Genesis 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7; Romans 5: 12-19; Matthew 4: 1-11
In the beginning God created. Male and female he created them; in his image and likeness. And it was very good. Then this happened, the fall. Adam and Eve in the garden who have everything except one thing. It wasn’t enough and they became envious of God and wanted to be God and the fall happens. Born in his image and likeness and it’s very good and yet, not enough for the two of them. Deep within them and us, there is a hunger that can never seem to be satisfied by anything. It’s as if God created us with that longing to return to Him! The entire commercial industry is based on that one premise, that we’ll never be satisfied and always want more and if I just have that one more thing…I’ll feel “full” and it never happens and the fall happens and we begin the journey home once again.
Much has been written about these creation stories of Genesis from those who see them literally as historical figures, giving room to easily blame them for the downfall of humanity and all that goes wrong to myself who sees them as the great mythological, iconic figures who aren’t someone out there or of the past, but rather, Adam and Eve are me and they are you, born in God’s image and likeness, very good, and yet, at times, unsatisfied with what we have and wanting more or to be God, thinking somehow we know better than God and constantly try to fill the hunger and longing within and again, fall. It’s not that we can avoid the fall or that it somehow won’t happen; it’s going to happen. Leaving the garden is part of life only to find ourselves wanting to return.
Yet, it is the story of salvation history that continues to unfold within our very lives. It was the journey of Adam and Eve, it was the story of the Israelites, seeking out the Promised Land, and it is our story. When we fall, and we will fall as we learn from these iconic figures, the pilgrim journey and the journey of this Lenten season is about going home, back to the Garden, returning to God with our whole heart. Yet, like them, we are tempted to believe in the midst of our own doubts that somehow we are less than we are and something that we are not.
The temptations or testings of Jesus aren’t just about this one moment in time when he is driven out into the desert. He enters the scene already hungry, Matthew tells us. He is at a vulnerable time in his life. Before he begins his public ministry and is confronted with the realities of his time, he is tested in the same way as Adam and Eve; his story is enfolded in their story and journey. He will confront these same temptations throughout his ministry through the aspirations of his own disciples and their own misguidance and wanting to be him. He will ever so gently try to lead them back to the Garden, reconciling their sinfulness and the sinfulness of the world with who they really are; born in God’s image and likeness and it was very good.
Paul continues in his Letter to the Romans today that where sin increases in our lives grace overflows all the more. It so often seems that we have a much easier time believing in our fall then the grace that flows from the fall. We tend to identify ourselves with our sinfulness, our hunger and longing, and try to hide it as Adam and Eve do, in shame they cover up their bodies seeing themselves not as who they really are but how they have identified themselves. It wasn’t enough to be born in God’s image and likeness they wanted to be God and nothing else is going to compare. Yet, that’s how we get ourselves into trouble and yet at the same time, open ourselves up to the grace of God. It seems as just when we are on the cusp of believing it and returning to the Garden through conversion in our own lives, we fall and the process begins anew, to a deeper understanding of who we are. We aren’t our sin as much as we want to tell ourselves. Yes, a part of us but not our whole or our worth. It’s no accident that just prior to the fall of man in Genesis and the temptations of Jesus in the desert, their true identity is revealed. Born in God’s image and likeness; this is my beloved Son. And yet at that moment, we stumble and fall.
As we begin this journey as individuals and as a community, we enter into it mindful of who we really are…sinners loved by a God who is always calling us home, even in a mess of temptations that exists in this battle of good and evil that we often find ourselves. We are a people who long and hunger for God and a return to the Garden and everyday we will go every which way to try to get there, thinking something will fill the hunger. How are we filling that hunger in our lives? It will only be in God’s voice calling us back to the Garden that will fill us and we know it’s where we belong because deep down, despite and in spite of and even through our fall, we still know who we really are. In the beginning, God created. Male and female he created us and it was and it is very good.