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WHAT AM I NOT SEEING?

wild flowers inside old work boots, we are called to put ourselves in the shoes of others

Sermon, by Pastor Joel

Third Sunday After Pentecost

June 9, 2024


Genesis 3:8-15

Psalm 130

2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1

Mark 3:20-35

This morning our first lesson takes us back to the beginning, to the story of Adam and Eve. We find our human pair already having snacked on the apple of the Tree of Life. Adam, at least, is hiding from God, who has come looking for them. Did you eat the apple, God asks? And Adam, our noble hero, points the finger at Eve: she made me do it, he says – a line that becomes the beginning of another belief, one we must believe was unintended by God. Eve, for her part, also shifts blame: It was the serpent, she says to God; the snake tricked me. For this the serpent is cursed, to crawl on his belly, and nip at human heels and be bashed on the head. And Adam and Eve are sent outside the Garden and into the world, aware of both God and their humanness. As meet-cutes go, to use the parlance of romantic comedy, it’s definitely on the bleaker side. Or is it?

Of course, there are all sorts of theological debates about the Adam and Eve story. Some contend that it is strictly metaphor, and that Adam and Eve were two tribes, who came together. How, after all, could two humans be the beginning of humanity? The more misogynistic of scholars throughout history have taken Adam’s view: were it not for Eve and her duplicitous ways, we would all still be frolicking in that perfect Garden, and so women must be viewed with suspicion, and their voices must be suppressed lest they wreak more havoc. Less often is it observed that Adam made his own choice to eat the apple, and yet was quick to throw his companion under the bus – an act of cowardice that has been repeated by humans ever since. What, in fact, was Eve’s crime? Curiosity – the quality that has driven human invention ever since. The curiosity to know and understand is hardly the worse attribute of humanity, and far more often one of the best.

And so, the story of the garden becomes a matter of perspective. God made a rule God knew humans would inevitably break. Eve and Adam both tried to make excuses to get out of trouble, but it is Eve’s daring choice that leads to their shared act of eating the apple, which might also be considered the first act of community – they took the risk together. The serpent remains ever-present, sneaking into our lives today, the voice of temptation, for worse, and better.

It’s a matter of perspective, as I say.

The story of what happened in the Garden is often problematic because it appears to make Eve subservient, or second to Adam. Eve is created by God, we are told, from Adam’s rib. Eve is named “woman” by Adam. Eve is described as a helper for Adam. But again, we might see it all differently: we might say that God improved, on the second time around, that Eve was created because Adam clearly required her help, and Adam, understanding this, made clear with the name that she was like him, and not like any other creature in the garden. And so we might also see Adam from a different perspective.

And what of Eve herself, whose act of eating the apple began the events that led to humanity’s leaving the garden? If we are to believe in God’s plan, then surely this was part of it – an act of free will that was expected to happen, because a world existed outside the garden and we were called to live in it, for better and for worse.

I say all these things because our perspective is a powerful tool, one we often fail to use. It opens our eyes, it is curious, it enables free will. There is one version: Adam was happy in the garden, until Eve wrecked things by eating the apple. There is also this version: Adam was a bit of an apple-eating dud and Eve created humanity by sending us into the fullness of the world. And there’s this version: Adam and Eve, both wanting to eat the apple and experience what else life offered, did so together, and set out from the garden together. And the rest is history, or faithful mythology.

There is a line at the end of our gospel that relates to this idea of opening ourselves up to many perspectives. Jesus is preaching about the importance of unity, and the weakness of a house that gives in to division. He is told that his mother and brothers and sisters are outside. And he looks at the crowd and says, my mothers and brothers and sisters are here. And we understand that he is not rejecting his family but widening his care and concern beyond his own relational circle. His perspective is that every person is to be valued and treated as if they were family; that is a perspective, that if held, filters into every word and deed.

To live in community is to see life through the eyes of another person. To feel empathy and compassion, we must truly see another side. We must view the story from all angles. How do we gain that perspective? We listen, we ask questions, we ponder the answers. What do you mean? How do you feel? What is your interpretation of this problem or this experience? What do you need? What am I not seeing?

Stories are rarely simple, and people are almost always complicated. That is the truth that the apple told, and the human journey that Eve and Adam began.

Amen

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