Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent, March 9, 2014
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Genesis 3:1-21
Sermon Theme: Life Has to Have Boundaries
(Sources: Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 24, Part 2, Series A; Anderson’s Preaching Workbook, Cycle A; original ideas; Emphasis online Illustrations)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
I want to begin by sharing a story with you that is only too human:
A young woman stopped into a coffee shop. When asked if she wanted any fresh Danish pastries with her coffee the woman declined saying that she was on a diet. Taking a seat by the window she noticed the man at the next table was preparing to leave, and lo and behold, when he got up, he left behind one perfectly good untouched donut.
Inside the young woman there was a struggle, and very soon she gave into temptation. She reached over and took the pastry from the table and bit into it just as the man returned carrying his second cup of coffee.
Obviously, she wasn’t strong enough to resist temptation, she gave herself permission to take something that was not her right to give, and her sinful action had consequences – we don’t know what they were, but if nothing else, — embarrassment.
Our rather lengthy sermon text from Genesis 3 this morning contains more messages than we are able to consider in one sermon, so I want to focus on four of them: One, with our frail human nature, we are easily led into temptation; two, all sin has natural consequences; three, you cannot give what you don’t have; and four, life has to have boundaries.
In our sermon text, Eve was easily tempted by the forbidden fruit, just as we are all tempted to want something we’re not supposed to have. So Satan, in the form of a serpent, didn’t have to expend much effort to convince her to take what she wanted. Adam blames his sin on Eve, saying to God, ‘That woman you gave me, she made me do it.’
Perhaps Lent is a good time for all of us to remember the times we’ve been tempted and especially the times when we gave into the temptation. Lent calls us to confession and contrition.
The second message of the text, that sin has its natural consequences, is one most of us older folks have learned from our years of living in this world. Pastor Russell Anderson tells about an experience he had some years ago.
The year that the Berlin Wall was brought down he and his wife took into their home a 17-year old girl from East Germany. She had been raised in an atheistic, totalitarian country and this was her first taste of freedom. It was a little bit like turning loose an alcoholic in a brewery or a child in a chocolate factory.
In her country, there was not much worth buying. Suddenly Geesche was surrounded with an abundance of attractive consumer goods. After about seven months of living with the Andersons, they received a call from the police.
Geesche had been arrested by the police and was sitting in the police station. She had been caught with stolen goods. When Pastor Anderson got there, her eyes were red with shameful tears and she wouldn’t look at him. She had walked out of the discount store with unpaid food. The owner had suspected this previously and was watching her. It turns out she had been doing this all along, her dresser drawers were chock full of stolen merchandise – mostly earrings.
No doubt she rationalized her crime away something like this: Look at all this neat stuff. I’ve been deprived of these things all my life, while these folks here have had an abundance. I deserve these things and so I will just take them.
Well, God forgives you for your sins, but sinning has natural consequences. You have to pay the price of the forbidden fruit. Geesche had been looking forward to taking a three week trip to the west coast with the other foreign exchange students. Instead, she was sent back to Germany in dishonor.
The third message is you can give only what you have, or you can’t give what you don’t have.
In our sermon text, the serpent can give only what he has. The great deceiver cannot increase the number of good and godly gifts the woman and man already have from God, nor can he improve on them. Satan himself has already fallen from grace in his rebellion against God and so forfeited the good and godly gifts that were given to him.
The serpent deceitfully implies that the woman and man can have more, but he leaves them with less. He implies a promise to add value to their lives, while in reality he leaves them to die; he is a liar and murderer. Satan is able to give only what he has. He shares his misery, his death, and his hell.
Adam and Eve can give only what they have. At creation, God had given the woman and the man beautiful gifts to share and pass down to their descendants. Because they were created in His image and likeness, they originally had perfect righteousness, pure holiness, and precious honor. Originally, this was theirs to give.
But by giving in to temptation, they lost those gifts. What the woman and man do have to give is this: the judgment rendered against them, pain in childbirth, the cursed ground, the great struggle of obtaining daily bread. Worse than those things is that everyone since is mortal. No one can escape death. You can only give what you have.
The fourth message, life has to have boundaries, is essential to our survival on this earth, not to mention our preparation for eternity.
Adam and Eve were created from the dust of the earth and then infused with God’s Holy Spirit. They then lived in the Garden of Eden, where they lived in perfect harmony with God, themselves, and the lower creatures. Immediately God sets boundaries, marking out of bounds the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan, the fallen angel, challenges this and lures the human couple to step out of bounds, which they do.
God has to set boundaries. The government has to set boundaries. The National Basketball Association has to set boundaries. Can you imagine the chaos that would result during a basketball game if there were no boundaries?! Can you imagine the chaos and animalistic behavior that would take place if a nation had no boundaries? Instead of being civilized beings, living in civilization, we would be greedy, snarling, and devouring animals living in a jungle.
I don’t have to ask the next question, ‘Can you imagine the chaos and animalistic behavior that would take place if God had no boundaries, or if God’s boundaries were ignored?’ I don’t have to ask that question, because we are living in a post-Christian era in which that is true! It started happening when they took down the first set of the Ten Commandments from the walls of our courthouses and other public buildings.
Why can’t we eat the fruit of that particular tree when it is so delicious? Why can’t I just take those earrings from the store without paying for them, because they are so beautiful and I want them? The serpent wanted Eve to believe that God was unfair in restricting her from eating the fruit of that tree. Creating a road without boundaries paves the way to hell.
To be sure, you can only give what you have. Just as Satan was kicked out of heaven, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Outside the Garden, what they have is what they give. As I said, they pass down to their descendants (that’s us) the judgments rendered against them: pain in childbirth, the cursed ground, the struggle of obtaining daily bread, physical death.
What God has, He gives. Totally righteous, He gives total justice, including punishment and death for our sins. That would be totally bad for you and me if it weren’t for one thing: Totally loving, He gave His Son to die for our sins. Totally gracious, He gives us total forgiveness through His Son Jesus.
Jesus has totally and completely endured the just wrath and condemnation for sin, guilt, and shame. So that’s now erased from our resume; it’s gone! There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. All that is left is forgiveness. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.