Sermon for Lent 1
Evensong – Sunday 21st February 2021
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
“Have you not discriminated among yourselves, and become judges with wicked thoughts?”
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but 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.’
Why? Why does eating of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil lead to death?
Good and Evil . . . can We judge? Can we tell the difference between the weeds and the wheat?
Following the end of the Second World War, at the Nuremburg trials, the triumphant Allied forces showed a 6 hour long movie. Entitled, “The Nazi Plan”, it carefully spliced together film to show the horrors of Nazism. It was an act of judgement, of making the line between Good and Evil very clear. The official story of the war was simply that Good had triumphed over Evil. The judgement of History was clear. There must be no doubt about who the wicked people were.
Yet there was a problem with such a simplification. Rather than viewing from a great height – in ‘the great scheme of things’ – viewed up close the picture was not at all clear. As many many allied troops knew, they too had committed and been involved in atrocities. Those stories were not told. Not all of humanity was to be on trial at Nuremburg, although perhaps it should have been
Following the war in Germany, the shame of what had happened meant that the war was not spoken of, until a generation arose who did not have first hand experience of the war. They were angry when they discovered the truth. It was their parents who had been complicit – so in the 1970’s there was an attempt to wipe the slate clean. Most famous were the actions of the Bader Meinhof gang, yet they too came to a terrible realization. In condemning Nazism they had murdered people. As one former member said – “we too had become fascists . . .”
And despite many many attempts down through the years to produce Purity, the old problem remains. We have eaten from the tree and Know Good and Evil, but there is ‘knowing’ and ‘knowing’
We can ‘know about’. Or we can Know. And the difference is critical here, most particularly with respect to other human beings, but also the Creation itself.
To know about requires separation from – to know as it were from a distance. But to Know is to be woven into. “Adam knew his wife Eve and she conceived and bore a son”. Two lives become one, not in confusion but in Union. These are different Knowings.
To ‘Know’ Good and Evil is the human condition. Eating the apple, we take it into ourself. Yet, we are deceived. Our problem is that we confuse Knowing with knowing about . . . We set up an supposed objective distance from this or that person or act and declare them to be Good, or Evil. A curiously objective distance we even apply to ourselves . . . declaring ourselves to be Good . . . as opposed to that person or those people.
And it is that setting apart that is the root of the problem. By our distancing we think we can see properly. By judging we separate ourselves from others and indeed the world around us.
Jesus’ problem as he encountered people was with those who thought they were Good compared with others. We categorise them as ‘religious’ people, yet all people in those days were religious – it is a wrong distinction.
As some folk try to purify the world of religion, with all its attendant problems, they merely set up other versions of the same things, with sure dogmas of who is in the right and who is in the wrong. It wasn’t the Pharisees and Saducees who were entering the Kingdom ahead of the tax collectors and prostitutes, it was the other way round, and the first person to enter the fullness of the Kingdom was a thief . . . which brings us to the Cross of Christ.
To Judge is to undo the work of Jesus upon the Cross in making the two one. In his flesh uniting God and Human beings. He used the consequences of our alienation to undo the transgression of Adam, the sin of standing apart, from himself. He became a stranger even to himself. He is ashamed of his nakedness, his own being.
Now he has to cover himself. Separating himself from himself, he found himself separated from the woman – flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones. He no longer recognizes himself in his fellow human. The man and the woman hide from God, and become strangers to one another. The Good Creation becomes an enemy. Estrangement rules. And Estrangement is death.
Yet Death will not have The Last Word.
In the Resurrection of Jesus, God gifts eternal Life to humanity. Not how Paul speaks of humanity as a totality in his letter – from the one man all – how much more, from the one man all. For as in Adam, all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. Unless of course we don’t count ourselves as Christ himself did, amongst the transgressors. Amongst those people. Upon the Cross, Jesus hangs between two thieves . . .
We ate from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, thinking we might thereby stand as judge and jury – instead of which we found we took it into ourself – we were woven into Good and Evil.
Yet God in Christ wove himself into humanity – that we might Know not good and evil, but The Good, The Good One, and so share not in knowing about, but Knowing God
As Jesus Says. –‘Now this is eternal Life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Not know about, but Know.
Our healing from the wound of the knowledge of Good and Evil is to eat from the fruit of the Tree of Life, the body and blood of Christ and thus Know Him. That is Life