Sermon – March 9, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin
First Sunday in Lent
So 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. Gen. 3:6
Please be seated.
When I was about six years old, I got a scar on my left leg. It all came from desire. You see, I really wanted a Coca-Cola one day after school. I guess I just wanted that refreshing new feeling…the tag line of the commercials during 1962. I’m sure the coca colas were expensive and in a family with two adults and three children, I bet we had only 6 bottles. But I desired one. Had to have one. Can’t remember now what the rules were for having one. I’m sure our ability to have them was limited to certain days or occasions. So, I snuck one out of the refrigerator and found the bottle opener and went outside on our car port. My father wasn’t home yet, so the carport was empty.
How I thought I’d ultimately hide my taking the bottle did not even cross my 6-year-old mind.
I was not adept at opening the bottle…really didn’t know how, but it hadn’t looked that hard. I certainly did not understand the physics principle of leveraging…of having the bottle on a table or counter to make it easier to open. I was just holding that long, slender bottle out and trying to get the bottle opener to pry off the cap. Suddenly, the bottle slipped, dropping to the car port and smashing into pieces. AND one piece of the glass flew into my left leg just below my knee.
Then I was crying because of the sting and the blood and the Coca Cola all over the carport and the trouble I knew I’d be in for sure. Don’t remember what happened next, only know I ended up at the doctor’s office and had to get a stitch in my leg. That whole part of the experience remains as shadowy and very scary and painful. I think I was afraid of doctors for quite awhile after that.
Just like Eve’s logic, my six year old brain reasoned that I needed a coca cola after a day at school. It was cold. The commercials said it could provide a “refreshing, new feeling” and that I should enjoy one. They were right there in the refrigerator.
And yet, despite the logic of my desire, there remained the fact that my parents had told me I couldn’t have one then. What was it about my desire that caused me to distrust the wisdom of my parents, of the very people who cared for me?
I don’t believe the story we read today in Genesis is designed to tell us that all of our desires are wrong or sinful. It is that we must be very careful to discern what is driving or motivating our desires. We must ask, do our desires draw us closer to God, to God’s Will for us, or do they serve as a substitute for God, distancing us from God?
Sometimes I believe fear motivates our desires. Fear that we won’t get something we want or need. We fear we don’t have enough, so we hoard or become stingy. We aren’t generous with our abundance.
When I was living with my daughter in North Carolina, we didn’t have a lot of money. I was going on a retreat and needed to bring my own food. I didn’t have the money to go to the grocery store, but when I opened the cupboards, I found plenty of food for me and lots left over for my daughter. I realized how much I hoarded food.
We fear that we are not enough. Not good enough. Not worthy of love. We need something outside ourselves to make us whole. Eve and Adam, it seems, thought they did not have enough wisdom, nor enough good food. They believed the fruit of this tree could provide them with something they needed to live; that something outside of themselves and outside of God could make them complete.
Yet, the truth is, they, like us, possessed God-given wisdom. They were made in God’s image after all. They had everything they needed to live.
In this passage from Genesis, Eve and Adam’s own desires were greater than their desire for God…than their desire to do God’s Will. Maybe, like me, they should have asked God whether they could try that fruit…made their case. They could have checked out with God what the serpent told them about the fruit. Their desire for God and our desire for God needs to be the most important desire.
This past Friday, our Lenten meditation booklet addressed this very issue.
“Whenever we get out of step with what we know to be God’s best intentions for us, we’re always just a bit uncomfortable aren’t we?” it asks. “We feel out of sorts – maybe even frustrated and confused. To be reconciled to God is nothing more and nothing less than recognizing we’ve veered off in our own direction and asking God’s help in getting back on the right path.” (Renew a Right Spirit Within Me, Lenten meditations 2014 from Living Compass)
Our Old Testament passage ends on the discomfort of stepping out of God’s Will, as Eve and Adam know they are naked and sew fig leaves together and make loincloths for themselves. They were out of sorts, confused. They had lost sight of God’s best intentions for them.
Our Gospel today shows us how Jesus’ greatest desire was doing God’s Will. He was tempted by the devil, who told Jesus he did not have enough food; Jesus had been fasting in the desert for 40 days after all. The devil told Jesus to question his identity as the Son of God. The devil told Jesus he did not have enough power.
Aren’t these the same fears we have? We don’t have enough of what we need. We forget we are the beloved of God. We are convinced we have no power.
Yet Jesus remains steadfast. Jesus’ desire for God…Jesus’ desire to do God’s Will… overcomes the doubts and fears. Jesus stays on the right path. And that is the example for us. We have wisdom. We know what we need to do. We are enough. We are the beloved of God. We have personal power and can make choices for our lives.
St. Augustine of Hippo, a 4th Century Bishop, wrote quite a bit about his own personal desires. He kept looking for things outside of himself to provide him satisfaction and wholeness. In one of the first of its kind, Augustine wrote an autobiography, predominantly to use his own experience as a teaching tool of the Christian life. In the opening paragraphs, he speaks to God, saying, “For Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” (Confessions, Book I)
This time of Lent is a chance to look at our desires, to reconcile ourselves to God and to God’s best intentions for our lives. It is a chance to be at peace, because our hearts are resting in God.