Archive for Adam and Eve

2015 Lent 23

Posted in Lent 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2015 by timtrue

drought

Jeremiah 14:1-9, 17-22

Well, I don’t know if it was calling them tighty-whities or what, but today, finally, the people of Israel begin to turn back to God.

Actually, according to this chapter, it was a drought; parched, dry, cracked land was the catalyst.  And this wasn’t just any drought.  This one was so severe that does (a deer, a female deer) were abandoning their own fawns; donkeys were sniffing the wind in an effort to draw some kind of moisture from the air, like jackals do, it says.

(And I think, do jackals do this?)

Point is, disaster came on the people of Israel and they turned to God in prayer.

That was Jeremiah’s point anyway.  But it brings up other questions.

Like: when bad things happen to us–things beyond our control–does this mean that God is judging us for our immorality?

Job maintained an upright heart throughout his time of trial, even when his wife told him, “Curse God and die!”  Bad things happened to Job.  He lost his property–including his home and numerous animals–to bandits; and all his children to some kind of natural disaster–they all died–every one of them!–all in the same day.

So he wept, fasted, and prayed.  Then his wife said what she did.  And some of his best friends came for a visit, assessed, and judged him.  And they said, “You, Job, obviously, have done some great wrong.  This is why you’re suffering, of course!  Just repent already and God will lighten up.”

But he hadn’t done anything wrong.  We readers learn this at the end of the book–like some macabre punch line.  Forces beyond human vision and understanding had been at work.  Evil was present in the world.  And there was nothing Job could do to prevent it.

So, no, bad things happening to us does not mean God is judging us.

And questions like: so why is there evil in the world at all?  If God created the world–which we Christians believe–and if God is good–which we also believe–and if God is sovereign over all–which some Christians believe (including this author)–then why isn’t the world entirely good?

Theologians call this conundrum theodicy.  I like to call it dicey theology.

But there are answers to this question.  Genesis, the first book of the Bible, offers one answer.

The world was created upright, including Adam and Eve who were created in God’s own image, perfect and upright.  But evil entered the world.  Adam and Eve ate this evil, the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, that forbidden fruit, about which they were told not to.  And then Adam and Eve, who had been created in God’s own image but were now marred, had a son named Seth.  Curiously, the writer of Genesis addresses this: Seth is said to be born in Adam’s image, not God’s (cf. Genesis 5:3); Seth, and all humanity after him (without going into Cain’s line), no longer bears God’s perfect image but Adam’s imperfect one.

To carry this string of logic a little farther, Christ is called the perfect image of God in the New Testament.  We Christians are said to be becoming more and more like Christ throughout our lives.  With this understanding of creation and fall, we could say that we are becoming less like Adam’s imperfect image and more like Christ’s perfect one.  Neat picture, eh?  (Although I must admit I know many people, including many Christians, who fall a lot closer to the imperfect side of the spectrum than to the perfect–or even than to the middle!)

But it still doesn’t answer all the questions.  Why did a perfect God allow evil into the good world in the first place?  Adam and Eve sinned.  But where did the conniving serpent come in?  And why would God have placed a tree with a forbidden fruit in the world in the first place?  Was God just trying to tantalize and tempt his creation to fall?  Was evil inevitable?  And, if so, is this something a truly good God would do?  And, if God is indeed sovereign, did Adam and Eve really have a choice at all?  (The same question has been asked about Judas Iscariot too, by the way: did Judas even have a choice, in the big, cosmic scheme of things, when he betrayed Jesus?)

There are answers to these questions too, if you’re interested.  But, predictably, these answers lead to yet more questions.  A whole lot more!

But enough already!  Now we’re confused, anxious, and maybe even a little stressed over our faith.  Now there’s tension.  (And, like Runt from Chicken Little, tension makes me bloat!)

And we’ve strayed from the point.

The book of Jeremiah is simply pointing out that the people turn to God in prayer during times of hardship.

Isn’t this a natural response?  Perhaps even an innate response, something we’re all born with?

We face challenges beyond our comfort zone.  We need to focus, to face these challenges courageously.  So what do we do?

