Sermon

Genesis 3:1-19

Something is Seriously Wrong

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Genesis 3:1-19

Something is Seriously Wrong

Dr. Mickey Anders

Utopia is the title of a book by Sir Thomas More, published in Latin in 1516. The work pictures an ideal state where everything is ordered for the best for humanity as a whole and where the evils of society, such as poverty and misery, have been eliminated. The name “Utopia” is applied retroactively to various ideal states from other authors like Plato’s Republic and Augustine’s City of God.

It seems that writers have had a long fascination with creating the perfect society. However, actually creating such a society has proven illusive. Actual experiments in utopian social living were tried in Europe and the UnitedStates, but for the most part the efforts were neither long-lived nor more than partially successful.

Perhaps we could argue that the best purposes of government, education and religion have been to create a kind of utopia, an ideal world where everything is right. Certainly that seems to be what all the politicians are promising this election year.

Wouldn’t it be great to create a perfect society? In spite of our fascination with the subject, the reality of our world has never gotten close. Instead, we have wars and rumors of wars, drug addiction, murder, rape, and mayhem.

It doesn’t take a scholar to look at our world and the history of humankind and conclude, “Something is seriously wrong here.” In spite of our best efforts, we have never come close to an ideal society, and most of us don’t come close to an ideal life. We seem to mess things up right and left. Disaster, calamity, tragedy, and failure seem to be the norm for humans. Why is that? What’s wrong with us?

That is exactly the question addressed in our text for today. You see, the Bible also talks about a utopia. The Garden of Eden certainly describes a utopia, a place where God walked in the cool of the day and people were so innocent that they did not even know they were naked. But something went seriously wrong!

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Then the story in Genesis 3 is given to explain what went wrong. The story of Adam and Eve’s accepting the temptation offered by the snake points to something having gone wrong. The consequences are vivid. Adam and Eve find themselves living east of Eden in a world that must endure toil and sweat for one’s bread and pain and suffering in childbirth. They are banished from paradise forever.

The rest of the stories in the first eleven chapters of Genesis describe the deepening consequences. In the next generation, there will be murder as Adam and Eve’s son Cain kills his brother Abel. Things are so out of control that God sends a flood to destroy all life except for those on Noah’s ark. But soon, the cycle begins again in the story of the tower of Babel. Humans try to build a tower that reaches into the heavens.

In fact, many stories in the Bible are there to tell us that something is seriously wrong. This is the message of much of the Bible and many of the key stories and metaphors used.

Something was seriously wrong in Egypt. The identity of the people of Israel was shaped by their 400 years as slaves in Egypt. That was not the way their lives were supposed to be. That bondage and the subsequent exodus still shape the Jewish identity today. The Egyptian ruler, the Pharaoh, was a hard-hearted and oppressive ruler. The people were forced to make bricks even without straw. They were hopeless, oppressed, browbeaten, subjugated, broken, demoralized, and exploited. Something was seriously wrong.

Many people today can identify with that bondage in Egypt. People today are still hopeless, oppressed, browbeaten, subjugated, broken, demoralized and exploited. Whether they are in prison, sick, poor, under a government ruled by a dictator, or slaves to an addiction, they can understand the desperate feelings of the ancient people of Egypt. They too yearn for deliverance and liberation. They yearn for a Moses to come on the scene and dramatically set them free.

Something was seriously wrong in Babylon. Other people can identify with the people of Israel in the years 586 B. C. and following, when the whole nation was taken captive and carried off into exile in Babylon. That was another event that shaped the identity of the Israelites. They seemed to never get over that experience of being aliens in a strange land. We can only imagine the horrors of that national crisis for Israel. The once strong nation under David was now humiliated and far from the land they loved. The Psalmist cried out, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Something was terribly wrong!

And people today still have that alien feeling. There are refugees around our world – people who have been forced to flee from their homes. There are people in re-settlement camps living in tents, starving for food, yearning for home, just like the Israelites of old. Thousands and thousands are living in such tents in Africa and Myanmar. And after the terrible earthquake in China a couple of weeks ago, thousands are living in the streets, their homes forever demolished. There are many exiles in our world.

And many of us are emotional exiles. Sometimes it seems that everyone else belongs but us. We are strangers. We are foreigners. We don’t belong. We don’t fit in. One of the deepest needs of humans is that sense of belonging, and many people don’t have it. The word “home” conjures up a warm yearning in all of us. Many people just never feel that they are home.

All of these people identify with the Israelites in exile. Something is seriously wrong! And they yearn for a return to their homeland. They yearn to once again plant their feet in the land of their ancestors. They yearn to have a home and a place where they belong. They want to return and reconnect.

Something was seriously wrong with the blind. The Bible frequently tells stories of people who were blind. Blind man Bartemaeus is one of the most famous in the book of Mark. There was also the blind man in Capernaum where Jesus mixed his spittle with the dust of the ground, made a paste and put it on the blind eyes. Jesus had deep compassion on those who could not see.

But he also accused the Pharisees of being blind guides. Jesus knew that losing physical sight was tragic, but there were people who could not see spiritually. There were those who could not see the gift of light and grace that he brought to the world. Jesus appealed to the blind to open their eyes and see!

