SUNDAY’S READINGS | June 6, 2021
This is a heartbreaking story, at first. The kingdom of heaven was lost in this way. According to an ancient biblical story, we humans presumed to need and want something more than God, more than the will of God, the love of God, the joy of God; a garden of delight was not enough. So, we went our own way. Though rich in the beginning, we became poor; though free, we became prisoners; though joyful, we fell into sorrow. The journey away from God, the source of life, is a road toward death.
All our yearnings are, in some sense, a longing for an original goodness. We can feel it, this sense that there should be more goodness, more truth, more beauty, more justice. We feel it as an inward pain telling us that something is woefully wrong.
We may still hear “the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze,” but we now shudder at the thought of being seen and known. The story tells us that “the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). At the Lord’s question, “Where are you?” Adam replied, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10). Adam blames Eve for giving him the forbidden fruit. Eve blames the serpent. Indirectly, they both blame God. Though guilty, they assert their innocence. Shame and fear entered the world, and religion, an all-knowing God, hardly seems a consoling answer. “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3).
The great English poet George Herbert describes the soul as “guilty of dust and sin,” “slack,” “unkind,” “ungrateful,” “marred,” as a way to emphasize love’s redeeming work, but he is also telling the truth about sin. St. Paul, reminding the Christians in Colossae that they have been raised with Christ and are to seek the things that are above, recalls as well the life from which they have been saved: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry), anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive language, and lies (Col. 3:5-9).
Despite the magnitude of human failure, hope remains. “When our disobedience took us far from you, you did not abandon us to the power of death. In your mercy you came to our help, so that in seeking you we might find you. Again and again you called us into covenant with you, and through the prophets you taught us to hope for salvation. Father, you loved the world so much that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior” (BCP p. 373-74).
God is an all-seeing eye, but he sees us as known and loved in the Lord Jesus Christ. The eternal love of the Father for the Son passes into the adopted sons and daughters of God. In Jesus Christ, we are a new creation, a new being, a new song. Looking at us, Jesus says, “Who are my mother and my brothers? … Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33-35).
Embraced by the mercy of Christ, we feel and know that our inner nature is being renewed day by day, that an eternal weight of glory is prepared for us, that we have a home eternal in the heavens. In this hope and this mercy, we live our lives in the flesh, in this earthly city.
Look It Up: Ps. 130:2-3
Think About It: There is forgiveness with you.