Cursed and Blessed
June 10, 2018 Series: Lectionary
Topic: Biblical Verse: Genesis 3:8–3:15
Third Sunday after Pentecost[i]
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
“Cursed and Blessed”
We live in a cursed world. Some days you might feel the weight of that curse more heavily than others, yet the reality of our situation remains. We keep hearing news of discord between nations, news of volcanoes erupting, news of violence and crime, news of people dying. It’d be nice if you could shut off all those reports, shut out the news of the problems in our world. But that wouldn’t fix much, if anything, would it? Even without all the news out there, we’d still keep on seeing and feeling what it’s like to live in a cursed world. Our bodies break down. Our relationships grind and strain. Our joys are fleeting and short-lived. The symptoms of the curse keep coming back.
I’ll understand if you think that “We live in a cursed world” is kind of a depressing way to start a sermon. I agree. It’s not good news. But it’s the truth.
There’s a reason for all this brokenness, though. The cause of all this discord is the fact that the world is not as it was meant to be. You and I are not as we were meant to be. And, ultimately, it is all our own doing.
Today’s reading from Genesis 3 picks up right after the account of what we call “the Fall.” After Moses records God’s creation of the world and mankind, he sets the stage for the rest of the Scriptures. The world was good. God made it – and humanity – perfect. At some point after that, though, our first parents doubted God’s grace. They listened to the deceiver who wanted them to question God’s loving-kindness. They decided to trust themselves over and above God’s word. And by their distrust of the Creator who gave them everything, the perfect world became a cursed world.
You may have heard the word “sin” used in a lot of different ways; but the nature of sin is ultimately rooted in doubting God’s grace. That doubt is at work in each of us, calling us trust ourselves over and above God and His design for life. Look at what happens when we do that.
Sin broke the world. In Genesis 3:7, we hear that once Adam and Eve ate of the fruit God warned them against, they knew they were naked. And the first thing they did? They sewed fig leaves together to make themselves clothes. Sin brought separation and shame into human relationships. Sin brought isolation and division into what had been a perfect union between man and woman. But that wasn’t the end of it. As today’s reading picks up, we hear that God is walking in His creation, probably in the cool of the evening, wanting to be near His people. Where are Adam and Eve? Trying to hide from God? This is the greatest consequence of sin, as certain now as it was all the way back then: sin brings separation between humanity and God. As it must.
God is holy. Because of sin, you and I are not. Because of sin, our world is broken. We live in a cursed world – and it’s a self-inflicted curse. Even though our first parents doubted God’s grace in the distant past, that same doubt still works in each of us today. Let’s put it this way: We’re all dupes.
Eve gets right to the heart of the problem when the Lord asks her for an explanation of what’s happened. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Deceived. In the Hebrew language, that word conveys more than simply “being tricked.” It’s more like saying, “He offered me a false hope,” or, “He cheated me.” The serpent, who the rest of the Scriptures indicate to be Satan, offered humanity the chance to be like God in knowing good and evil; yet they could only know evil by being separated from God. Eve was deceived, tricked, cheated – invited to doubt God’s goodness in favor of her own, human will. And we’re all right there with her.
Adam and Eve deserved God’s righteous judgment. In our sin, you and I do, too. But look! What is the first thing that God declares after humanity’s fall into sin, doubting His grace? God deals with the cheater, promising the Savior who will bring victory over sin. In Genesis 3:15, a verse that has been called the “Protoevangelium” (the first gospel), Adam and Eve and all their children are given the assurance of deliverance, even before God relates to them the consequences of our sin.
We deserve judgment; instead, God provides a Savior.
Sin brings separation; our Savior brings us all together. Jesus, the long-promised Messiah, would go to his death on the cross as Satan strikes his heel. But as the innocent Lamb who trusted his Father’s loving-kindness above his human will to live, Jesus would take all our sin and separation from God into death with him, rising on Easter morning to strike the serpent’s head and kill its power over us.
As he relates in our Gospel reading from Mark 3, Jesus himself is the one who would bind Satan, the “strong man” of this world, and plunder his house. During his earthly ministry, Jesus cast out demons, giving a sign of his authority over the powers that would hold humanity captive. God has come, and He would deal with the ultimate consequence of our self-inflicted curse. He has come and made us to be His family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.
We still live in a cursed world. Sin still pulls us apart and separates us, one from another. In this past week alone, we heard news of two high profile suicides, a reminder that people from all walks of life contend with feelings of isolation and shame. Satan is still at work, calling everyone to doubt God’s grace and His loving-kindness, seeking to overwhelm us with despair. But Jesus doesn’t allow Satan to have the last word.
Christ brings us together and blesses us with fellowship. This weekend, we celebrate this blessing as we welcome new members into our congregation, giving thanks to God for their presence among us and service with us. God gives you theses other people around you to be a reminder and instrument of His loving-kindness and care for you.
Make use of the blessing on fellowship. If you are contending with thoughts of isolation or suicide, speak out to the brothers and sisters that God has given you in this place. You are not alone. If you are not contending with such thoughts, make sure that your brothers and sisters in Christ know that they can come to you in times of need or despair, to experience the love that God has for them through you.
We live in a world cursed by our own doing. But you are blessed by God’s grace in Christ, a blessing greater than any curse.
[i] This week’s memory passage:
The Lord God said to the serpent, […] “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” – Genesis 3:14a, 15 (ESV)