7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman God said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam God said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam[c] named his wife Eve,[d] because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
I sometimes really don’t like the subtitles they put on top of the different sections of the Bible chapters. This one I read just now, some have it titled, “The Fall” or “The First Sin and Its Punishment,” The editors of the Bible are presenting their understanding and theology, or the moral of the story to the reader. Its insistence and presumed authority doesn’t sit well with me, but then again I feel like that with most power and authority exercised this way.
It’s like when my girl is playing. The other night she put on a variety of things on herself as a costume, a karate belt over one shoulder, my scarf on the other, a cape, one of my husband’s slippers on her leg and the other on her wrist. She twirled and said it was a show. And we sat and clapped saying, what a wonderful show! And I said, Jaga (that’s what I call her) is princess, because that’s what she’s been into, and she said, no! This is a “Jaga wears a weird costume show.” I said okay, Jaga wears a weird costume show wow! She handed me a piece of paper, and I said, oh is this the show notes? And she said, No! It’s a bonus card. Oh okay, thank you for the bonus card.
She hates it when you don’t listen to her directions when we’re playing. And when you listen, you find out what’s important to her. I pay attention to what and how she names, the animal, the activity, to find out how she understands the world. And honestly, it’s usually much more rich, beautiful, and fascinating than my cliches and norms.
Our Kids Church curriculum uses a method called Godly Play, which names stories from the Bible that’s not only easier to understand for children but also in ways that are theologically appropriate. Godly Play names this Genesis 3 story as not the Fall, but “The Falling Apart: The falling apart and coming back together in a new way.” Now isn’t that a better title than “The First Sin and its Punishment?” I think so!
As a pastor, one of my jobs is translating things into today’s context, for our day to day lives. And the language sin and punishment was one way to explain and capture this relationship we have with God, that may have worked, and even worked well at one time, but I would say for me, today, it needs reworking. The title “The Fall,” this concept of things being right, and then when wronged, you fall from the graces, is trying to explain what’s happening. But what if, what if it wasn’t so hierarchical, where God is here, and you are supposed to be here, and when you sin you fall. What if, like the Godly Play title, it’s less about hierarchy and what’s right and wrong, but about relationship, the element of estrangement and turning away, the falling apart of love, and that it can be put back together in a new way.
Today I want to talk about this, how to come back together in a new way. We’re in the series of talking about Love is…, and I titled it Love is a Confession. And I’m purposely using the “old” language, confession to try for us to go deeper into the word, get through some of the ways it has been used to coerce or control, and redefine it to find the truth of what it was trying to get at–it was never about just coming clean, but coming back. You don’t have to be clean, you just have to come back in a new way.
Understanding God through sin and confession has often been this way: you sin, you confess, and then you’re forgiven and right with God. There’s something about the act of confession that is true, but over the years, it became a ritual, and then a rule, and then just a thing you had to do.
I think about the catholic tradition. I don’t know much except from movies and things, where you go into a little box and the priest listens from the other side and absolves you of your sin. And the concept of penance, which feels definitely archaic and foreign, even strange, that you should do something because of your guilt or shame. And at the same time, the process of moving from something wrong to something right, does seem like there needs to be some way to make it up.
During the Reformation, the 16th century when some folks were trying to reform the catholic church, some of these traditions shifted to align with the ever progressing theology of the times. The sacrament of penance was done away with but there still needed to be some way that people could practice getting honest and real with God. So they came up with the corporate confession of sin, changing the “I confess” to “we confess.” And the underlying theology behind it was, not that you must confess in order to receive forgiveness but it became part of the liturgy, the work of the people, a kind of storytelling through declaration in worship. And this is where we got it right. [picture] Jesus is so lucky to have us.
You don’t come to receive worship, you exercise worship. You are doing the work. You are proclaiming and telling the story together. So an act in worship, like a prayer of confession, is less an act of transaction but a declaration, to say we confess boldly and safely because God’s grace and mercy is enough and abundant. By confessing our sins, we confess that God is safe, loving, and compassionate.
Because if it is not safe, you should not confess.
A while ago a person emailed me and the other pastors a confession. I’ve gotten their permission to share. Here’s what it said:
I am asking that you continue to keep me in your prayers as I try and gain control over my need to smoke marijuana as well as binge eating. I’ve turned to these unhealthy behaviors as a way to cope with my fears and anxiety.
