Pastor Eric Schroeder - The Third Sunday After Pentecost - Sunday, June 21, 2020

Text: Genesis 2:8-9, 15, 20b-25

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8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

One of the first questions you might ask when meet someone new is this one: “Where are you from?” It’s always a good question, because if you know where a person is from, that might help you realize what you have in common with them. Maybe you have gone to the same Church or school where they went. You might know some of the same people. Perhaps you have eaten at the same restaurants or shopped in the same stores. You might realize that you cheer for the same teams or grew up playing in the same parks, riding your bike down the same streets.

In a former congregation, we had one member that somehow seemed to know a relative of everyone she met. It was amazing to watch, but she was one of the best greeters I’ve ever seen. We’d have visitors in church and within a couple of minutes she’d have a connection made, and it always looked like it helped make people feel comfortable there even though they had never been in the building before.

The truth, of course, is that if we go back far enough, we are all connected because we all come from the same two parents. You wouldn’t think that by watching the news lately, though…In many ways, our world gives evidence of how the devil loves to divide and destroy the love and relationships that God intends: we see hatred, and prejudice, and violence among people divided into groups. We experience the hurt, the grief, and the guilt of relationships that are not what they could be or what they should be. But today’s reading from Genesis lays out the ultimate answer to the important question, “Where are you from?” We who confess our faith with the Apostles’ Creed have the answer, don’t we? “I believe in God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth.” 

I wonder how many of us would be surprised to hear of a Gallup poll from just a few years ago where only 38 percent of those surveyed said they believe that God created Adam and Eve as fully human individuals about 10,000 years ago. It might not even surprise you that the survey group was made up entirely of those who claim to be Christians. In one way or another, we have all been exposed to alternate ideas of how the world got here and how long it took. Maybe it was in a science textbook; perhaps it was a teacher or professor at some point in your education; maybe it was a television special or a sign at the zoo. I suppose it could be all of the above, because evolution seems to be the widely accepted explanation for where we came from. Many intelligent people believe in evolution, and if we really listen, we might hear what sure sounds like compelling or even credible evidence for something other than a six-day creation. If the question is what to believe, we can easily wind up confused.

So let’s ask a different question, because the truth is that what we believe will always really be founded upon whom we believe. Maybe an illustration helps. Imagine attending an event at an art gallery, walking around, looking at a painting or a sculpture—looking closely, to examine how a blank canvas became an intricate painting or a chunk of limestone became a sculpture so realistic that it might come to life any moment. Would you ever think of arguing with the artist as to how raw material turned into a work of art, trying to convince him or her how it must have arrived in its finished form? That doesn’t make any sense, does it? Now imagine the foolishness of arguing with the Maker of heaven and earth, trying to convince yourself or someone else that he must not be telling the truth about how we got here, when he was the only one who was there for the whole process and tells us in his Word exactly what he wants us to know and believe. When we say that we believe in God, may it always be true that we believe what God says in his Holy Word.

The beautiful thing is that God gives us an historical account that doesn’t begin our history through a long line of death and random mutations; no, we come directly from him. Adam and Eve were made in the very image of God, not merely as highly advanced animals. Earlier in Genesis 2 God tells how he formed Adam out of dust and then breathed into him the breath of life. Now our verses tell us that Eve was made from and for Adam, as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

What do we see? Individual care, intentional differences, people made for one another. Ever since Adam and Eve, he’s been using people to make more people, but sadly now the biggest difference is that we are born in the image of fallen mankind instead of the image of God. Even so, God the Father still gets the credit for our existence as the giver of all life, as we are reminded in Psalm 139: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. That’s where each of us is from, made with God’s individual care, with our own features, personality, gifts and abilities. Knowing where we came from puts a tremendous value on each human life, from the smallest to the greatest. Remembering where our neighbors came from compels us to treat them with dignity and respect, out of thanks and praise to our creator and preserver, the one who provides for every daily need.

Especially on Father’s Day weekend, though, we rejoice to remember that God our Father is no deadbeat dad. He has not abandoned his most precious creation. Our lives show on a constant basis that we have lost God’s image and carry the curse of sin with us in our corrupted hearts. Every day we are tempted to rebel against our Father, like an ungrateful child might refuse to honor or acknowledge even the most loving parent. It will be the topic of our next several weeks in this series to see how God the Son entered our world and won our redemption, but here today we can appreciate it from the Father’s perspective. 

I suppose at some point we all wonder why….Why would God create our world, knowing that we would fall into sin, and many would be lost? It’s a difficult question, and it might lead some to doubt either God’s wisdom or goodness. I don’t know if we can ever answer it in a way that fully satisfies all of our curiosity, but here’s where he would have us focus. God is a Father who loves us not because we are good, but because he is good. When it comes to explaining his watchful care and his daily provision and protection, Martin Luther uses this explanation: All this God does only because he is my good and merciful Father in Heaven, not because I have earned or deserved it. 

And God’s goodness and mercy are never more clearly seen than in his plan of salvation. Yes, God knew that people would sin. God knew that he would be rejected and rebelled against. God knew that the only way to restore his image would be to give it back to us through the substitution and sacrifice of his eternally begotten Son. God knew all that, and he loved us anyway. He gave us life, and then he called us to be his, and he forgave us all of our sins, and now he works through us in his plan to provide for, care for, and even reach out to the people around us so that they might know him and his love. 

For all who trust in his plan of salvation in Christ alone, he promises an eternity of what he intended for us all along—an existence not marred by sin or interrupted by death, but the full enjoyment of his image in a perfect relationship with Him and with one another. In fact, here’s the way it is described in Peter’s 2nd epistle: But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. He did it once; we trust he can do it again. God, our Father, made the heavens and the earth. He made us, he takes care of us, and he saved us through faith in his Son. Let’s all live our lives in thanks and praise to him, serving and obeying him, knowing that his Word is most certainly true. AMEN.