The Story of Us
Genesis 2:15-17 and 3:1-7

William S. Epps, Senior Pastor
Sunday, February 26, 2023
15And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Genesis 2:15-17
1Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3but of the fruit of the tree which is in the
midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. Genesis 3:1-7

America: The Story of Us, is an epic 12-hour television event that tells the extraordinary story of how America was invented. With highly realistic CGI animation, dramatic re-creations and thoughtful insights from some of America’s most respected artists, business leaders, academics and intellectuals; it is the first television event in nearly 40 years to present a comprehensive telling of America’s history. Elaborate, ambitious and cinematic, America: The Story of Us will take you into the moments when Americans harnessed technology to advance human progress, from the rigors of linking the continent by transcontinental railroad –the Internet of its day– to triumphing over vertical space through the construction of
steel structured buildings to putting a man on the moon. It is an intensive look at the people, places and things that have shaped our nation, and the tough and thrilling adventure that is America’s 400-year history.
The main emphasis of the Judeo-Christian heritage is that the story of humanity begins with God creating all that is. It is strikingly presented with picturesque language that captures the imagination. God brood over a wide abyss without form and void in darkness and created all that we see: light, firmament, waters in the atmosphere, dry land with waters, grass with herb bearing seed to replenish itself with fruit. 

The passage which focuses our attention today shares the story of humanity. I like to describe it this way: God brooded over a wide abyss of nothingness and called a moratorium on nothing and declared that something would be the order of the day. God spoke the world into existence. Then God, in creating humanity, put something celestial in clay, a little deity in dust and something majestic in mud and stood it up to a perpendicular on the square and breathed into its nostrils and humanity became living souls, made in God’s image and fashioned in God’s likeness. 
Consider what it means that the opening pages of scripture
about humanity depicts the reality about each of us.  
Monday, February 27, 2023
Genesis shares the Jewish faith tradition’s belief about how things began and subsequently evolved. All the action verbs used about the activity of God indicate that God is a self-starter. God formed, God breathed, God made, God placed, God took, God commanded. God is definitive in creativity. In their attempt to address the nature of relationships with God and one another, the connection to the physical world in which they lived and make sense of life in general, they paint a picture of God making life good. This was in juxtaposition to the other cosmologies - particularly the Babylonian cosmology. As they explained, if it all started so good, what happened? That is where the personal and communal application comes about interpreting the reality with which we all live.  
This passage contains a one of a kind story that depicts the story of humanity generally and individuals particularly. It is not a story about Adam and Eve, it is a story about you and me. What we find in this story accurately depicts the story of our lives. It is a story about us.

Consider what it means that what is described is the story of us as
human beings; what we do, how we act and the decisions we make.  
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
The first thing about the story is a depiction about managing our reality

We operate within the limits of self-imposed restraints and function within the boundaries of self-imposed limits. God has given all that we need to live. We are given the responsibility to take care of what’s been given to us. If we take care of what we have been given appropriately, within the boundaries and limits that are set, what we have been given will take care of us. If we do not take care of what we've been given, then we bring harm to ourselves. 
God made humanity and placed them in a garden providing all they would need to maintain and sustain their lives. “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27. They received the privilege of life and the permission in life to live freely with what was given. However, there was a prohibition that accompanied the privilege and permission. The prohibition established boundaries and set limits. Establishing boundaries and setting limits are therefore our protection. Imagine, every tree was available except one. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What was withheld was minimum compared to what was available. In all relationships there are regulations, restrictions and rules that sustain the relationship.   

Bear in mind what this passage prohibits is there for your protection. In this instance, what was withheld as a prohibition was knowledge being had inadequately, inappropriately and insufficiently without proper ethical and moral grounding with integrity. Parents understand this so well - the prohibitions and restrictions that they impose on their children to shepherd them through the different stages of their growth and development to hopefully mature adulthood. Too often the consequences of choices are not considered depending on the level of maturity that a person achieves. Unfortunately, maturity is not necessarily something that comes with age, nor is ethical and moral behavior with integrity. We pass from infancy through childhood with its phases, from adolescence to adulthood and on to mature adulthood, sometimes without “growing in wisdom and statue with God and man,”
as it was said of Jesus (Luke 2:52). There is a sense in which growing awareness about wisdom and understanding takes longer than we are willing to admit.

Consider what it means that we create our own problems
with the choices we make, whether we are compliant,
complicit, contentious or culpable.
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
The second aspect of the text is about discerning who and what is trustworthy.  

There are a cacophony of voices vying for your attention, confidence and trust. 
How do you determine what you believe? Whose words do you believe and trust? How do you determine truth from falsehood, fake from real, right from wrong, principle from prejudice, morality from immorality? I repeat what I shared before, “There is a lot of reality out there that requires our evaluation; a bewildering assortment of values from which to choose, an obstacle course to manage, a sizeable amount of chaos on which to impose order, and a network of systems that calls for resistance or compliance. We have to do this evaluating, choosing, managing, ordering, resisting and complying with a self that is housed in a vulnerable body - a heartbeat away from death - all within a span of time at its longest is all too short.” (G. Ernest Campbell)
Notice the tempter (the serpent) is cunning and crafty. Said another way, the tempter is distractive, devious and deceptive. The tempter engages you in a conversation about what you were told. The tempter has not given you anything, nor provided any directions for you. All the tempter is doing is distracting you in dialogue in order to deceive you about the deceptive trap that is being set for you. 
Life is about discerning what and who is trustworthy. I believe that the Bible is the inspired word that chronicles the story of our lives with information from a higher source, conversation of a purer source, insights from an authentic source and inspiration of a compelling source. I guess we all have to determine what ethical barometer shapes our morals as we filter through the interpretive lens of our understanding of what is trustworthy.   

