Take And Eat

Genesis 3: 1-13

 

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,  but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  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.

 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Message:

During one of the many debate competitions, I saw my opponent pull out a stunt I had never seen before. It was a simple one. He pulled out a white sheet of paper, took out a pen and made a dot on that paper. He waved it in the air and asked “Hey fellows, what do you see.” I very innocently answered along with others “A black dot, smarty pants.” He laughed mockingly and said “It is a pity that on this white paper all you managed to see is that black dot that I just drew. Why has the white paper gone into oblivion mates?” This act always remained with me. It drew upon the point of how we focus on just a certain aspect of a narrative and feel lost. I have always been very disturbed by the fact that “Why would God stop Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of knowledge?” Now that is where concentrating on the black spot becomes an obvious phenomenon. To illustrate my point let us recollect Genesis 2: 15-17

‘ The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Here we see Lord God in vs 15 puts him in a Garden and gives him a vocation of ‘tilling and keeping.’

Vs 16 God gives permission to man to eat from any tree in the garden, including the tree of life in vs 9

Vs 17 depicts that with vocation and permission comes responsibility that is defined by boundaries. In the scheme if vocation and permission, Lord God adds prohibition to the scheme of events.

We love permission and permissibility. We tolerate vocation, but we loathe prohibition.

The serpent  takes this black dot of ‘prohibition’ to enter the scene. Till now God is addressed in the passage as Lord God but serpent in his conversation addresses only as ‘God’. This means that he denies Lordship of God. This is where he converses with Eve by exaggerating the black dot of prohibition. So there is a clear sequence of sin here.

a)  You doubt the Word of God– Serpent succeeds on playing on the prohibition by helping Eve to doubt the Word of God. Eve falls for it as she too exaggerates the prohibition when she says ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” (vs 3). She adds the factor of “You must not touch” which was nowhere in the Word of God. So the step to sin is when we shut our ears to the word of God and listen to alternate voices that pretend to have our best interest

b)  Doubting the nature of God: Serpent in his suggestions helps Eve to miss the paper of abundance of creation. The focus is on the black dot of prohibition of God. He portrays God as one who is a very restrictive God. He tempts the woman to believe that by eating the fruit they will be like Gods. There are three stages to temptation. They are; i) suggestion, ii) delight and iii) consent.

After the doubt is planted, the suggestion of serpent that you can eat the fruit appeals to Eve. She delights in imagining being like God with opened eyes and she finally consents to the act by seeing that the fruit is good and therefore eats it. So whenever we doubt the Lordship of God, temptation comes to us as an harmless suggestion, in which we delight and therefore we finally consent.

We see that Adam too eats the fruit.

After the sequence of sin, let us now see the consequence of sin.

a) Life of hiding and baggage of guilt– Sin produces guilt that weighs very heavily on us. The irony of the narration is that serpent promised Eve that their eyes would be opened after eating the fruit. Well eyes were opened but they preferred to be hidden when God came visiting and calling “Where are you?” They hid behind the trees. They were aware of their nakedness and did not want to be seen.  We start to hide from God and our fellow beings. We tend to have a secret life that adds heavily to our guilt. In the New Testament we see a similar character who prefers to remain hidden behind trees when Jesus comes calling. His name is Zacchaeus. We are created to be in communion with God and fellow beings but sin compels us to hide in our shell of sin where  the tie with our creator and fellow creatures are severed. Sin is the loneliness of being hidden and not known. If one remembers ‘Confession Groups’ were a rage in Facebook where all sorts of confession were made as people had to come out of their hidden life of deceit that was weighing upon their conscience.

b) Obsession with “I” and Blaming the other: As seen, communion is the zenith of creation. But if one analyzes the dialogue of Adam and Eve, Walter Brueggemann says: ‘The speech of the couple is convicting them. It is “I heard… I was afraid…I was naked…: I hid I ate.. I ate, (Genesis 3: 10-13). It shows that their preoccupation with God, His vocation with creation, permission and prohibition is given up. Now the new preoccupation is ‘I’. When the preoccupation is I, then denial to a wrong doing is the first step which both Adam and Eve practice. And further, the responsibility of Sin is put on somebody else. Adam says “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” It is a master stroke where he blames God for giving him a woman. In 2: 18 God says “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So Adam here with his obsession with ‘I’ is blaming God by implying that he was better of being alone. He blames also the woman for enticing him in the act. Eve is tad better as she does not blame God, but does not take responsibility for the sin but puts it on the serpent.

