There is a meme that appeared on my Facebook feed this summer about how Adam and Eve were the first one’s not to read Apple terms and conditions. You can see it here. And while it is a clever jab at our internet culture (who EVER reads those terms and conditions before clicking the box and proceeding?) it is a poor reading of our story. After all the text in Genesis never mentions an apple (neither, for that matter is the Devil/Satan). And Adam and Eve were told clearly what the cause/effect relationship was when it came to the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
To begin Year 3 in the Narrative Lectionary cycle we read from Genesis 2, the second creation story. The reading is Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 and can be read here. The Working Preacher commentary is here, and the podcast is here. Text This Week resources on related Scriptures are here
Traditionally this second Creation story is referred to as the story of The Fall, the story of how we once lived in paradise in open relationship with God and then in an act of wilful disobedience threw it all away. The wound in the relationship in this story is not set right (some say) until the atoning work of Jesus. As Paul says on Romans 5 “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” I would suggest that the relationship between God and humanity has yet to be fully restored to the Eden-ic fullness and arguably will not be until the eschaton. But hopefully it is growing closer in each of us.
So did that bite which brings on knowledge change the human condition forever? After all, in the hymn to creation from Genesis 1 we are told that God looks at all that has been made and declares it as Very Good. Does this second creation story erase that judgement?
Or maybe was it a necessary thing.
Scripture makes it abundantly plain that God is all about relationship with God’s Creations. God never abandons the people despite having ample reason to do so (the people routinely appear to abandon God’s path after all). God continues to reach for relationship. Was that relationship that God so obviously craves really possible with people who were innocent and unaware? Or is the relationship, with all its struggles and wrong turns and heartbreak only possible once the people have the knowledge of good and evil, have a conscience?
In Grade 9 we read Mark Twain’s Diary of Adam and Eve (or possibly just excerpts, it was 30-some years ago) and in that piece Twain has the suggestion that the only way Adam and Eve can live to their fullest is to have them eat the fruit. Now admittedly Twain uses that line in a discussion between God and Satan regarding the human couple’s inability to figure out copulation and so the “multiply” part of the first commandment (see Genesis 1:28) is in doubt, and admittedly it is Satan’s suggestion that the fruit be eaten. But it does raise the question, could humanity only grow into what God wanted/needed us to be by “falling”.
If so, what is the sin that breaks the relationship?
Traditionally the sin is a combination of wilful disobedience and pride. Eve and Adam openly break the rules and they do so in a prideful desire to be like God (and then refuse to take the blame…pointing fingers instead). That much is in the text. But if the fruit had to be eaten eventually maybe part of the sin is a lack of patience, a lack of trust. Maybe if they had waited until they were ready, until they were given permission, then the results of eating the fruit would have been a deepening of relationship rather than a breaking of it. We grow through the Fall. We change through the Fall. Maybe that is not entirely a bad thing…
Lest we forget, there is a gender-fairness issue in the way this text has been used and interpreted. Even Blake’s picture to the right talks about the fall of Eve (who then leads Adam astray). I suggest that this is not suited to the text. Yes that is Adam’s “excuse” but it is clear to me that both humans are equally culpable in the rule-breaking. We try not to let our children get away with “he made me do it”, why have generations of scholars let Adam do so????
Finally, this Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. How does that impact our sermon preparation?
Gord Waldie has been an Ordained Minister in the United Church of Canada since 2001. For the first nine years he served in a resource town in Northwestern Ontario and more recently in Northern Alberta. He shares his life with his partner Patty, their four daughters, and a female dog with a severe anxiety disorder. Some days he feels a little bit outnumbered.
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