In the beginning: we fell hard!
This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, May 11, 2014.
Reading: Genesis 6:9-22
Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear so that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to also live your Word in the world starting today. It’s in your son’s name we pray. Amen.
I was doing dishes listening to Disney music (it seems that’s all our radio plays these days), trying to get Stella to play in the kitchen while I finished up when I heard it. Crack! a hollow thud! Stella began crying hysterically. I ran from the kitchen into the living room. Stella was lying on the ground next to the coffee table. A bump was beginning to form above her eye. The best I can figure, she had jumped from the couch, trying to clear the coffee table. She didn’t make it. She hit her head. The welt above her eye was proof that she had fallen hard.
As a parent this was a scary incident. Stella could have seriously hurt herself. She fell hard. And as I rocked her in the rocking chair and pressed a pack of frozen vegetables to her forehead, I was reminded that we all fall hard, especially in the beginning.
In the beginning…
In the beginning, it was all good. In the beginning when God began to create, God made all that was—the earth, the sky, the oceans, and all that is in them—and God saw all that God had made, including humanity, and God called it good.
In the beginning, it was all good. But our goodness didn’t keep us from falling.
In the beginning, we fell hard.
In the beginning, not even our goodness could keep us on our feet. In the beginning, like a child learning to climb, we fell. We fell hard.
In our daily readings for this week, the Book of Genesis records three incidents in which humanity falls.
In Genesis 3, we learn from the story of Eve and the serpent that we fall when we fail to remember who we are and what God has graciously provided for us. The serpent tells Eve that if she eats the fruit she will become like God. She forgot that she was already like God, created in the very image and likeness of her Creator. The serpent also warps God’s command (“Is it true, God told you that you can’t eat anything int his lush garden?”). To Eve’s credit, she does correct the serpent, but in eating the fruit of the tree of good and evil she fails to acknowledge the abundance God had already provided her. There was no need to eat the fruit of the tree of good and evil for God had graciously provided all her and Adam needed to live in the garden. We fall when we fail to remember who we are and what God has graciously provided for us.
In Genesis 4, we learn from the story of Cain and Abel that we fall when we fail to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. Cain and Abel take their offerings to God. Able brings the fattest animals from his flocks. Cain brings the most beautiful fruits from his crops. God seemingly overlooks Cain’s offering and “looks favorably on Abel and his sacrifice.” Cain gets visibly angry. And, God reminds Cain (see Genesis 4:6-7) that doing the right thing isn’t about recognition. Because we know what is good and right, we must find enjoyment in doing what is good and right. We fall when we fail to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing.
Genesis 5 records the genealogical record between Adam, Noah, and Noah’s sons. It’s riveting reading.
By the time we get to the time of Noah (some 1650 years after the creation), Genesis 6 records that “ humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and that every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil” (Genesis 6:5, Common English Bible). “In God’s sight, the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence. God saw that the earth was corrupt, because all creatures behaved corruptly on the earth” (Genesis 6:11-12, Common English Bible). In this final story, we find that we fall when brokenness—violence, hate, and division—become normative. We fall when we live in discord instead of striving toward peace.
In the beginning, we fell hard. And, if we’re honest we continue to do so. But thanks be to God, that our story doesn’t end there. God comes running, sprinting like a mother who hears the cry of her child, to swoop us up, heal our wounds, and remind us of the goodness with which we were first created so that we might stand again.
In the beginning, it was all good, then we fell hard. But, that’s not the end. God will make a promise. We’ll talk more about that next week.
We’ve fallen. We’ve hurt ourselves.
We have forgotten the goodness that lies within us.
We have failed to find your goodness in others.
We overlook the many ways in which you have graciously provided for us.
We refuse to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing.
We falsely believe that brokenness is what you intended that violence, hate, and division are just the way things are.
We’ve fallen hard.
Show us the path that leads to life and peace,
the path that restores us all to the way it was in the beginning.