contending for our souls.
–God “wins” in Christ
–But we live in the in-between
–Temptation is alive and well, and the Tempter is alive and active in this world.
–So what do we do with all this?
–Do we simply go home and hide under the bed?
–Sometimes we might feel like doing just that.
–Like our world has collapsed underneath us.
–Or worse yet, we may feel that we are the cause of its collapse.
–Some people unfortunately prey upon our fears.
–They break into our sense of security and self-worth as they seek to gain power and aggrandize themselves.
–Their greatest tool is our own fears.
–And they brilliantly use this potent weapon to channel our fears into hatred of the other.
–It is a bedeviling strategy.
–If you simply hate the Irish, the Italians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Whites, the African Americans, the Gays, the Democrats, the Republicans.
–If you can simply label someone else as “other,” then you can attach all of your fears and all of your problems to those “others.”
–And if you can justify someone else as “other,” the next step of dehumanizing them is not far behind.
–Hitler used this against the Jews.
–So what can we do?
–Our reality does not seem to be as simple as a Stars Wars episode, as much as we would like it to be.
–Our reality is more messy than that.
–In our Lenten journey together, we witness that our God would not only step into this messy world, but would do so even to the point of the death of Jesus.
–That God would give God’s whole self to us in Christ Jesus.
–That God would take on our brokenness, our sinfulness, and the evil and temptations that warp our own sense of the world.
–God would in Jesus take these onto a cross and ultimately leave them in an empty tomb.
–I think that Luther’s language of us all being Saint and Sinner fits our reality as well as anything.
–Luther said that we are both saint and sinner simultaneously.
–It is not that we go back and forth between being good and being bad, like some cosmic game of ping-pong.
–Rather, we by faith know that though we are broken, God sees us as whole.
–We are good and bad, saint and sinner.
–Ironically, it is because of faith that we can begin to see our own brokenness and at the same time, know that we are loved by God for who we are.
–So this morning, rather than saying “The “Force be with you”
–I declare to you, “God be with you.”
–May you know a gracious God who loves you more than you could ever know.
–May you know such a love that shatters the evil of this world with one Word, a living Word, a light that the darkness could not over come.
–God bless you in this season of Lent.
Every Sunday morning you will find published here notes for the sermon my friend Pastor Bob will that morning be giving at the church he serves in San Diego.