Contemporary Relevance

The passage we considered is a very relevant one. ‘You too will be like God” is the first advertisement that lured mankind. If only you had a skin whiter than yours, you would be successful. Apply Fair &Lovely. If only you had happiness in life, you would share it. Have a Coke, share happiness. Only if you would have friends would your life be fulfilled. To have friends you need Airtel Internet. In an age of ‘Selfie’ and Social Media, the sense of obsession with ‘I’ is ever increasing. One of the journalist Manu Joseph comments on the online activism of many a youths is the vicarious pleasure of blaming others, may it be individuals, groups, abstract concepts without having any stakes or being directly involved. The negativity on Twitter and Facebook is not just conscientious citizens but an age old obsession with shifting the blame on others and justifying ourselves. We have new religions popping up in contemporary times that sidelines God as God seems to be the root of all problems and ills.

Let me quote from Ravi Zacharias

First Dentistry was painless Then bicycles were chainless And carriages were horseless And many laws enforce-less

Next cookery was fireless Telephone was wireless Cigars were nicotine-less And coffee caffeine-less

Soon oranges were seedless The putting green was weedless The college boy was hatless The proper diet fatless

New motor roads are dustless The latest steel is rustless Our tennis courts are sodless Our new religion Godless.

Conclusion:

Robin Koshy says that the first sin was committed when Serpent convinced Adam and Eve to ‘Take and Eat’ the forbidden fruit. To counter this sin of mankind before going to the Cross, Jesus says “Take, eat, this is my body” (Matthew 26:26). When we come to receive the communion we have to

a) Accept the authority of the Word of God

b) Trust in the Grace of God

c) Overcome our guilt and hidden life by confessing our sins

d) Ask forgiveness for our self obsession Loving God and loving our neighbors, and learn to take responsibility for our sins as David said ” Against you and you alone have I sinned…” (Psalms 51:4)

May God lead us and guide us.

Rev Merin Mathew

Bethel Mar Thoma Church

Kolar Road, Bhopal

 

 

<photo id=”1″ />communion_21

Whats In a Name?

Genesis 4: 1-16

Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Message

The question that I dread the most is ‘What is your Name?’ When I say Merin, the questioner has an expression that is difficult to understand which is quickly followed by ‘Isn’t that a girl’s name?’ Phew. Every church that I have gone I have had the honour of parents coming to me and saying with a smile “Ente magalude perum Merin aa” (Even our daughter’s name is Merin) I try to smile, but I have not made peace with it, please pray for me, my brethren. My mind then goes to the time when my parents chose a name for me. My mother wanted the name Melvin, but my dad vetoed her to give me this name ‘Merin.’ Since it is dad who gave the name I have not dared to ask him ‘Why, Why?’ So then I Googled ‘Merin’ and in one obscure place where it said “Merin comes from the Hebrew word ‘Mero’ which can mean happiness as well as restlessness.” Well it is true that I am happy and make others restless. So with the name having a meaning I have some consolation. Shakespeare definitely had no idea when he said “What is in a name?” Well a lot buddy, a lot. In today’s passage I will be laying special emphasis on the names of the characters we come across and therefore you had to bear with the personal rant or trivia. Hope my father won’t read this.

Name and its Meaning
The story of Cain and Abel is a very popular one and the narrative has many dimensions, textures and layers. Gen. 4:1 starts with the scene of human procreation where Eve after giving birth to Cain says “I have created man with the help of the Lord.” The word “Qanah” in Hebrew is translated as created and the noun form of “Qanah” is Cain. So here we see the name given by Eve to her first born Cain embodies creation in his name and also he is the seed of the man, formed out of Adamah which means soil in Hebrew. Cain becomes the tiller of the soil like his father as Gen 4:2 b says “…… and Cain worked the soil.” So he is called to carry forward the divine commission given to man in Gen. 2: 15 to and keep the soil. The name Abel comes from the Hebrew word ‘Habel’ which means ‘breath’ or ‘vapor’. Genesis 2:7 says Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. So meaning of Abel signifies the divine breath that God breathed while creating Adam out of Adamah. So we all see the interconnection of names to the process of creation.

How Do We Worship?
In Gen. 4.3 we see Worship being introduced for the first time in the Bible. Abel’s offering as a shepherd is accepted but the produce of the ground of Cain is rejected. Now the question arises why is the offerings of Abel accepted and that of Cain rejected. I remember reading a story where the Sunday School teacher asks the same question “Why was Abel’s offering accepted and Cain’s rejected.” Many attempted to answer. But there was a smarty who raised his hand to declare that he had the answer to the most treasured secret of all times. He blurted, “Teacher the answer is very simple. God is a Non-Vegetarian and therefore he loved the meat given by Abel and Cain was foolish to offer vegetarian stuff to God.” Well that is as far as the child’s logic goes. Worship is not just what you bring in your hand but what you carry in your heart. Look at the construction of the sentence. ‘The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.’ (Genesis 4: 4b-5a) ‘Abel and offering’ and ‘Cain and his offering’. When we go to worship it is we as a person that God is interested in, more than what we have to offer. So why do you go to worship? Is it because out of social pressure, parental pressure, social security, claims of tradition or just because you have no other option? If we see, Cain too participated and offered the offerings but Robin Koshy says “Cain’s sin was religious tokenism. He is doing religious stuff, but his heart is away from the Lord.” This could be our case too. We have become used to the pattern of our worship. We routinely chant, sing songs, make sign of the cross, do our confession, received the Holy bread and Holy wine week after week that the meaning of the worship and its purpose is lost on us. What prophet Isaiah says is applicable to Cain as well as us. The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. (Isaiah 29: 13)