We pray.  Oh, some may call it focusing, centering, meditating, whatever.  But it’s all just different forms of prayer.  It might not be addressed to the God of the Christians.  And it’s certainly not concerned–in the heat of the moment–with questions about why evil exists, is God sovereign, is God even real, or some other challenge to the Christian faith.  But it’s prayer nonetheless.

And for me it’s a compelling proof of divinity.

College Advice to my Kids

Posted in Education, Rationale with tags , , , , , on November 18, 2013 by timtrue

As my kids grow I try to reduce commands and increase suggestions.  That way, in theory anyway, by the time they’re ready to head off to college, they make and own their decisions: I haven’t told them where to go; but I’ve helped them along the way–sometimes without their cognizance–so that when they finally decide it ends up being a win-win.  That’s my thinking, anyway.  And so far it’s working.  One of my kids is a sophomore already in college and another is about to finish her senior year of high school, on the cusp of embarking on her voyage into adulthood.

The Rebuke of Adam and Eve

The Rebuke of Adam and Eve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enough on parenting styles.  What I want to write about today is the suggestion part of the above equation: what lies at the foundation of my urgings, directings, proddings, pursuadings, and hintings–my advice, in other words, to my kids as they approach the day when I bid them bon voyage.

It has to do with play (something I mentioned near the end of my last post, “Why Audit Apuleius?”) in contrast to work.  Not that these two form a dichotomy: it’s not either play or work, I know; but more of both play and work.  But picture a play-work spectrum.  On the extreme left is pure play, on the extreme right pure work.  Everything else from left to right–every tiniest gradation–is some combination of play and work, more play than work on the left half and more work than play on the right, with a 50-50 mix occurring right in the middle.  “Now if you’re like me,” I’ve told my kids throughout their childhood–subtly, and sometimes not so subtly–“and if you’re like most people I know, you’ll probably want to end up with a job that puts you as closely as possible to the left side of the spectrum–as close to pure play as possible.”

Of course, this advice requires some definitions.  For both these terms–play and work–are vague and can therefore mean a lot of things to a lot of people; or even a lot of different things to the same person.  So, okay, what do I mean?

By work I do not mean a job, as in the common use, “Honey, I’m going to work.  See you at 5:30.”  Rather, I mean more the term given to Adam and Eve in the creation account–or the fall account if you prefer.  God created Adam and Eve, so the story goes, in the divine image.  There, in that pre-fall state of uprightness they were both given jobs to do.  But it wasn’t until after they ate that notorious fruit that their tasks became the work to which I refer.  Now they were told that they would toil by the sweat of their brows and that, for Eve, bearing a child would involve pain and labor.  Here are some synonyms that go with the term then: toil, pain, labor.  This is the stuff on the right side of my spectrum.

Play, by contrast, is something more transcendent.  In pure play–on the extreme left of the spectrum–I lose all sense of time, and perhaps even some sense of space.  For instance, I compose music when I have some free time and the fancy strikes me.  More than once I have started composing something late at night, after most or maybe all other family members have gone to bed, when the house is quiet and there’s nothing to distract me; only then to realize suddenly that it’s beginning to get light outside, that birds are chirping, that I’m actually in the world of time and space again, and that I better go to bed and get at least a couple hours of sleep lest I be a grumpy wreck of a father all day.  Point is, in the act of composing I entered something of a trance during which I’d lost all sense of time, and was even transported in some sense from my piano bench to an other-worldly spot, something like the Wood between the Worlds in C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew.  Pure play.  Perhaps it’s the same for you.

Of course, in the world of jobs, vocations, professions, whatever–in the world of working for a living–it’s difficult to conceive of a job that allows a person to be in a state of pure play daily.  Indeed, is this even possible?  Even the author who gets lost in writing a book has a publisher to satisfy, deadlines to abide by, and the obligatory book-signings to attend.  Even the professor has students to teach, students who don’t really have any interest but are taking the course simply to satisfy a graduation requirement.  Even the independently wealthy have finances to worry about.  Even the–fill in the blank with your idealized job situation–has some type of toil, labor, and pain attached to the position.  We cannot escape work entirely–a truth that the Genesis story conveys all too well.

