Lent 1: Where We Come From

by susan on March 10, 2014

We began our journey through Lent last Wednesday. Over the next 40 days, we are invited to consider our need to return home to the God who created us, loves us and restores us.  Yesterday’s message brought us back to the beginning of the Story.


Where We Come From
Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17; 3:1-7

A year a half ago, I sat in the back yard of my grandparents’ home on the day that I would preach my grandmother’s funeral. It happened to be my birthday. It was a cool August morning and I sat on an outdoor bench reminiscing about the many memories held in that yard – Easter egg hunts, wagon rides behind my grandfather’s lawn mower, cook outs with homemade icecream for dessert and seeing my grandmother working hard in her garden.

After I went to college, got a job and got married, it was not a place I returned to often, but it hit me that morning. This is where I am from. The garden, the house, the simplicity of it all, working with your hands, taking responsibility – these are my roots. It felt good and right to be back there.

As I reminisced, I recalled another memory in that place I come from that is not quite as heartwarming. It happened when I was a young child, but old enough to know better. See, my grandparents were extremely frugal people – they were the kind that took all of the trial size shampoo and conditioners when they stayed in hotels. And, they traveled quite a bit. They were frugal, so there was not a lot of “play” money for my grandmother (you know, money for her to use at her discretion). I think that may have been why she kept her own “special collection”. She called it her “kiddy” – the money she tucked away (cash of course) in the top drawer of her dresser.

I was so curious about this money.
How much was in there?
It sure sounded like there might be a lot.

So, one day I let curiousity get the best of me and I opened her top dresser drawer to see if I could get a glimpe of her stash of cash. Well, don’t you know that she walked in just as I was reaching inside?! Busted. “Susie Q: what are you doing?” Now, my grandmother was a kind and generous lady, but she disciplined her children well and I just knew I was in big trouble. She did scold me, but apparently never said anything about it to my parents. She didn’t really need to say anything. I think she could tell that I felt terrible about what I had done. I was so ashamed that I had done something that had displeased her and something that I knew was off limits.

This, too, is where I come from.

When is the last time you thought about where you come from? Where we come from matters. It influences our habits and even shapes our beliefs. As human beings created by God, we claim to have our beginnings in a story that invovles delight, freedom and simplicity as well as guilt and shame. This story recorded in the Book of Genesis, shapes how we see ourselves, the world and God.

We have already read about the intimate way that God breated life into the first male Adam (whose name means human or humankind), and how God made Eve from the body of Adam. Then God placed them in this garden and told them to care for it. This is the more intimate telling of the creation stories.

This is only the beginning of the story of where we come from. And, unfortunately it is often only viewed as the precursor to the main story, the one we refer to as “The Fall” of humankind.

The story conitnues in Genesis 3:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that theLord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ 2The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ’ 4But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; 5for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. (NRSV)

Anyone who thinks the Bible is boring clearly has not read it!

Genesis is a book about beginnings. It is about our beginnings. It moves from the world’s very first morning to the ordering of families and nations. Genesis does not explain where God came from. God was there before the stories told in Genesis take place but these stories do tell us about God and how he will relate to the human beings he has created.

The creation story is the topic of much debate and division: Is it historical or metaphorical or maybe a mixture of both? Does it even need to be historically true to make it real and important?

The creation story or the story of our beginnings can be polarizing for another reason. On the one hand, it can tell us that we come from a good place. The garden of Eden it is called. The first humans were not placed there only to live a laid back life of leisure. They were told to care for all of its beautiful, unique and life-giving resources. They were given great responsibility. The basics are emphasized: life, freedom, food, family, a home and a harmonious relationship with God and each other.

This story can tell us that we come from a place of delight, freedom and simplicity. We were created out of God’s good intentions. We are God’s good creation.

This story of our beginnings can tell us something else, though. It can tell us that human beings exchanged all that goodness for the one thing that was off limits for their consumption. The first man and the first woman did not trust that their responsibilities and resources were enough – they wanted more: more knowledge, more choices, more power. And, the minute they decided to consume from the forbidden tree, something life-changing happened. They recognized each other’s nakedness.

Apparently, before now, they had not noticed. Now, they saw things differently. They saw each other’s differences and they were ashamed. They covered their bodies with fig leaves.

Instead of telling us we are from God’s good creation, this part of the story tells us that we come from a place of guilt and shame.

It’s true that when we focus too much on being God’s good creation, we can become arrogant. We can forget how much we need God. Yet, when we focus too much on this being the story of shame, there is another danger. Instead of just feeling ashamed, we can become defined by shame. We can become stuck in shame.

Shame was something to move through, not a place to call home. We were never meant to stay stuck in shame.

In her book, I Thought It Was Just Me, Shame researcher Brene Brown defines shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.

Shame says we are not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough. Shame is the voice that is always second guessing, over-analyzing, wondering what others will think or say. Shame brings up our failures, mistakes and shortcomings and asks who do you think you are? Shame causes despair and hopelessness. Shame causes us to give up on ever changing. Shame will say forget that Lenten discipline you want to try – you know you can never stick to anything anyway.

Instead of being God’s good creation, shame tells us we are God’s flawed creation. Living and moving from a place of shame can be a dangerous thing. While guilt can motivate us. Shame paralyzes us.

It can be tempting to take the creation story in Genesis and make it all about shame. Instead of moving through shame, we become stuck in it, and we spend our lives trying to cover up who we really are, afraid that others will find out and disregard us.

God did not intend for us to live in shame.

If we continue reading this story of our beginnings, we see that this is not the end of the story. God confronts Adam and Eve about the consequences of their mistrust and then he does something for them. God sews them a better set of clothing. He helps them out of their shame.

Have we allow shame define where we come from?
Is there something that is keeping us stuck in shame?
Is it something in the past, something in the present?
Is it a failure we keep repeating? a shortcoming we keep believing defines who we are?

No matter where we have been or what we have done, God invites us to return to
a place of trust in the one who created us and loves us,
a place of freedom and responsibililty,
a place where what God provides for us is enough,
a place of harmony with God and each other.

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