The Good News of Lent

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, March 5, 2017, Lent 1, Year A, Matthew 4:1-11

“And they knew that they were naked…”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Amen.

Good morning. I trust that you have started your Lent off right. That it has been holy time for you these past few days. The weather has played a nasty trick on us, hasn’t it?

Many of you, including the male half of your co-rectorship, did not make it to Church on Ash Wednesday. The weather was nasty and there has been some illness being spread around as well.

I’m here to tell you that all is not lost. I joked with a couple of you that since I didn’t get my ashes, then I don’t have to fast.

Of course, I was joking.

I actually love Lent. It reminds me who I am and who I am not. It reminds me of my various roles and when I am operating outside of those roles. It calls me from areas where I am stretched too thin and reminds me to prioritize my roles and invest in those roles in a healthier way.

With that being said, I’d like to get myself in a pickle. Well, maybe it will be problematic for you… Maybe not… But you should know… that the story in Genesis 2 and 3… the story of Adam and Eve… is myth…

I wrote in a pause at this point for the gasps from the congregation.

I say this because those of us who grew up in a church that read the bible literally, need to be reminded that this text is not to be read like a historical event.

My friend says, if a story starts out with Once upon a time, or involves a talking snake, or a magical tree, then you can be pretty sure that the story is a myth.

In seminary, I needed to be reminded that myth does not mean “untrue.” Instead, myth is used to explain a deep truth with a story… like a parable or fable.

This is important because of this story… this myth… has been used out of context in many different circles… We have put pressure and blame on women that don’t belong to them. If Eve hadn’t offered the fruit to Adam… we wouldn’t be in this tricky spot… If Adam hadn’t been so weak, as to listen to Eve, we wouldn’t be in this tricky spot…etc.

My point being, this story isn’t a 1 to 1 relationship.
We can’t read the text and hope to learn from a factual event.
Maybe I didn’t need to remind us of this, but I’m new and want to make sure we’re all speaking the same language.

And so for the purposes of this sermon today… on the first Sunday of Lent, I think we can read this story in Genesis as a reminder of who we were created to be.

This story is a way to remind humanity that God provides for all our needs. That God provides all we need to live and thrive and that only when we let God do those things, provide for all our needs to live and thrive, are we able to truly flourish and thereby be truly happy.

When Adam and Eve walk around in the garden… in their nakedness… they feel hungry… they grab some food.

There is plenty of food… there is no need to store up food… there is an abundance of food and God does the work to provide for the human cravings.

It is a beautiful picture… a beautiful image… a beautiful myth, isn’t it? When we let God take care of the Divine role… we are taken care of and we are happy, we can truly flourish the way God intended. We are content.

But… when we decide to provide for ourselves… outside of our role… outside of the established economy. Outside of the way God has chosen to take care of his household…. Then we operate outside of our role… we… become like God…. Adam and Eve demanded to be like God… demanded to provide for themselves.

And… they get what they wanted…now they must work… they must provide… they must toil for their needs.

And then they realize what has happened…
“Oh no! We are like God… in a bad way. We are like God but can’t really follow through like God can. The cat is out of the bag. The genie out of the bottle… We cannot forget what we have done… we cannot unknow what we now know… We have diminished the image of God in ourselves.”

And so they try to cover that image up. It is too painful… “Adam… quit strutting around like you are God… Eve… quit it with your dancing around… with your gentle little steps, prancing around the garden like you are the creator of the universe… you’re not.”

When we live outside of God’s economy… when we provide for ourselves through a different economic system… we become competitors… we compete with one another and with our God… we oppress… we blame… we cover up God’s image… we sin.

That’s bad news. Because even though I’ve only been here for 6 months, I know you well enough, to know that you can’t fully live into God’s economy… That you can’t fully embrace God’s reign.

And, even though I’ve only been here 6 months, you know me well enough to know that I can’t do it either… that’s bad news… That’s bad news if Adam is our guide… if Eve is our model… If Adam and Eve are our messiahs.

Thankfully… not even in Lent is our focus as Christians to be the bad news.

Thankfully we are not called to hopelessness… We are called to hope-Fullness… we are called to light… We are guided by the good news.

Thankfully we follow Jesus… not Adam.

Because, unlike Adam, Jesus did fully embrace God’s reign… He did not seek to live outside of the Divine Economy… he did not seek to live outside of God’s provision… he did not seek his own gain…

He proclaimed… and lived for… and died for… the Kingdom of God.

He provided for the needs of the people. He turned the water to wine… fed the five thousand… gave sight to the blind… restored hearing to the deaf. Healed the infirmed of their illnesses…

And because of that model… because God did not leave us alone but instead left us the Holy Spirit… And because we do continue to bear the image of God…

We get to depend on our fellow image bearers as God’s provision.

If it is true that the Church, and all of humanity, are the hands and feet of God… If it is true that we are the Bride of Christ… like-minded with Christ… Then we have a lot of work to do.

And this may feel like a heavy burden to you… I think that is healthy… But remember, we are in this together.

This is not your burden to shoulder alone… But perhaps we should start with prayer… we should proceed thoughtfully and reflectively… Thank God for a well timed Lent.

And so we fast… to remember our dependence on God and on one another. To remember we were not designed to be self-sufficient. We fast to remember that we are not immortal… we fast to remember that we will all die at some point…. We fast to remember that All things come of thee o Lord… and of thine own have we given thee…

“And they knew that they were naked…”

Amen.