But we can do something about it.  Especially when we’re young, about to embark on a voyage into adulthood!  What moves you?  What engages you so completely that you lose a sense of time and space when doing it?  Once you identify this, the key is to find something that enables you to engage in this activity as much as possible.  So, for instance, in my case studying music theory and composition seemed the best option for a college major.  And even though I’m a priest now–a vocation that nonetheless helps me engage in the transcendent–I wasn’t thinking so much along these lines in college.  Too, even though I’m a priest now, I still find those occasional times to spend an evening lost in rapturous composition–an activity I honed and shaped most productively while in college.  Not to mention, my musical expertise often comes in handy now, in this vocation!

So what is it for you, I ask my kids?

I’ll tell you this: if you end up with a job that feels to you like labor, toil, and pain–on that right side of my spectrum–you’ll have a difficult time waking up every Monday through Friday; and you’ll watch the clock throughout each day, counting the minutes till five o’clock.  I once worked in a civil engineering firm that felt like that for me.  Not that it did for other engineers!  For some of them, they couldn’t wait to start work each morning; and they frequently had no idea that five o’clock just came and went.  For me, engineering was close to the right side of the spectrum; for them, left.

I’ll tell you this too.  The more I work–the older I get, the more experienced I become in my calling–the more leftward I want to move on my spectrum.  But that’s nothing to worry about too much now.  Still, you don’t want to find yourself in some dead-end job, unable to move leftward once you’ve got the responsibilities of a spouse, kids, a house payment, and so on.  (That can happen whether you have a college degree or not.)  If you ever find yourself there, have a plan to find something less toilsome and more transcendent.  (Not easy without a college degree.)  Point is, strive for play in the present moment.  And now, looking at college squarely, study what you love, what moves you, what triggers transcendence.

Of course this advice starts early: the proddings and all that.  But it must in our day and age, where kids are pressured from early on to worry about where they’re gonna go to college, what they will do when they grow up, how they will make the most money, live in the biggest house they can afford, drive the most luxurious car, and vacation at the best resort.  I don’t want my kids to worry about any of these things.  But I want them to be wise.

Here again my play-work spectrum fits the bill.  For even in pre-school my kids are encouraged to do what they love and love what they do.  But that brings us back to the beginning, doesn’t it?  When my kids are little, it’s more command and less suggestion.  That’s just about learning to love what you do.  Yet as they grow it becomes less command and more suggestion, or learning to do what you love.

In Adam’s Image

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , on July 21, 2013 by timtrue

Colossians 1:15-28

I want to focus today on this idea of image.  Christ Jesus is the image, Scripture says; the image of the invisible God.  Does this phrase, the image of the invisible God, bring anything to mind?  What if I shorten it to the image of God?  Does this phrase remind you of something else?

Yes!  It’s the same term we read in the creation account.  On the first day God said, “Let there be light.”  And there was light.  And it was good.  So the story goes through days two, three, four, five, and six: God spoke and thereby created the sky; the sun, moon, and stars; the land, fauna, and flora; and the many creatures of the waters, land, and air.  It’s all good, the Bible says.  But it is only after God creates humanity, male and female, that the Scriptures say “very good.”  Of all creation, of all the cosmos, only humanity is said to be created in God’s likeness, in God’s own image: imago Dei as the Latin Bible renders it, the same rendering in fact as is here said of Christ Jesus.

So Adam and Eve were created in the image of God.  Christ Jesus—begotten, not created, as we confess—is nevertheless declared to be the image of God too.

There’s a certain tension that comes into play here.  Do you feel it?

Christ Jesus is called “the firstborn of all creation”; “the head of the body, the church”; and “the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.”  In him “all things in heaven and on earth were created,” “all things hold together,” and “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”  Through him, “God was pleased to reconcile all things.”

Christ Jesus is the image of God.  Yet Adam and Eve—and by extension all humanity—are created in the image of God.

