Escaping Eternity

Eating of the Tree was the only thing in the Garden for which we’d been told there was a consequence of making a choice – “In the day you eat of it, you shall die.” Yet, the man and woman did not know what a “consequence” was, they did not even know what death was. Yahweh was speaking way over their heads: a specific day? Time? Death? What’s that? I’m sure the man and woman thought: “Hmmm, sounds bad, let’s not go there!” Time was infinite, so why rush? Why push the boundaries? Why risk change?

Yet, there was a reason. The serpent knew what it was: they would “become like God, knowing Good and Evil.” Eating that fruit meant we’d learn new things: we’d escape from our existence in a mindless and meaningless eternity. Something new would happen in our never-ending cycle of days. But, to do so, we had to be willing to face what we had never known: change. We would experience limited time, we would experience death.

Genesis3:8 Lego Adam And Eve
Genesis 3:8 Lego Adam And Eve, from “The Brick Testament”

You know, the story of Adam and Eve is a great story, but it’s always bothered me.  I mean, come on: if the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil were so darned important, why didn’t God put a fence around it, or stick it in some remote and impossible to access place?  I mean – seriously: even if the man and woman obeyed, one of their kids or grandkids, or great-grandkids would eventually “forget” and taken a bite.  It was inevitable.  So, why?

Now, this morning’s reading is the passage in which the so-called “Original Sin” takes place, an event that we are taught “cursed” mankind for all time, until we were redeemed by Christ. But, is this event that affects every one of us – whether it is factual or metaphorical – really the great failure and source of all sin that we have been taught it is? Perhaps not.

…Let’s step back for a minute and consider the text as a whole.  This particular story, the second of the two “creation narratives” at the beginning of the Bible, portrays Yahweh as a very hands-on sort of God: unlike the more remote vision of God we find in the first Creation narrative in Genesis 1.  In that narrative, God “spoke” the world into being, hovered over the waters and said “Let there be light.” – All these are commands and things done from a distance, like you’d expect a remote and unapproachable God to do.

But, in Genesis 2 & 3 God doesn’t command anything into being, Instead, Yahweh gets down and dirty: She lovingly forms us with her own hands, then gently breathes the breath of life into our nostrils. She is presented as an up close and in your face sort of God, a very hands on sort of diety.

Yahweh is concerned for us as individuals, saying “it is not good that the man is alone” and so creates the woman.  She talks face to face with us.  The man and woman, we are told, “heard the sound of Yahweh walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze.”  Yahweh works, walks, talks and breathes.  She is a very human God – not some powerful spirit being. She is a very personal God – not some distant and unreachable entity.  Yahweh is a God of Relationship – not a dictator.  She is not a god who demands obedience and taking whatever she wants from us – Yahweh is a God filled with love and concern for us and for all of her Creation.

Keep Off!So, what does the type of God we find in this passage have to do with all this?  Why wasn’t there even something like one of those little gnomes holding a “keep off” sign put there in the garden?  Why was this tree left unguarded, tempting us? …Why no fence?

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