Reprieve

Mar. 05, 2017

Gen. 2.15-17; 3.1-7; Rm 5.12-19; Mt 4.1-11

Life can have some tough spots...at times some really tough spots. When that happens we respond in a number of typical ways...we could and often do blame ourselves, or we blame the people around us, or we can and do blame God. In fact, God gets the biggest share because God can take it. I've read a number of interpretations of this vignette about the temptations of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve..."Lord, she made me do it!" She blamed the messenger: "The serpent made me do it!" I've even read one cynical commentary that lays the blame on God for putting the fruit within their reach! I guess the point is that somebody had to take the "fall". It turned out to be humanity!

This passage from Genesis is often cited as an explanation of why there is sin and death in the world. It represents the loss of a connection between us and our God. It represents the loss of our connection with each other. It even represents our disconnection with all of God's creation. And one might even say, it represents our loss of a connection with our very selves.

First and foremost, death appears as a roadblock to a closer fellowship with God. For example, at the Civil War battle of Chickamauga in Georgia, a chaplain prayed over the Confederate troops who were preparing to go into battle. He fervently asked God to keep watch over them and they all said AMEN. But before they could turn to do their duty on the battlefield, the chaplain called them to hold one final thought in mind. He assured them, "Remember men, if you should die today, you can expect to be eating supper at the Lord's Table tonight." And at that very moment, a cannon shell exploded directly over their heads and everybody hit the dirt. When the calm returned, the soldiers lifted themselves up off the ground and stood up. And one of the men told the chaplain in no uncertain terms, "Reverend, please tell the Lord we ain't that hungry and we can wait on supper!" We all want to sit at the Lord's Table, but we aren't dyin' to get there.

Sin and death can creep into our relationships too...making them cold or vindictive. In this regard, nothing compares to the battles between the sexes. I love the New Yorker cartoon that shows the grim reaper...searching a living room for a man who is hiding behind the couch...the only thing visible are the soles of his feet and backside. As the grim reaper searches the room, his wife is standing in the doorway behind them both saying to the grim reaper, "You're getting warm...warmer".

And speaking of warmer...sin brings a disregard for the world over which God has given us stewardship. With climate change being identified with human activity by the vast majority of reputable scientists today, we must ask the question, "Are we being responsible agents to protect the earth for future generations?" Who is guiding this ship? It's like the two ladies who were driving to the grocery store and they cruised right through a red light. The woman in the passenger seat was alarmed, but didn't say anything. Momentarily they went through another light and the passenger started to open her mouth to express her shock, but she'd been a bit confused herself lately, so she kept quiet. Finally, they went through a third light and the passenger couldn't restrain herself any longer and she said, "Helen! Are you trying to get us killed? You just went through three red lights!" "What?!" Helen said, "I thought you were driving!" Somebody must be driving our failure to protect and care for our planet. In 1800, there were a billion people on planet earth...it took 125 years to get to 2 billion, but in the next 40 years from now the human population on planet Earth will increase by over two and a half billion souls to over 9 billion people! Almost all the increases will be in poor and underdeveloped countries...it makes one wonder, "Who's driving?"

The barrier of sin winds up hiding the reality of who and what we are from God, from each other and from ourselves. Oscar Wilde wrote a story entitled "The Picture of Dorian Gray". You probably know the story about a man named Dorian Gray who lived a profligate and dissolute life...but he always seemed the picture of health and well-being. The twist in the story is that he had a portrait of himself hidden away where all his horrid sins were recorded. The price he paid was alienation from others and from himself. Just as St Paul had said, "the wages of sin is death".

At the beginning of this service we prayed, Lord, "Come quickly to help us". That, I think is a prayer that we can not say often enough. Lord, come quickly to help us.

When Jesus responded to temptation...he showed us the way to arrive at this prayer. When tempted Jesus said: first, we need to place God's word between us and the temptation. And second, we need to rely on God to send the help we need. And, finally, we should worship and serve the Lord. When we're in these tough spots where it seems we have lost track of God, each other, our world, and our very selves...it is the time for us to pray, "Lord, come quickly to help us". Amen


The Reverend WA Ray

St Thomas Church
Diamondhead, MS 03/05/17