Although I know that God is with me during the good and bad times… I also found comfort with these unhealthy behaviors. It’s been my dirty little secret that I felt too embarrassed to talk about or ask for prayer. In order for me to continue this path of emotional and physical healing, it’s time to address these issues.
God has been nudging my soul and telling me that it’s time to break away from these behaviors and it’s okay to talk about it to others. During this season of Advent I’ve been praying for full liberation from the things that are holding me back from finding my inner peace. This past Tuesday, I made a promise to myself that I was no longer going to smoke marijuana or binge eat. I’ve had an eating disorder since I was a little girl. In the past I have seeked help for this but when we went on lockdown last year, my eating disorder came back.
Today was my second day of not smoking… I was really naive in thinking because I am a light smoker that my body would not crave it if I stopped… Well I was wrong. Today was really rough but I refuse to continue to allow this to have control over me. I am and will overcome this need to turn to marijuana. Not smoking has also helped with wanting to binge eat. I know that I can do this… It’s not going to be easy but it must be done! I can honestly say being back at Reservoir Church has definitely helped in SO many ways. So thank you for all your prayers as I continue this path of finding inner peace and a closer connection with God.
It was a big thing for this person to share. When you feel like you have a secret, it feels like that. And really, we humans, all the ways we lie, cheat, steal, gloat in pride, manipulate and so on. And all that we do to cover it because we feel bad about it only makes it worse sometimes. In fact, I would go as far as to say, often it’s not even the act itself that eats us, but the secrecy and the shame from the act.
That’s why I wanted to share Genesis 3 with you today, despite the gender problematic language in the second creation story, as opposed to the first one, which pastor Ivy read from last week, “let us make humankind in our image.” You see, the Bible is okay with diversity, even two opposing accounts of the creation. And that is what we have. Please if you’ve never heard about this, it makes a world of difference to our faith to know this one fact.
We have two creation stories. And the Jewish texts were okay laying them right next to one another. Genesis 1 is the first creation account. And 2-3 is the second creation account. We know this because the stories are two completely different styles. In fact they have two different names for God. The first one called God Elohim, and the second calls it Yahweh, which is why the biblical scholars distinguish the two to be one from the Elohist tradition and Yahwist tradition: They come from two different traditions!
And it just so happens that the Elohist captures the creation of human beings born out of a community, let us make humankind in our image, God created them, male and female. Whereas in the Yahwist tradition, man is created first and then the whole story about the rib and Eve, AND it includes this sin and fall story.
Honestly I think the second creation story honestly is just someone, a man, trying to explain the reason behind patriarchy with things like, God talked to the man first, and how all this came about because he listened to his wife, which he shouldn’t have, which is why after the fall her desire will be for her husband, and he will rule over her. Yes, I agree with Yahwists that this is a result of a broken world and that there is a way toward renewed relationship that is sewn back in a new way. There’s more I can and want to say but I’m running out of time.
I picked text because I have a different point than we should confess. This text doesn’t even have an apology or a confession. Look at the man and the woman, they both shift blame and make excuses. Can you relate?
But look at what God is doing. Always look at that, in any Bible story, what is God doing? The first thing God does here is ask,
“Where are you?”
“Where are you?”
God is looking for you. And the things that follow, they can be seen as punishment, but it has also served as stories that explain how things came to be like why snakes don’t have legs. But after that part, how does the story end? God elevates the man-made fig leaves to garments of skin and clothed them.
God looks for you and covers you.
Where are you?
What have you done?
There might be some consequences but more importantly, come here, put this on. Let me cover you. Let me protect you.
This is the work of confession. Confession is a response to God’s love, not a prerequisite. It’s a proclamation of a God that loves you, cares for you, looks for you, wants to bring you back to make things new, and sews us back together with Godself. This is our confession, not what we have done wrong but who God is regardless. Our Confession is actually, not sin, but Love.
Let me pray for us.
God of Love who calls us back again and again. Call us back even now, even if we were to say the things that we’re most ashamed of right now, you lift up our chins with your loving hand and say, welcome home. Lead us back to you, no matter where we’ve been, that is what we confess God… Here I am. Deliver us, back to you we pray. Amen.