Glory or bust!
Today we begin Lent with a lesson from the book of Genesis, where we are told the story of our primeval parents. We know the story: Adam and Eve disobey God and they eat the fruit that they have been told not even touch. As a result, they were cast out of the Garden of Eden.
One of frequent question that people make to clergy is, “What is original sin?” And usually it is followed up with, “And what I have to do with it? It was their fault, right?”
Well, let me begin by saying that in terms of being original, there is nothing original in the so called “original” sin. It is what we all do, isn’t it?
And no. I am not talking about the fruit – for in the Bible there is no “apple,” just a generic fruit. I am talking about the kind of attitude that it is so prevalent among us human beings, Adam, and Eve or not. It is our singular desire to know better than God.
Lent is traditionally a time when we acknowledge our inability or even unwillingness to live up to God’s purpose for our lives.
But it is also a time to recall that our journey as human beings began in God’s eternal glory and from Day One, God destined us for glory.
It could be said that even the ashes that we received today have a golden lining. Yes, we are dust. But dust destined for glory.
About two hundred years before the birth of Christ a Jewish sage by the name of Joshua ben Sirach wrote a book on ethical teachings, a book that we came to know as “Ecclesiasticus.”
His words, though dated still carry the weight of ancient wisdom. Perhaps, unwittingly, he wrote what I would consider the perfect sermon for our season of Lent, so please, allow me to quote him. In chapter 17 of his book, he wrote,
“The Lord formed human beings from the dust and sent each of them back to it again. He gave us only a limited time to live, but he gave us authority over everything on earth. He made us to be like himself and gave us his own strength.
“He gave us our tongues, our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our consciences. The Lord gave us five senses, but he also gave us a sixth—intelligence, and a seventh—reason, which enables us to interpret what comes to us through the senses.
“God filled us with knowledge and understanding and showed us the difference between good and evil. He gave us his own insight to let us see the majesty of his creation.
“God made knowledge available to us and gave us the Law as a source of life. He warned us against unrighteousness and taught each person how to treat others. And to top it off, God is always ready to encourage those who are losing hope.
“How great is the Lord's merciful forgiveness for those who turn to him! But turning and changing is not in the nature of human beings.”
How true are those words, isn’t it? Turning and changing – or in theological terms, repentance and amendment of life do not come easy to any one of us.
We can look at the story of Genesis in two ways. Our traditional chronological way or, let me suggest, the other way around.
What am I trying to say? That if today we were to write the prequel to the story of humankind there would no other way than to paint our ancestors as willful and shortsighted as we are.
In other words, they would be intent in selling themselves short – just as we are – rather than in following God’s wisdom.
Perhaps the story would not be about Adam and Eve, gardens, and forbidden fruits, but nevertheless the story would be about people making bad decisions – advisedly.
We are God’s beloved sons and daughters. There is nothing that God would not do for us. Even if at times it is hard to believe, God never gets tired of doing us good, and looking for our welfare.
Now, granted, even as much as God loves us, we still have the option to turn our backs to what we know it is the better deal and chose to go our own way. Or to follow someone else’s way, rather than God’s.
About three years ago I asked you, “Who is the ‘Simon says’ in your life? The TV influencer who has the largest following? A talking head on Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter? Your experience? Traditions? Your friends in school? Your understanding about how things should work in the church, religion in general, or the universe?”
Lent invites us to remember who and whose we are – God’s most glorious creation under heaven, destined from glory eternal to eternal glory.
Human experience tells us that good choices and expediency don’t mix. So, let’s use this Season of Lent as an opportunity to live up to our calling and to make good choices.
God is not only rooting for us, but God himself is willing to come into our lives to make sure we make it. Nay, not only God is willing to come to our lives, but He already has done it. What else can you ask for?