The “First Week”: Week Seven/Session Two.
Theme: The Reality of Sin.
Our reading for today: Genesis 2:4 – 4:16.
This is the story of how it all started, of Heaven and Earth when they were created.
God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul! Then God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. He put the Man he had just made in it. God made all kinds of trees grow from the ground, trees beautiful to look at and good to eat. The Tree-of-Life was in the middle of the garden, also the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil.
God took the Man and set him down in the Garden of Eden to work the ground and keep it in order.
He told the Man (and Woman):“Because you (disobeyed) and ate from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from…the very ground is cursed because of you…
God said, “The Man has become like one of Us, capable of knowing everything, ranging from good to evil. What if he now should reach out and take fruit from the Tree-of-Life and eat, and live forever? Never—this cannot happen!” So God expelled them from the Garden of Eden and sent them to work the ground, the same dirt out of which they’d been made. He threw them out of the garden and stationed angel-cherubim and a revolving sword of fire east of it, guarding the path to the Tree-of-Life. (Genesis 2: 4, 7-9, 3: 17-18, 22-24 MsgB)
Here’s a story of a man and his wife, named Adam & Eve.
While the Book of Genesis doesn’t tell us these juicy details, the remainder of the Bible seems to indicate that this Adam & Eve event (Genesis 1-4) happened after a time when yet another handful of God’s unique creations rebelled, forcing our Creator/King to banish them from His holy presence.
Satan, or the crafty serpent as he is depicted here in Genesis, apparently went through his own personal experience of what can happen when one of God’s created beings begins to believe that he or she can stand on equal footing with the Creator of the Universe. Apparently this fallen angel, sometimes referred to as Lucifer, had convinced a group of other angelic beings that they could set up a world equal to the one God had created, appointing themselves as the High Court over such a place. So God, in His righteousness and grace, let them have their way, giving them the unrestrained freedoms they hungered for. Sadly, like Adam & Eve, these fallen angels only found out after the fact that living in a universe owned and operated by God is a vastly different place when God isn’t invited to be there, doing all that He’s capable of!
Suddenly, without God’s presence holding together every atom and cell in right order, chaos began to sprout. Selfishness and self-centeredness took root, and after a millennia or two of soaking in a pool of self-consumption…poof…there you have one very dark place where no one cares for anyone or anything other themself. Jesus referred to this place of festering God-lessness as Hades or Hell.
Whoo. I shudder just thinking about such a place.
Now, here comes the good news and the bad news.
Let’s start with the bad. Adam & Eve, in their foolishness and immaturity, listened to this ancient voice coming out of that world of darkness, allowing themselves to stretch just outside the borders of God’s love. They too, in their ignorance and bliss, believed for a moment that the goodness inside them had originated from within instead of understanding that all goodness and life comes from and returns to God alone. So in a maze of nonsensical self-consumption, Adam & Eve did what all of us do when we’re young and foolish; they push on the edges of God’s patience, seeing just how far the ropes would bend before breaking.
Hmm. Come to think about it. I think that last paragraph came pretty close to defining the word sin. You see, in the Hebrew language, sin means “missing the mark.” The picture is of an archer shooting arrows at a target. An arrow that hits the target is considered “acquired accuracy” while an arrow that misses the target is “sin.”
As I see it, in my own self-centeredness and goofy dysfunctions that are part and parcel of this life, I’m “missing the target” on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, I’m often not only missing the target…I’m, many times, not even shooting my arrows in the right direction!
So now, here’s the good news about Adam & Eve. Since God is a merciful and kind Creator, He chose, like He did with Lucifer and company, to respond to Adam & Eve’s missing of the target with an act of love. According to Genesis, that act of love was to place His new creation (Adam & Eve) just outside the Garden…in a place called East of Eden.
Now, I know some of you are asking how being kicked out of Eden while being assigned to a life where childbirth is hard, the ground is dry and brittle, and work will be a pain in the butt…is good news! But wait!
You see, living just East of Eden means we’ve not been assigned to Lucifer’s Hell! There’s hope. There’s life, just over the hill to the west. God’s presence has not been forbidden, but it’s just a bit further to travel then when we first lived in the Garden! You see, there’s hope for us sinful archers who miss the target so regularly. God has a redemption plan that includes sending us His Master Archer who is ready and willing to give us archery lessons! And if we can humble ourselves long enough to respond to this amazing invitation, we might even be invited to move our tent back closer to Eden than we ever imagined was possible in this lifetime!
Hmm. Not bad. Sure, it’s not where we’ll live in eternity. In Christ, we will be invited back into the Garden, eat of the Tree of Life and live forever in God’s loving presence. But in the meantime, we can get a wonderful foretaste out here on the western plains East of Eden.
Sorry. Gotta go. Time for my next archery lesson with the Master. Today we’re working on aiming straighter with a slower release!
My prayer: Father God, my sinful selfishness makes for one lousy archer who “misses the mark” on a regular basis. For that I’m truly sorry. Jesus, I receive your forgiving grace that not only cleanses me from my sin but also allows me to know that You are here to change me from one who misses the mark regularly to one who is learning the fine art of hitting the mark. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Living East of Eden is a hard place at times, but what can I do in allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell ever closer to me in this dry and barren land? What steps can I take today to move away from my old haunt that’s full of selfishness and sinfulness, relocating myself just a bit closer to God’s Garden to the west?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.