Why Envy?
Because of God’s favor on Abel, we see an introduction of a very common human emotion that Cain emotes. It is called envy. Paul Tripp defines this very beautifully as follows. “Envy is always idolatrous. It attaches spiritual contentment to physical things and experiences rather than to relationship with God. Envy is a false gospel. Envy says you are worthy and deserving. The cross says you’re unworthy but graced with what you don’t deserve. Envy always breaks the two Great Commands. I envy because I love something more than I love God. In envy I fail to love you as I should. As a believer, envy is always vertical; you cannot be envious without questioning the goodness, wisdom and faithfulness of God. Envy is the product of self-righteousness. You think you’re better, so you can’t deal with a person having what you deserve but don’t enjoy.” Like Cain we experience envy in our life where we feel cheated when friends in college or workplace get recognition, better grades or social standing than we have. This envy creates tension in our healthy relationships and friendships. Researchers from Humboldt University and from Darmstadt’s Technical University of Germany did a study to find the ever increasing phenomenon called ‘Facebook envy’. They found that men put self-promotional stuff on their timeline while women portrayed their good looks and displayed their social lives. This has created envy among users who perceive that their so called Facebook friend is having a better life than he/she has. Such things may look trivial to us but God is confronting Cain by saying “……sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (vs 7). Here God shows the hidden nature of envy in particular and sin in general. If you are envious of others like I am, God is warning us that sin is crouching at our door, if we are not careful, it will rule over our lives and ruin it like it did with Cain..

In the Mar Thoma Liturgy of Holy Matrimony, there is a prayer that says ‘May God save you from Lethal Envy’ (Kolunna asuyiya). Envy kills relationships, purpose and the very esence of life. This envy drives Cain to murder his brother with whom he shared the womb. When God asks him he manifests another nature of sin, that is denial. He asks the famous question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (vs 9) As seen earlier he was the tiller ( obed) and keeper( shomer) of the soil( adamah), so that means he is the keeper of all that is a product of the soil. Abel, the seed of Adam, is a product of the soil and therefore protecting and keeping Abel was the divine vocation of Cain. So the question ‘Am I my brother’s keeper” is a denial of this divine vocation. Cain whose name and vocation embodies creation and life paradoxically symbolizes death and destruction. In denial of his Divine vocation, God’s punishment is a sense of poetic justice. Cain is alienated from the soil that defined his being. If he is not the keeper of his brother, a product of the soil, then he is not the keeper of the soil too. He is cursed that his tilling of the ground will bring no yields. This alienation from the soil and embodiment of violence furthers the narrative logic of Yahweh repenting about his creation that He willed and saw “It was good”.

Is there hope?
So the question arises where is the hope in this tragic narrative? Hope is interlaced and subtle. . Gen. 4:16 says that “Cain went from the presence of the Lord.” While in Gen. 6:9 says “Noah walked with God”. Here we see the portrayal of Noah as the anti-type of Cain as intentional. The name Noah means “Out of the soil that the lord has cursed, this one will bring us relief from our work and toil of our hands.” (Gen. 5:29) after Cain was alienated from the soil the next man who established a relationship with soil and celebrated it is Noah, as it is said “Noah, a man of the soil, was first to plant a vineyard” (Gen. 9:20). Noah, whose ark became the symbol of continuity of creation after the destructive flood, was the keeper of every species of bird and animal. He also became the keeper of soil as seen, and he can be seen as an Ecological ideal with whom God makes a covenant, promising the sustenance of life and creation.

Finally we see that two characters ‘Cain’ and ‘Noah’ embodied very positive elements in their name. But how do we evaluate them? Cain lived contrary to his name and calling and Noah embodied all the virtues that his name meant. God has named each one of us and gifted us this life with a purpose and a vocation. Are we living a life furthering creation and salvation or living a life away from the presence of God, deeply indulging in ourselves by compromising our relationship with God, our neighbours and creation? What is in a name? Well, a lot.

Rev Merin Mathew
Bethel Mar Thoma Church
Kolar Road, Bhopalname