The tempter leads you to doubt what you know to be true and contradicts what you were told, indicating that you are believing in falsehoods instead of truth. 
Be cautious when someone who has not provided what you have been given wants to question what you have been told about managing it. 

I guess peer group influence would be an illustration of this reality, or being caught up in mob mentality. How easily can people be distracted and deluded with conversation that is being deliberately designed to create doubt! While peer pressure can be positive, it can also be negative. However, mob mentality creates its own emotional involvement carrying people on a wave to calamity and destruction. Being a moral person in an immoral society requires discernment, trust and wisdom. 
The tempter not only creates doubt, but contradicts what you know you have been told. Doubt precedes contradiction to create the trap that is a precursor to disobedience and rebellion of what you believe about God. You have a choice to make to believe God or let the doubt and contradiction of the tempter lead you to try what the tempter suggests. That is what happens with negative peer pressure as well as mob mentality. 
Again, parents are well aware of this reality when their children’s friends introduce them to alternative patterns of behavior that threaten to drive a wedge between them. Friends have experienced this reality also. The only concern that remains is, “who are you going to trust?”
Whatever this passage conveys, what is unequivocally clear is that we choose to listen to the voices that sometimes lead us away from the directives the Lord has given us about managing our reality. Abusive management, complicit management, negligent management and poor management result from listening to the voices that tempt you to doubt what you know you have been told that is true. 
Notice the truth of what happens when we renege on our responsibility and violate the restrictions that are for our protection, our eyes are opened and we see our nakedness, our bare exposure to what we want to hide about ourselves. The possibility of the worst about us gets exposed. We try to hide only to realize what we choose to do to hide only adds to the discomfort as a reminder that we will have to live with being anxious, insecure and uncomfortable. 
Consider what it means that when you renege on your responsibilities
you then expose what you want to hide about yourself.  
Thursday, March 2, 2023
The current state of affairs in our nation and world reminds us that hiding what we don’t want to be seen, has a devastating result. We hide that for which we are ashamed and live in denial about the reality about the choices we have made that create consequences that add to the confusion, chaos, calamity with which we live. 
Life with God leads to faith, confidence, harmony and peace. Life without God or in rebellion to God or distrust of God, creates calamity, chaos, confusion and controversy, leading to choices that perpetuate what we want to avoid. The Lord recognizes that we are ashamed, and we cover ourselves with what only adds to our discomfort. So the Lord comes to us and provides what covers our shame and soothes our pain. We get beyond what we have lost to receive what we need to gain as a result of what has been drained. The Lord covered them with animal skins which means that the Lord had to shed the blood of the animal to get the skins which would cover their exposure and be more comfortable than fig leaves. 
Imagine that the Lord has to sacrifice life in order to redeem, restore, and reclaim those who renege on their responsibilities and violate the restrictions of maintaining a relationship of mutual reciprocity and respect. The Judeo-Christian heritage sees this as foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ as our sacrificial lamb to atone for our insensitivity, misgivings, negligence, selfishness, and sins.  
Consider what it means that the Lord has to make a sacrifice to cover what
we want to hide about ourselves that disgraces us and dishonors the Lord. 
Friday, March 3, 2023
The third aspect is the promise of God’s protection

Built into the fabric of life is protection. Built into the fabric of the universe is protection. Even when we are unfaithful and violate the restrictions, even when we breach the boundary of the limits that have been set, God remains faithful by providing the necessary protection required to cover our disgrace and shame. 
The first thing the Lord does is cover you with what you need by sacrificing what can amend the discomfort you experience because of your deed. 
Then the Lord drives you from where you are to where you have to go as you continue to have the responsibility to make of your life what God intended, as you fulfill your potential.  
He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24
We as Christians believe that Jesus is the answer to restoring our right to the tree of life. What we lose due to us reneging on our responsibility to manage what we have been given; what we lose when we violate the prohibitions; what we lose when we breach the restrictions. God restores another opportunity for what we have lost to be restored in Jesus Christ.  
We gather week after week to remind ourselves of what we lost by reneging on our responsibility to faithfully manage what we have been given. We are reminded that God's love covers our anxiety, discomfort, and fear of being seen for who we really are. The life of Christ reignites the image of Dei (the image of God in you). We gather to thank God for restoring what we lost.
Consider what it means that the Lord does what is necessary to cover
you with what you need by sacrificing what can amend the
discomfort you experience because of your deed/s.
Saturday, March 4, 2023
God in Christ came to us to show us what God is like and the capacity we have to become what it means to be made in God’s image and after God likeness. Christ showed us what it means to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. 
I heard an old, old story, / How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me; / I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood's atoning,
Then I repented of my sins / And won the victory. 
I heard about His healing, / Of His cleansing pow'r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see; / And then I cried, "Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,"
And somehow Jesus came and bro't / To me the victory
O victory in Jesus, / My Savior, forever. / He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood; / He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory, / Beneath the cleansing flood. 

Consider what it means that God in Christ came to provide what we
needed to get us back on track to become more as God intended for
us to be as creatures made in God’s image and fashioned in God’s likeness.  
2412 Griffith Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90011 
Phone: (213) 748-0318