Adam & Eve: Pushing God Aside
A Summer Family Reunion: Lessons from our Faith Ancestors
Genesis 3:1-13; 22-23
First Baptist Church Laurens
June 3, 2018
Back when I was a young child, my parents hosted a Letson family reunion for several years on a summer Sunday afternoon at our house. Many of my memories of those occasions are now long gone. But, I do remember a few things.
First, I remember that we got to skip church on that particular Sunday each year and this was a big deal in our house. For us, going to church was as much a given as the sun coming up tomorrow so staying home on a Sunday was a rare occasion that we as children received with great joy.
Second, I also remember that people came from other states. Most of those relatives lived in Tennessee or Mississippi which really wasn’t that far away from our little section of Northwest Alabama but it felt like an amazing journey for someone to have made to me at my particular age at the time.
The third thing I remember is the most important for today. I remember that those reunions were an interesting conglomeration of people. Some of the folks who came were my aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins that I saw on an almost weekly basis. Others of them were people I had never seen before and would never see again. Some of them lived pretty common, mundane lives and others did some fairly interesting things like the relative who was a professor at Auburn, another who lived on the beach and yet another who had worked in the auto industry in Detroit.
What was most intriguing was that this collection of well known figures and strangers, common folks and a few “significant” figures were all introduced in the same form or fashion to me as kin. They were all said to be family.
This morning, I want to invite all of us to a reunion to be held right here in our sanctuary this summer. Unfortunately, unlike our family reunion which included skipping church, you will have to come to church as often as you can over these summer Sundays to be a part.
In many ways, however, this reunion will be very similar to the one I just described. At our reunion, we will meet our kin – they are our relatives in the faith who join us across the centuries as the members of the family of God. Some of them you will recognize and know well. Others of them you will know by name but know little about. And, still others will feel more like strangers than family. Likewise, some of our faith family that we will meet lived fairly common lives while others were extraordinary people. Yet, again, they are all family for they like us are a part of God’s family.
In meeting them again, we will learn about them and the lessons their lives share that have benefited members of the family of God for centuries and that can still benefit us in profound ways.
Today, we start at the only appropriate place, at the very beginning, with none other than Adam and Eve.
What is funny to me is that Adam and Eve are the very first members of the family of God and yet in the grand scheme of things we don’t talk a lot about them nor do we necessarily see in them a strong resemblance to ourselves. Instead, because they were first and because their story comes from such a moment of ancient history, it is almost as if they are from another planet. Adding to this is the fact that we have done Adam and Eve a disservice. We have made their story more of a science lesson, and by that I mean a way of proving God’s role in creation, than we have made their story a faith lesson.
Yes, God created the world and God created human beings. That is an important fact that we should be clear about and not waver on. But, we need to be careful not to get so bogged down in making that point that we miss the other point which is the truth that from the start, we as humans have struggled with many of the same things.
What is interesting to note here is that the names Adam and Eve are both proper and generic names. Proper in that they were the names of two individuals – “Adam” and “Eve”. But, generic in that the word Adam also means “humankind” and the word Eve also means “first to live”. In other words, their names explain that they also represent all living beings. They are like us. We are like them. We are near kin.
Like you and me, Adam and Eve were susceptible to sin. Like you and me, Adam and Eve struggled with their family. They had children who did well and one notorious son, Cain, who struggled mightily. Like you and me, Adam and Eve liked to pass this buck. As Chuck Poole once said, “Adam and Eve were the first to sin and they were also the first to spin”. (Lenten Speech, Chuck Poole, February 17, 2002, preached at Northminster Baptist Church) When they ate of the tree, they both had to put a spin on it. Adam said it was Eve’s fault and Eve said it was the serpent’s fault. It could not have been their own personal fault. And, like you and me, despite their ups and downs and highs and lows, God was faithful to Adam and Eve even when their sins were clear, obvious and shameful.
Like us, Adam and Eve were also tempted to push God out of the way from the very beginning. It was a subtle move for them just as it is for us. But, it is clear and obviously there in their story as it is in ours if we pay attention to it. For Adam and Eve, it is the real temptation behind the eating of the forbidding fruit. The serpent tells them that eating this fruit would allow them to “be like God”. They would know what God knew and be on the same level. In other words, eating this fruit, whether it was an apple, pear, fig or a pineapple, would allow them to no longer need God but rather to be just like God.
Now, we all are perfectly willing to sit here this morning in our Sunday go to meeting clothes, all looking the part and say we would never do this. We would never try to be God. And, yet, our lives so often suggest otherwise. How often do we make our own decisions, do what we want, treat others as we think they deserve and decide for ourselves what to do with what we have? How often do we ask God to bless the decisions we have already made or to do what we want? These are not ways of serving God and trying to live humbly. These are ways of claiming the name Christ follower in word while clearly doing it all ourselves in action.
There is a great little story about a local barber who loved to play a trick on a little boy who came in his store almost every day. One day, the barber had a store full of long time customers who over the years had also become his good friends. Knowing he had an audience and seeing the little boy walking down the street and heading his way, he said “he fellas, watch this…” In walked the little boy and the barber said, “Hey Billy, are you ready for our game? In my left hand I have a dollar bill and in my right hand I have two quarters. Now, which one do you want?” Billy didn’t hesitate. “I’ll take the two quarters”. With that he took the coins and headed out the door. When he left, the barber said to his audience, “I pull that trick on him every time. Poor little Billy, he thinks that two are always better than one even when the two are quarters and the one is a dollar!” Later one of the men in the shop saw Billy walking out of the local ice cream parlor just as he left the barber shop. He went up to the little boy and said, “hey Billy, let me ask you something. Why would you take the two quarters instead of the dollar. Don’t you know that the dollar is worth more?” “Sure I do,” said Billy. “I am not dumb. I know the dollar is more valuable but the minute I admit that, the game is over.”
Now that’s a cute story but it also has a sly truth underneath it. Billy was just fine with playing along for all the while it allowed the Barber to think he was the one in control of the game. But, the truth was, little Billy, likely with a wide grin on his face, was the one who was really controlling and manipulating the situation.
We play the game too as we throw around seeking God’s direction, suggesting our desire to only do what God would want or constantly reiterating our desire to live with a deep commitment to always do what the good book says. It all sounds good, feels right and offers the proper example. But, truth be told, it is a game that we play while we pull the strings, remain in control and save conversation with God for when we are in a bind or need something.
This age old issue really never goes away – that is this temptation to be God rather than a humble servant of and follower of God. Truth be told, I don’t think we ever reach a point of mastery any more than Adam and Eve did. Yet, I think they as our ancestors in faith help us tremendously by setting in front of us the critical reminder of just how prevalent this issue is. In turn, the best we can do I think, is to arise every day with an initial prayer and desire to allow God, in each day, to be God rather than trying to be God ourselves. Again, this must become a daily prayer I think for it certainly is a daily battle.
Yet, if this can be our morning prayer and if this can set the tone for our day, every day, then maybe humility and being a follower of God rather than the leader of our own life is what will follow.
In the midst of it, we can also give thanks to God, who does for us just what God did for Adam and Eve. God waits for us as God was there waiting for them. God is ready to lead us and our lives the moment we are ready and willing to hand back over the controls. Amen.