Sermon: Lent – On Purpose: The Blame Game
Scripture: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Date: March 1, 2020, Communion Sunday
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but 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…”
3.1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord 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. 
Today is the first Sunday in our season of Lent and all the lectionary texts for this morning deal with the issue of sin and temptation. Matthew’s gospel focuses on the temptations Jesus had to face while left alone with the devil. Our Romans piece reminds us that just as sin entered our human sphere through one person, our sin’s consequences are rectified through the work of one person, the Christ. Today’s Story in Genesis gets to the root causes of temptation and sin. Perhaps, just perhaps, if we can come to better understand the root causes of temptation and sin, we will have a better idea of how to faithfully respond to it.
For those of you who are theologians, and that my friends, means all of you, we need to come to an understanding of what sin is in the first place and our story in Genesis lines it out for us.
Thus far the storyline in Genesis is pretty tight. God creates the heavens and the earth. God creates humankind whose sole purpose is to till and work the land. We get distracted and chase after other fancies instead of what we are called to do which causes broken relationship with God and each other; ironically, however, humanity, in destroying relationship with God, turns about and creates a new relationship with the anti-god, the serpent, as well as with its own overly developed sense of self-importance and pride. So, our text today gives us a pretty good idea of what sin is all about.
Sin is our willing violation of a boundary set by God for our behalf (You can eat everything but not from the Tree of Knowledge). Sin is personal (Eve ate the fruit) but sin is social as well; sin and its effects impact others (so Adam joining Eve with a snack). What our text does so well is to remind us how subtle sin is and can be. We confuse real sin with the big-ticket items like hit-and-run drivers who plow into tourists on A1-A or horrible ax-murderers and the likes. The big-ticket sins are pretty easy for us to shy away from. It’s the seemingly innocuous ones that tend to get us into trouble. Let’s look at our text and see.
In verses 15-17, we read how God gives humanity just one job to do. You have heard that saying people say today, “You only had one job to do!” Well, our job was and is to till the soil, cultivate this Earth we have been given, to care for it, and refrain from eating this one fruit. We only had one job and we messed it up. Today we have human waste in our waterways, warming of the world’s oceans and arctic areas, and sea rise. I could spend an entire sermon or more on worldwide Church members’ failure to tend to the Earth and care for it and our spiritual, ethical demand that we do but I would be getting ahead of myself. Suffice it to say that we had one boundary to respect and not violate, one job to do and we messed it up. Why? We got distracted by other things instead of God. Like my daughter’s one-year-old Golden Retriever puppy who has the attention span of a gnat, we get distracted by seemingly innocuous things and find ourselves in a mess. Our inability to harness our focus and attention can lead to serious consequences. Who would think that checking a text on Federal Highway would cause such a thing as vehicular homicide? What are the distractions in your life, my friends, that pull your attention off of God’s single purpose in your life?
Sliding to Genesis 3, we see a second issue that generates and perpetuates sin and brokenness in our lives: Doubt and suspicion. Verse 3.1 says the serpent was more crafty than other animals. ‘Crafty’ can also be translated as subtle which is a great reminder to us that it’s not just big-ticket issues that always get us into trouble; oftentimes is the subtle benign things that do. So, the serpent asks Eve, “Did God REALLY say you shall not eat from any tree of the garden?”
Did you hear what the serpent did? What led to humanity’s Fall from grace was not the act of eating the proverbial apple; what led Eve and Adam to totally go off the rails was the introduction of suspicion into their relationship with God. The serpent introduces doubt into their minds which began their questioning whether God really knew what God was talking about and could God’s word be trusted. It is through the subtle inference that God really can’t be trusted that prompts them to discover for themselves the deep things of God by eating from the Tree of Knowledge.
Beloved, what voices are you hearing that are asking you to subtly challenge the veracity and truthfulness of God? What are the underlying issues that cause your suspicion? Are our thoughts and feeling more about what God has or has not done in our lives or our own sense of disappointment we carry because life did not go our way?
So, what causes us problems is that we are easily distracted and turn our eyes away from all that really matters. When we get distracted and lose our focus, we begin to question the character and the stability of God’s character. And this leads to the consequences of that distraction and mistrust: Shame.
Verse 7 tells us that as a result of Adam and Eve’s mistrust of God, the attempted to know the mind of God by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. The problem was, they lacked the capacity to handle the awareness they received after eating the fruit! They realized their inadequacy which resulted in shame. Shame leads to alienation from God and others because we do not think we are good enough, worthy enough, or loveable enough. Friends, whenever you feel shame, not guilt but shame, you know it’s from the anti-god. Guilt is that inner compass that reminds us to adjust our spiritual and ethical course. Shame is the overwhelming sense of unworthiness that we are not worth the oxygen we are breathing. Guilt brings new life and opportunity. Shame brings the death of self and stifling, crippling self-absorption.
This morning, we come to the Table prepared by Christ. It comes today as a reminder to keep our focus on that which matters. It serves as a that God can be trusted because God came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. It’s a meal whose power takes away our shame and lovingly lights the path we are to follow.
Out of her distraction, from the depth of her suspicions of God and God’s provision, Eve hauntingly utters words that Jesus would later use. Eve took the fruit, gave it to her husband and they ate. The result? Alienating shame. Today, God with us stands at the Table and takes himself, gives himself to us, encouraging us to eat and live in communion with God and the saints before us. Whose voice shall we listen to, friends?
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2020 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.