We still have the blind with us today. Yes, there are schools for the blind and seeing eye dogs to help them. But we also still have those who are spiritually blind. There are too many people who just do not see the spiritual realm. There are those who insist on believing only what they can see and touch, what they can prove by scientific testing. They insist there is no God. They have no appreciation for the spirit world. Something is seriously wrong here.

Something is seriously wrong with the hungry and thirsty. People throughout the Bible were often hungry and thirsty. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and often experienced hunger and thirst. God sent manna and quail to feed them. They were thirsty and God told Moses to strike the rock, and water gushed forth.

But there is another kind of hunger as well. Jesus recognized this in the Beatitudes when he said,“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.”

There are those who are hungry for God. Those who are thirsty for spiritual awareness.

Augustine said there is a God-shaped vacuum in each of us, and it can only be filled by God.

Something is seriously wrong with those who are sinners. Our text for today tells us how sin came into the world. Adam and Eve were the first sinners. Paul writes in Romans that the first man, Adam, brought sin into the world. And we have all followed in his footsteps.

The Bible says, “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all sinners. Sin is what had gone wrong with the world. Romans 8 even indicates that sin brought corruption to the natural world, and that the creation waits with groaning for the redemption that can come in Christ. Sin is our problem and we are in need of forgiveness. Something has gone seriously wrong.

Something is seriously wrong with those who have experienced death. The Roman centurion’s daughter had died, and he walked a long way to appeal to Jesus for help. The widow’s only son was dead, and only Jesus could help. Lazarus had been dead for days and his sisters Mary and Martha were furious with Jesus because he did not come earlier. Something is seriously wrong when you are dead!

But Paul argued that we are spiritually dead when we are slaves to sin. If we don’t know life in Christ we don’t know life at all.

People today often feel that they are as much as dead. Something tragic has happened to a love one, and there is nothing left to live for. When people struggle in their marriages, we often say the marriage is dead. When we experience disappointment or failure in our ambitions, we say our dreams are dead.

Something is seriously wrong! From the first page of the Bible to the last, the message is the same. Like Adam and Eve, we have let sin take us out of the Garden of Eden. We all live east of Eden. Like the Israelites in Egypt, we are in bondage and slavery. Like the captive Israelites in Babylon, we are aliens in a strange land, yearning for home. Like blind Bartimaeus, we are blind. Like the Pharisees, we cannot see the truth of Jesus. We are hungry and thirsty for righteousness. As Paul said, we are all sinners in need of grace. Like Lazarus, the life has gone from us and we are spiritually dead. Something is seriously wrong!

But the Bible also has good news, my friends. For the sin of Adam is not the end of the story. For as in one man came sin, so also in one man, Jesus Christ, came forgiveness and salvation through faith. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We no longer have to be slaves as the people were in Egypt. Jesus came to bring us freedom. Paul says, For freedom Christ has set you free. Jesus said, And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last. When we are lost, wandering in the wilderness, Jesus is the way, Jesus is the door, Jesus shows us that straight and narrow path that leads to life everlasting.

We no longer have to be aliens yearning for our home. Through Christ, we are no longer estranged from God. We are no longer homeless, hopeless and helpless.

1 Peter says,

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession….

(who) in time past were no people,

but now are God’s people,

who had not obtained mercy,

but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:910).

In 1883, Fanny Crosby wrote the words,

“Jesus is tenderly calling you home

Calling today, calling today,

Why from the sunshine of love will you roam,

Farther and farther away?

Calling today, calling today,

Jesus is calling, is tenderly calling today.”

We no longer have to be blind. Isaiah said, “The people who walked in deep darkness have seen a great light.” Jesus is still the light of the world. He brings healing to blind eyes. He brings enlightenment and light into the world.

1 Peter says,

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,

that you may proclaim the excellence of him

who called you out of darkness

into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

We no longer have to be hungry. Just God sent manna to the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed a multitude. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” Jesus said, “This is my body, this is my blood.” We can eat and be filled. Drink and be quenched.

We no longer have to be thirsty. Jesus told the woman at the well,

“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again,

but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him

will never thirst again;

but the water that I will give him

will become in him a well of water

springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

We no longer have to be sinners. But God commended his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Paul wrote in Galatians:

“For I, through the law, died to the law,

that I might live to God.

I have been crucified with Christ,

and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me.

That life which I now live in the flesh,

I live by faith in the Son of God,

who loved me, and gave himself up for me”

(Galatians 2:19-20).

We no longer have to be dead. Jesus is the path of dying and rising again. Jesus raised the Roman centurion’s daughter from the dead, and the widows son. Jesus cried out to Lazarus in the tomb, “Come out,” and he came out still wearing his grave clothes. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

Paul wrote,

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

Death, where is your sting?

Hades, where is your victory?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory

through our Lord Jesus Christ ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57)

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, something is seriously wrong, but thanks be to God, Jesus is light in our darkness, sight to the blind, liberation for captives, healing for our infirmities, food to eat and water to drink. He brings us resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever Amen.

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.

Copyright 2008, Mickey Anders. Used by permission.