Sunday, June 10, 2012

in the cool of the day

Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

At the time of the evening breeze, in the cool of the day, the Lord walked in the garden. And he sought out the man and his wife, asking, “Where are you?”

“We are hiding!” the man replied. “We are naked.”

“Who told you that you were naked?”

Ah. Here we go.

Well, the tree … the snake … she … the snake …

Ah-hum. In other words…

Well – yes.

And so they left paradise, the man and the woman, having tasted of the knowledge of what is good, and what is bad, and maybe learned a little of what is right and what is wrong. But they could have known it all along.

What is wrong, what they got wrong, was seeking after divinity – without placing trust in God. To be equal with God, to be divine, this first Adam felt was a thing to be grasped, not given or received. The last Adam, our Lord Jesus, on the other hand,

though he was in the form of God,
   did not regard equality with God
   as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
   taking the form of a slave,
   being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to the point of death—
   even death on a cross.

Obedience – this is what was lacking, in the garden. And that is why it was not paradise, for long, not completely, not yet. The man and the woman, the mythical first couple, reveal what we know of ourselves. We need to receive from God all that gift of what we are. We cannot do it alone. We cannot take it for ourselves; it is God’s gift.

What we can do is to put our trust in the living God – and practice obedience to him.

This is the ultimate allegiance, the final one identity – and the one family to which we all may belong: those who do the will of God. That is what Jesus is saying, not turn your back on Mom and Dad, but turn your face toward heaven. Put God first and all else will fall in to place, will take its place in right relationship to the ultimate reality.

That is what it means in the Eucharistic Prayer when we call for the day when

In the fullness of time, God will put all things in subjection under Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country where we may enter the everlasting heritage of God’s children, his sons and daughters.

It is the call to obedience, to putting God first in our lives, following the way of Christ, which is the way of the Cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
   and gave him the name
   that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
   every knee should bend,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
   that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father.

And that is why we pray that—

God will unite us to his Son in his sacrifice that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

We come across Jesus in a scene of strange paradox: his accusers say he is in league with the devil, but he points out in common-sense fashion that a house cannot stand against itself. And his mother and siblings are worried about him: he seems to have become ecstatic, outside himself, ‘out of his mind’ in a transcendent state. And he replies to them: “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.

What is happening with Jesus is that he in the midst of a confrontation with the powers the be, the powers of world and flesh, that keep people from God and from the fullness of life which God has made us to enjoy. That fullness is the completeness of life in God, the restoration of the original wholeness in which we were made, and to which we are called to return, through Christ. This is the state of bliss; to be one with the Creator, through the work of the Redeemer, through the power of the breath of God we call the Holy Spirit.

It is relationship to God the Father that is the primary relationship. There is nothing wrong with family relationships – they come into their own when they are properly subordinate to that primary allegiance that every creature owes to the Maker of all.

In the cool of the day – more literally, at the time of the evening’s breath – the Lord seeks out the man and the woman in the garden. They are already in the presence of the breath, the wind, the Spirit— that is God’s creative energy at work all around them. And yet they are hiding! They are afraid – to admit that they have sought wisdom apart from God. And now they are indeed separate. And so the original wholeness is lost.

It is lost, in this story, at the beginning of time. It is lost, in our lives, at the time when we turn away from right relationships with God and each other. It is lost – but can be regained, not by our own efforts but through Christ in the Spirit by the will of God.

And so the invitation lands at our feet: let us come together again, you and I, the Spirit beckons. Let us, again and anew and forever, be friends, and more than friends— be my family, be my heirs, be my children: be with me today in Paradise. Walk, walk with me: in the garden, in the cool of the day.

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your Spirit’s indwelling breath we may be mindful of those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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