Cowardly Lion Sermon Number 2
Genesis 3:1-14 NRSV
Topics: Guilt; Shame; Sin
Speakers: Rob Bruce
Venues: McEver Road
Those of you that have been in therapy or have been trained in therapy and counseling know what the presenting problem is. It is the surface problem that a patient would bring to you. But, the real problem is buried somewhere beneath the presenting problem. We all deal with guilt, some of us better than others. When we obsess with our guilt, when it begins to ruin our quality of life, is when we know that we need help. When it has hold of us, instead of us having hold of it is when we need help.
In western culture shame is a result of guilt. We are ashamed of what we have done and we feel guilty. The majority of psychologists pass by the emotion of shame and go right for the guilt because that is the real problem. The interesting thing is that as Christians we believe that Jesus delt with our guilt on the cross. As Christians we can intellectually say, yes I believe that. But the reality is, quite often the guilt feelings do not go away, and then we deal with guilt about our guilt. That is we know we are forgiven, but we don’t feel that way and that makes us ashamed and feel guilty even more.
What it boils down to is a trust issue. We don’t really trust that Jesus dealt with our sin and guilt once and for all. We have a voice in our heads that continues to tell us that our sin was so bad not even God can deal with our guilt. This trust issue with God is foundational to our understanding of sin and the guilt that results from it.
We are going to take a new look at Adam and Eve this morning. Most often we hear preached that their basis for the sin they committed is disobeying God was rebellion and wanting to be their own Gods. This is certainly true, but something you haven’t heard often is their distrust of God.
Now, there may be some of you sitting here this morning that struggles with the creation story versus scientific fact. I want to let you know that’s OK. Genesis is not a science book. It is not a how book but a why book. It was not written to teach us how God created, but why God created. Also, It makes no difference whether you believe Adam and Eve were real people. Although there is history in Genesis, it is not a history book. And certainly not a history book in the way we understand history to be written in modernity.
Here’s what you should look for when reading Genesis: the why to the origin of things. Theological truths about our relationship to God, each other, and creation. The theological truths are in the narrative whether you believe there was a literal Eden, Adam, or Eve, or even a talking snake. There is a movement by some Christians to make you feel less than Christian or at least guilty for not taking these things literally! There it is guilt again. Well, enough of that. Let’s get down to business here.
For our purposes today, we are not going to get hung up on serpents that talk, but look at the serpent as a metaphor, a metaphor for all those things that can draw us away from God. In other words, the serpent just serves to draw our attention to the possibilities contained in the options that God’s good creation can present to actually draw us away from God. So in looking at it this way, the tree is the temptation, not the serpent. The serpent is presenting a new interpretation of what God said the humans could and could not do with the tree.
The serpent presents options that God never mentioned to Adam. I say Adam because God never talks about the tree to Eve. Only to Adam. So Adam told Eve about the tree. Genesis 2:15–17 (NRSV) 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Eve has not been created at this time. She is not created until verses 18-25 in chapter 2.
So, when Eve responds to the Serpent she seems to misquote God in verse 2 the she says God said we cannot even touch the tree, it may have been Adam that misquoted God! This response is made when the serpent presents the first option, an option God never revealed. He intimates the idea that they can indeed eat from the tree. That God hadn’t told the complete truth. That they will not die if they eat from it. Additionally, the Serpent reveals to them that if they eat from it their eyes will be opened! That is they will gain more knowledge! As Eugene Peterson put it, and really closer to the way it reads in the Hebrew, “You’ll know everything!” We’ll, God never told them about the personal development that would come from eating the tree. All the Serpent says makes God’s given prohibition an option. Even before Adam and Eve choose to know evil from good, they have the option to choose! They choose to eat and be able to make decisions for themselves. The reason for this is they begin to mistrust what God has said.
Is God holding back on them. Keeping them from knowing everything for some reason? Keeping them from moving onto a higher plane of existence? The serpent presents God as being self serving and it begins to erode God’s credibility in the eyes of Adam and Eve.
Now Adam is standing there the whole time. We know this because all the pronouns in the Hebrew are plural. We are not told why he doesn’t interfere with this; we are not told why the Serpent picked on Eve. What we are told is that Adam eats too. I think it’s obvious. He wants what Eve wants. They are one flesh right? They are perfect partners for each other right? Both place more trust in their own choices and the serpent’s words then they do God’s word.
Now the result of this is that sin and guilt enters the world. It enters because they mistrust God. As one commentator says egotism, greed, and self-interest now govern human action. Another commentator states that this mistrust of God leads to anxiety. “Our public life is largely premised on an exploitation of our common anxiety. The advertising of consumerism and the drives of the acquisitive society, like the serpent, seduce into believing there are securities apart from the reality of God.”
God goes looking for his children. They are hiding from him. They are hiding because something has gone terribly wrong. God calls us to be his creatures and to live in his world on his terms, and Adam and Eve have decided instead of living into the destiny God wants for us, they want to choose their own! Adam and eve are guilty and Ashamed. Adam says they are hiding because they are naked. But they are not naked they created fig leave clothes! He is afraid and ashamed because their eyes are opened, yet they are still naked before God in a manner of speaking.
The first thing God does is draw them into confession of what they have done, but they blame others including God! Adam blames God for giving him Eve! Like Eve forced that fruit down his throat. God calling them to confess makes them take personal responsibility for what they have done. In this way the guilt you are dealing with may be exactly what is happening here. But often times we feel guilt for things we haven’t done. In any regard the first step in dealing with sin and guilt and sin is to take ownership of it! Confess it to those we believe we have sinned against.
Secondly, we have to deal with this trust issue. If Christ truly died for our sins and removed our guilt before God, we must rejoice in that and trust in that! If we have truly, with a broken and contra heart, asked God and those we may have sinned against, for forgiveness, our guilt and sin is thrown as far as it is from east and to west.
You know John Wesley and his brother Charles came to Georgia with Oglethorpe the founder of the colony. Both had less than successful stays here, and both went home early. John Wesley especially left in disgrace with a warrant issued for his arrest! He went back to England ashamed and guilty. He felt like he had lost his faith. Here is an entry from his journal:
Saturday, March 4.—I found my brother at Oxford, recovering from his pleurisy; and with him Peter Bohler; by whom, in the hand of the great God, I was, on Sunday, the fifth, clearly convinced of unbelief, of the want of that faith whereby alone we are saved.
Immediately it struck into my mind, “Leave off preaching. How can you preach to others, who have not faith yourself?” I asked Bohler whether he thought I should leave it off or not. He answered, “By no means.” I asked, “But what can I preach?” He said, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”
If you are dealing with guilt and shame and it seems like you can shake them. You might have a trust issue in what God promises us in salvation. I urge you, and paraphrasing on Bohler, that you live trusting in God’s promises till you have trust in God’s promises!
Rob Bruce, Sermons Ordinary Time Cowardly Lion 2016, Cowardly Lion, n.d.
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