Rev. Chris Snow
North Hill Christian Church
September 13, 2020
Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8
For the most part we are familiar with the creation stories and the original sin. But I want us to take a look at this text with a new lens. A lens, where we call ourselves servants as we follow Christ. Servants to the Gospel, which declares our salvation and the salvation of all. Servants as we look at our relationships with others.
To be called a servant gives a very clear understanding of roles and the limitations of what one does. One cannot be a servant and also have complete free will to do what ever they want. They are constrained by what it means in that case to serve their master. In the case of the creation narrative out of the second chapter of Genesis, due to the various translations of this text we have lost the servant language that comes into play with verse 15. Jacqueline E. Lapsley writes in her commentary on this text, “Even though the human beings’s appearance precedes that of other non-human animals, this earth creature is not given ‘dominion’ as in Genesis 1, but is called to serve’ [‘abad] the ground (2:15). Translations have obscured this fundamental relationship between ‘adam and ‘adamah…The verb ‘abad loses its semantic resonance (the root is connected to worship) when thinned down to ‘till’, ‘work’, ‘farm’, or ‘cultivate.’ In this context, as a transitive verb, it means ‘to serve’ the Garden of Eden, to ‘work for’ it.” (http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4579)
So much of land ownership through colonization has been built up around the language of tilling the land. Cultivating the land. Using the land to cause it to produce. Language that calls the owner to change the land for their own use. But the language of the first chapter of Genesis where we hear that human beings have dominion over the earth, connotes an understanding of responsibility for that which is under human kind’s watch. Here in the second chapter, that language is changed to that of servant. One who works for the land to care and tend to it. Providing us with the imagery of a grounds keeper, instead of one who has complete reign over the earth to do what ever they want.
Add to that the rules regarding the Garden of Eden, “The Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’”
We now hear the limitations of human-beings in the garden. You can eat of all the plants, as you serve the land, but you shall not eat the fruit of this one tree. If we heard these limitations as one who has complete free reign over the garden, this single rule may seem a bit excessive and unfair, but if our perception changes to that of servant, we see it as simply a limitation of what we can do as we serve that which we are called, whether we understand the reasons or not.
On the Working Preacher podcast for this text, one of the speakers briefly went into the complexities of the knowledge of good and evil. In knowing what is right or wrong does not mean that we will always do what is right. We simply have the knowledge of the options of what we can do.
As I recognize the complexities of knowing good and evil within the context of serving the garden, one’s world view is much larger than simply serving the garden, but of all the things one can do instead. If all you knew was caring for the garden, and then all of a sudden you knew even more, what does that mean for your dedication to the garden? It probably means you are going to pursue other things and live much differently than that of a servant.
If your whole world view was that of the Spokane, with no understanding of the world beyond the city limits and then all of a sudden you knew of the whole world, and how we are all connected. More than likely something about have you behave is going to change.
As both Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, we find their status as caretakers of the garden completely change. Their immediate perceptions of one another change from simply being present, to all of a sudden their concern for modesty and feelings of guilt. Their experience of paradise has been shattered because they now know more, and thus act differently in all of their relationships. Causing fractures and sin to take hold.
But as we remember the narrative of the fall of human kind into sin and brokenness we are also mindful of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. We know that sin is not what binds us but our devotion to it. Sin is not what controls us, but rather it is our willingness to give in to those things which cause brokenness between ourselves and the divine. Between ourselves and others. Between ourselves, and what is good and right for us.
However, there is a catch. If we are to follow Christ, we must be willing to become servants once more. If we are to follow in the path of salvation, then we have to be willing to give up those things that lead us astray and accept limits to what we can do, for the betterment of all. If we are to live lives that celebrate the ministry that Jesus began and has been passed down to us, then we have to become servants cleaning the feet of others. Recognizing that all of our actions have impacts that go far beyond our own bubbles, and for the betterment of all we have to be willing to accept some limitations on what we do in our lives.