God of forgiveness and love, we cry out to you. Hear our prayers, guide our steps, strengthen our households, and help us always to turn to you in times of need. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
God is gracious, even when disciplining us.
In today’s first reading, we heard the story of Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden.
We’ve heard it before… God tells the humans that they can eat fruit from any tree in the garden, except for one… but the snake convinces them that God didn’t really mean it… so one at a time, the humans eat fruit from the forbidden tree.
And then God kicks the humans out of paradise.
In paradise, the humans had everything that they needed.
They were given food and protection, companionship with one another and a close relationship with God.
Once they were forced to leave paradise, the humans…
they still had everything that they needed.
Adam and Eve had to struggle more to get food, to care for creation, and to create new life. But they were still able to do all these things. If their existence had become a little harder, that was their own doing.
God was gracious to them, providing them with everything they needed, even when God was punishing them.
Beware: don’t go trying to blame all women for being cast out of paradise. It just as easily could have been the man who took the first bite from the forbidden fruit.
The actions of God matter a whole lot more here than the actions of the humans.
And God’s actions are full of grace and generosity.
The entire premise of this part of the Adam and Eve story is that God wants to hang out with the humans, so God comes down from the heavens and goes for a walk in the Garden of Eden. God is looking for Adam and Eve so that they can spend some quality time together.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if God showed up here and interrupted our worship or our reading to say, hey everyone, we haven’t been spending enough quality time together lately. Let’s hang out!
God comes to the garden to spend time with Adam and Eve.
And God discovers that the humans have messed up.
And like any good parent, God knows that the children need to learn that there are consequences to their actions, so God punishes Adam and Eve for eating the forbidden fruit.
Adam and Eve broke the one commandment that God had given them.
God could have scrapped creation altogether and started over from scratch.
God could have created humans in such a way that they would not have been able to break commandments and betray the trust of their creator.
But instead, God chose to give humans the ability to choose relationship with their creator or not. And when they chose not, God gave them another chance.
God cast them out of paradise, yes, but that was their own fault. God still chose to give Adam and Eve everything that they would need to survive in the world outside of the garden.
God was even the one to make clothes for them when they discovered that they were naked and felt ashamed. He replaced their flimsy fig leaves with real clothes made out of animal skins.
Imagine that someone kicked you in the gut, and sprained their ankle when they did it. And then you bandaged up their ankle so that it would heal quickly and not cause them any more pain. That’s basically what God does for Adam and Eve in today’s story.
As we know, Adam and Eve weren’t the only ones to test the relationship between humans and God.
Scripture gives us the examples of Moses and David, Saul (or Paul), and many others.
Our lived experience gives us countless more examples: the leaders of our country, a pastor you once knew, your difficult aunt or abusive step-father…
Your partner… your child… yourself.
Each one of us can find ourselves in this Bible story.
All of us have messed up at some point in our lives.
Any one of us would have probably done exactly the same thing as Adam and Eve did when the serpent started to plant doubts in their minds.
It is so easy for us to give in to temptation.
But God is gracious even in punishment.
Discipline isn’t meant to be crippling. It’s just what happens when we have to live with the consequences of our actions.
Any good parent is going to get mad at their children from time to time.
But they don’t want to actually cause harm to their children.
They don’t want to do anything that will result in permanent damage or years of counseling. They just want their kids to learn how to live with the natural consequences of their actions.
That’s the kind of parent that God is to us.
We need to learn that our actions have consequences.
But even when God is teaching us that difficult lesson, God still provides for us, protects us, and gives us freedom to make our own choices in life.
Adam still gets to eat, and harvest food from the earth, and provide for his family. It’s just a little harder in today’s world than it was in paradise.
Eve still gets to be as close to a god as humans will ever get – she is able to create new life. It’s just going to be incredibly painful now that she has left Eden.
Adam and Eve – humanity – you and I – we’ve messed up. So God made life a little more complicated than it needed to be. Though really, that’s our own fault. When we look at what God gives to us, we still are provided with everything we need, and then some, thanks to God’s grace.
Ultimately, this is the central point of the Christian message.
God gives us all that we need to get by in life.
No matter what we do– how bad or good we are – God looks out for us. And God wants us to live well.
When we mess up, we have to live with the consequences of our actions.
But God still loves us. God blesses us, and helps us to move forward, by grace, through faith.
God is gracious.
Even when we mess up and deserve punishment, and God has to do some disciplining – our relationship with God is defined by God’s grace.
Thanks be to God.
A sermon for the second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5, year B in the Revised Common Lectionary. First preached at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI.