Responsibilities and Consequences   1 comment

Garden of Eden Thomas Cole

Above:  The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to the world.

Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth,

that we may bear your truth and love to those in need,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 3:14-24

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15

Hebrews 2:5-9

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It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord

and to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

To tell of your love early in the morning

and of your faithfulness in the night-time,

Upon the ten-stringed instrument, upon the harp,

and to the melody of the lyre.

For you, Lord, have made me glad by your acts,

and I will sing aloud at the works of your hands.

–Psalm 92:1-4, Common Worship (2000)

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I have yet to grasp what is wrong with knowing good from evil.  The mythic tale from Genesis teaches, however, that blissful ignorance of that distinction was somehow God’s original purpose for the human race.  The myth’s core is something I reject, for I have no obligation to accept something as true just because certain people affirmed it in antiquity.

It is a myth about the origin of human alienation from God.  In the story unbridled curiosity partnered with disobedience and the tendency to blame others for one’s errors prompts the alienation from God and the expulsion from paradise.  “Passing the buck” is bad, of course, as is disobeying God.  I reject the underlying assumptions about what God commands that we find in the myth.

Those who created the lectionary I am following and using as a tool for Bible study put three passages of scripture together in a most interesting manner.  The expulsion from paradise is an expression of divine judgment, but mercy is also present.  Judgment does not preclude kindness in this myth.  That tale rubs shoulders with the jubilant Psalm 92, in which the Psalmist proclaims that God, in whom no unrighteousness is present, is his rock.  That mood of jubilation clashes with Genesis 3:14-24.  Then, in Hebrews 2:5-9, which quotes Psalm 8, we read that people are slightly lower than the angels.  The author of Hebrews informs us of human dominance on the planet.  With that power comes great responsibility, of course.  What a bad job our species has done and continues to do!  Another important point is that Jesus’s life (including his death and resurrection) indicates, among other things, divine solidarity with people.

The Christian Bible (73 books long for half of Christianity and 66 books long for only about a quarter of the religion) begins with the creation and loss of paradise and ends with the restoration of paradise.  God creates paradise, people ruin it, and God restores it.  Likewise, as Jewish biblical scholars note, the Torah begins with an act of kindness (God clothing the naked) and ends with an act of kindness (God burying Moses).  Mixed in with that divine power and kindness is judgment, for we will reap what we sow.  If that combination seems less than “warm and fuzzy,” that is because it is less than “warm and fuzzy.”  My concept of God is certainly inadequate compared to the real thing, but a “warm and fuzzy” God concept is more inadequate.

Wrestling with biblical texts is a proper activity in which to engage.  It involves interacting with assumptions which are not our own and many of which are inaccurate, such as demonic possession causing mental illness.  Others, however, lead us to question our assumptions and condemn elements of our societies as well as some of our attitudes.  We ought to know also that a text might not mean what we think it means.  Often we who are steeped in the Bible do not know it as well as we imagine we do, for we approach texts with preconceptions and lapse into autopilot easily.  This reality prevents us from engaging with the texts as they are.

I wrestle with the combination of these pericopes for today.  The myth from Genesis 3 bothers me, a person with an inquisitive mind, but I recognize much truth in it.  Reading the Genesis pericope in the context of Psalm 92 and Hebrews 2:5-9 and Hebrews 2:5-9 and Psalm 92 in the context of the Genesis pericope creates a tapestry of judgment, mercy, responsibility, and gratitude, with those elements interacting with each other.  Doing so also provides much food for thought and prompts me to ask myself how often I am behaving responsibly and how I am acting irresponsibly.  God will save the world, but each of us has a responsibility to leave it better than we found it.  Any amount of improvement helps.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-6-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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  1. Pingback: Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 6, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary) | ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS

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