1st Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 and Psalm 32
The doctrine of original sin. This is not a description of God that I am very comfortable with, and I know many others feel the same way. We have difficulty recognizing a punitive God who wants to keep us stupid and dependent.
But all that being said, and you don’t have to agree with me, sin did enter the human condition somehow, and very early in our history. Our failure to treat one another with respect has resulted in wars, torture, sexual exploitation, and many other kinds of injustice and inequity.
However, having eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil means we are capable of thinking for ourselves, and therefore of making choices between what is good and what is evil. For did not God say in the first account of Creation (Genesis 1:26); “let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness....So God created humankind in God’s image.”
So here we are – a very God-like people, in some ways, and a very confused and ignorant and nasty people in lots of other ways. So what is to be done? There is a whole section in our Hebrew scriptures called “The Prophets”. God sent us plenty of messengers to warn us that our evil ways were not (and are not) sustainable. God inspired Moses to bring to us the Law – the very basics of how we must learn to live together.
We have been given free will, and we have been given the Law. But our wrongdoing persists. What is a loving God/Parent to do? We have forgotten who we truly are – children of a loving God. We allow ourselves to be frightened and guilted into believing that we are unworthy and have been abandoned by our God – or will be if we don’t comply with the demands of the authorities of the day. Many of these so-called authorities or leaders have cut us off from the knowledge that we can have direct experience of the Holy. Or that the unconditional love of God is there for us simply because we are the beloved children of God. No animal sacrifice is needed, and forgiveness is assured.
We are all fundamentally spiritual beings, my friends. Each of us has a direct hot line to the Divine. But it’s like a muscle – it needs to e exercised, and one way we can do that is with prayer.
Hymn #960 VU “The Lord’s Prayer”
2nd Scripture Reading: Romans 5:12-19 and Matthew 4:1-11
The Romans reading is very convoluted – do you think? So let me share with you what I understand from this reading. Sin did come into the world – possibly as a consequence of the gift of free will. We don’t always make the right choices, but that is how we learn. So our trespasses mounted up, and with them came illness and death, fear and guilt. The images of the “lost tribes of Israel” or the “lost children of God” come to mind. We needed help! God sent us Jesus – a very special son of God – in whom God abided, and with whom God was well pleased.
But as well as being filled with the Divine, Jesus was also born of woman, fully human. He is often called “the Gift” – for he came with a specific mission – to save us from ourselves. What a huge job! And he was a human being. Was he really up to it?
Jesus was tested in the desert for a long period of time. He needed to be very strong and very committed to accomplish this task. He had to clearly understand the difference between good and evil, and he had to be strong in his refusal to be swayed from the right decision.
Because of his special connection to God, being “in the Father, and the Father in me”, he had a spiritual advantage over the Israelites, who felt very separate from God, and often frightened and guilty too. He knew what they did not know very well, that God’s love is unconditional, and that forgiveness of trespasses is there for the asking. The abundance of God’s grace and mercy were never a question for Jesus, but the concept was beyond the ordinary Jew of the day.
The crux of the matter is, as I see it, that a people who are unbalanced by fear and guilt, who are disconnected from their spiritual reality – from the deep, deep love of God; those people do not love themselves, and therefore are incapable of loving one another. Jesus’ primary mission was to teach us to love one another as he was capable of loving us. When we truly love one another, then all the other pieces fall into place. How can we fight wars when we love all people? How can we destroy forests and wetlands when we love all God’s creatures?
Love truly is all there is, friends. Without love we are lost and afraid, and at the mercy of whatever charlatan leader wants to tell us. Our true connection to God is thru our own hearts. When we acknowledge and honour the Christ within, then we will be transformed into temples of the Living God.
Hymn #271 VU “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”