Our reading from the Hebrew Scriptures this coming week is from Genesis. Set in the Garden of Eden (paradise), it captures so perfectly the contrariness of human nature. The writer has a vision of the creation in which the Creator of all things walks in the garden alongside everything that has been made. Everything exists in perfect harmony, until we are rudely reminded that this is the occasion on which the man and woman have to “own” their disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Lord God begins with a question. “Where are you?”, only to be informed that his beloved man and woman are hiding, ashamed of their nakedness. Shame has overlaid innocence and the human story as we know it has begun. Suddenly lies, deceit, mutual animosity and, later, murder in all its forms are entwined in human existence.
Living today, as we do, in turbulent and disturbing times, we can give thanks for being called into community and commitment to the common good. Worshiping together, reaching out to friend and stranger, and stumbling along by the grace of God become the means through which we can affirm the dignity of every human being and our own belovedness in God.
While Jesus never promised it would be easy (and it most certainly isn’t) he did understand that
hiding from each other and from God was dangerous
. Instead, he positions us in community so we might learn to love and, in that learning, come to be wondrously human in ways we cannot ask or imagine for ourselves. Despite the struggle, the labor, the constant challenge of finding ourselves joined in baptism by those God has placed in our lives, it is precisely through that experience that we are able to glimpse something of the kingdom of heaven of which Jesus speaks.
We may not be able to name it or describe it with any accuracy, but deep down we recognize those moments when we are grateful to belong to this community of faith: a community that invites us to grow and is there when we fall; a community that sometimes fails but keeps on moving forward; a community graced by the love of God. Just occasionally, we may hear “the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze.”
And, this time, we may remember not to hide.
The Rev. Susan N. Eaves