But Adam, Eve, and all humanity most certainly are not the firstborn of all creation.  All things were most certainly not created in us.  God most certainly has not reconciled all of creation through us.

How then is this term, the image of God, attached both to Christ Jesus and the rest of humanity?

This tension gets worse.  Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, no dispute there.  But this image-bearer status is given to them at the beginning, at their creation, before their fall into sin.  Then they were upright.  But they didn’t stay that way, did they?

We all know the story.  Satan, in the form of a serpent, tempted upright Eve to eat a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  “God doesn’t want you to eat of this Tree,” the snake said, “because he knows that you will become like him.”

And we want to yell at the book—or at least I do—“Don’t do it, Eve!”  I want to shout out, “Don’t you get it?  You’re already like God.  You’ve been created in his image!  The Omniscient Narrator says so.”

Well, no matter how much I rant and rave, she doesn’t get it.  She eats the fruit.  Every time!  Then she always tempts Adam; and we read the saddest three words of the entire Bible as far as I’m concerned, “And he ate.”

Thus have the mighty fallen.  Sin has entered the scene.  Adam must now toil.  Eve must now labor.  Humanity is forever banished from Eden.

But it gets even worse.  Adam and Eve have a few sons worth knowing about, or so the Omniscient Narrator thinks.  The first two perform a tragic play, don’t they?  Cain and Abel.  In a fit of jealousy the one kills the other then must go away into exile.  And again I want to shout at the text: “Is there no hope for humanity?”  But then, ah, yes, another son is born, a son of hope, through whom, maybe, somehow, humanity will be redeemed: Seth.  His name even means appointed of God.

Yet the description of Seth’s entrance into the world is perplexing, even disheartening (cf. Gen. 5:1-3).  Adam was created in God’s image.  But Adam had fallen.  Now we read, “When Adam had lived one hundred thirty years, he became the father of a son in his likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth” (emphasis mine).

Do you see what’s happened here?  What is not said is that Seth was born in God’s image.  Rather, he was born in Adam’s image.  But Adam had fallen.  But Adam must now toil.  Daily walks with God in the Garden couldn’t be anything now but a distant memory.  And now it would be the same for Seth; and, by extension, all humanity.

So where does this leave us?

Certainly, we are not the image of the invisible God that Christ Jesus is, as we’ve been over already: we are not “the firstborn of all creation” and all that.

But neither is God’s image absent from us.  Adam and Eve fell from God’s grace into sin.  Their fall affected us drastically, as we have been reminded.  But nowhere does their story suggest that God somehow took back or erased his image from humanity.  No!  God’s image is still there.  It’s been changed somehow, hidden perhaps, or otherwise disguised, by sin.  But it’s there!  In you!  In me!  In that neighbor who helped you out last week!  In that jerk who cut you off on the interstate last night!

But it’s even better than that.

Christ Jesus is the perfect image of God.  And we have been created in that image.  Therefore Christ is in us.

Let that truth settle in for a moment: Christ is in us.

We are not the firstborn of creation or the head of the church; we did not create all things and now hold them together; we have not reconciled all creation to God.  But Christ is.  Christ did.  And Christ has.

And Christ is in us!  This means that although we are not Christ we nevertheless play a part in these cosmic matters.  We play a part in the church.  We play a part in creation.  And we play a part in the reconciliation of all things—whether in heaven or on earth—to God!

That’s the church’s business, by the way: the reconciliation of all things.  That’s what St. Luke’s has been called to do.

You see—to return briefly to the creation story—things got inverted.  God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.  Then God made man and woman and set them above it all, at the pinnacle.  Of course God remained above them, an authority who commanded and required obedience.  And it was all very good.  Yet they listened to the serpent, a creature, and thereby turned creation on its head.  They put the serpent in God’s place; and vice-versa.

Since then God has been reconciling this Great Inversion.  The church, through Christ, like it or not, is in the reconciliation business.  We must therefore strive as an image-bearing body to make things right—with individuals, with society, with all creation.  We must think long and hard about this reconciliation business.  What are we doing about it already?  What more should we do?  And then we must go out and do it!

But that is another sermon for another day.