'the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’
He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid’ Genesis 3:9-10
Brothers and sisters, last week we started looking at the very first book of the Bible, and God creating the heavens, and the earth, and human beings. The headline, whenever God created, was “good” or “very good”! We ended our look at Genesis chapter 1, with a question: Will the people created by God, fulfil the purpose for which they were created; to love God, and to ensure the world is ordered so that all may flourish? And so, we wait with bated breath to see what choice those first human beings would make. However, before God shows us the answer, He zooms in a little bit on the details of the responsibilities given to those first human beings. In Genesis 2:15-17, God gives to humanity their reason for existing, and the boundaries which will keep them safe. God gives humanity a vocation (to look after the world), permission (to do this in almost anyway they like) but also a prohibition (that is to act within some boundaries). If humanity step out of bounds and put themselves at the centre of creation, well, that will inevitably lead to death. Think for a second of your mobile phone. Attached to the charger it can do everything it needs to do, and never run out of charge. If you like, attached to the charger your phone will never die. But if the phone thought for a second that it could do better on its own without its source we all know what happens. Given time, the battery starts to run down, and without being again connected to the source it will die, it will run out of battery. Independence from its source is bad for the mobile, and the same is true for us. So the tension builds as we end chapter 2. We arrive now at the famous - or should I say infamous - chapter 3. This chapter has a bad reputation, for this chapter tells us the bad news, after such a good start; but given a chance, I believe this chapter holds out a liberating truth.
The cliff-hanger we were left with, about what humanity would do with its freedom is answered in a comprehensive fashion. Given the ability to choose right and wrong, too often, humanity chooses the wrong. In a bid for independence they abandon their vocation, pervert the permission, and violate the one prohibition which kept them safe. And having pulled away from their source, having set themselves up as independent from the life giver, Adam and Eve’s clocks are ticking, and they will inevitably die. Here, in these first three chapters, the fundamental doctrines of our humanity are laid out, for these chapters are not just about a couple living millennia ago, but about each person who has ever lived, and each person who will ever live. The truth is - and we all know it, we have all experienced it - the truth is, that inside of us there is a fatal flaw. Each one us is broken, and therefore each one of us, messes up, again and again. Now, before we get too depressed let me just say this: the human propensity to muck things up is only a truth about us, there are plenty of other truths about us which are much more positive, and of which we do not need to feel ashamed; but it is crucial that we accept this truth. The truth that we are sinners. Sinners, not in any self-flagellating, life-denying way, but that simply at our core we are, all of us, broken. As one Christian priest put it: ‘In other words, sin is not some secret shame, but a feature of our common humanity […] it is part of all of us […] properly understood original sin is Christian language for human nature.’
This is bad news to be sure, but when we understand it like that, as I said, it is deeply liberating. The world around us is selling us a lie that we’re perfect, or that if we try hard enough we should be able to be perfect. That if something bad happens, its never our fault, we’re just victims. But the truth, which we all know deep down inside, is that we’re not perfect; and when that imperfection becomes clear to us - because of the lie the culture is telling us - we feel like faulty and failed human beings. We imagine that all the other humans must be perfect, and it’s just us with our mistakes and ability to mess things up. No wonder mental health struggles are on the rise, no wonder suicide is increasing, we believe the lie that everyone else is perfect whilst knowing the horrible truth that we are not. We even join in the lie by posting perfect pictures of ourselves on social media, and always always answering the question ‘how are you’ with a smile and a nod, because we don’t want anyone to know, or suspect, that we’re broken. And so the lie is perpetuated, and we all feel insecure and broken whilst smiling for the cameras. What the Scriptures do for us - in God’s mercy - is they set out the truth. God won’t let us get away with telling ourselves the lie - the lie that is literally killing us - that we can be perfect, because we can’t. No, God - in His mercy - tells us the truth, and calls on us to admit that yes actually, we muck up, I muck up and we, all of us, do that regularly. As St Paul puts it in our second reading from Romans 7, speaking for himself, but also for all of us: ‘I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.’ It is only in realising that, in admitting that we use our free will too often to make the bad choice, that we mess things up regularly and habitually, that we are then able to cry out for help, as Paul does: ‘Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ As we are all broken, help can only come from outside of us, help can only come from someone who is not broken, who does not have the propensity to muck things up, and so is free to turn and help the rest of us. God, in His love and mercy, reminds us of the truth, the truth which we all know deep down that we are sinners, so that we might choose to accept the help, to accept the rescue, that He has begun in Jesus.
So, this morning as we look honestly at ourselves, and see our imperfections, and tendency to make mistakes, let us not wallow there. Instead, let us keep looking to Jesus, who came to offer forgiveness and the opportunity to be reconnected to God, the giver-of-life. Let us confess our brokenness to God, and receive the help only He can offer. Amen. (from Fr. Mike).