Archive for the ‘Genesis 3’ Tag

Devotion for the First Sunday After the Epiphany (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise, by Marc Chagall

Use of Image Permissible According to Fair Use

Our Common Life

JANUARY7, 2024


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24

Isaiah 4:2-6

Acts 15:22-35

John 3:22-30


The reading from Genesis 3 always prompts me to ask what is wrong with being able to discern between good and evil.  I tend to argue with the story.  I also recognize an opposite vision in Isaiah 4:  the return from exile.

The Bible opens with God creating the world and people messing it up.  The sacred anthology concludes with God restoring the world.  Genesis and Revelation are the best possible bookends for the Bible, which contains stories about the relationship between God and mere mortals.  We should learn, among other lessons, to obey certain ethical teachings, to rely on God completely, to love each other as we love ourselves, and to emphasize God, not ourselves.  We, as Christians, must say with St. John the Evangelist,

He must increase

while I must decrease.

–Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (I-XII) (1966), page 150

When we seek to glorify ourselves, we set out on a fool’s errand.  Yet the world praises such men and women.  Often these individuals build themselves up at the expense of others, according to the ethic of the old economic theory of mercantilism, according to which there is a finite supply of wealth, hence more for one means less for others.  In contrast we consider Jesus, who humbled and sacrificed himself.  He was a failure, according to worldly standards of success.  Yet we know him to have been successful, do we not?  So much for worldly standards!

May we increase in love for God and each other and in our understanding of our complete reliance on God and our interdependence.  As The Book of Common Prayer (1979) reminds us:

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live:  Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Page 134










Week of 5 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 1   6 comments

Above:  Eucharistic Host with Wafers

Image Source = Patnac

The Bread of Life

FEBRUARY 11, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Genesis 3:9-24 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH God called the human and said to him,

Where are you?

And he said,

I heard the sound of you in the garden and was afraid because I was naked, and I hid?

And He said,

Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?

And the human said,

The woman, whom you placed with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.

And YHWH God said to the woman,

What is this that you’ve done?

And the woman said,

The snake tricked me, and I ate.

And YHWH God said to the snake,

Because you did this, you are cursed out of every domestic animal and every animal of the field, you’ll go on your belly, and you’ll eat dust all the days of your life.  And I’ll put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed.  He’ll strike you at the head, and you’ll strike him at the heel.

To the woman He said,

I’ll make your suffering and your labor pain great.  You’ll have children in pain.  And your desire will be for your man, and he’ll dominate you.

And to the human He said,

Because you listened to your woman’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you saying, ‘You shall not eat from it,” the ground is cursed on your account.  You’ll eat from it with suffering all the days of your life.  And it will grow thorn and thistle at you, and you’ll eat the field’s vegetation.  By the sweat of your nostrils you’ll eat bread until you go back to the ground, because you were taken from it; because you are dust and you’ll go back to dust.

And the human called his woman “Eve,” because she was the mother of all living.

And YHWH God made skin garments for the human and his woman and dressed them.

And YHWH God said,

Here, the human has become like one of us, to know good and bad.  And now, in case he’ll put out his hand and take from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever.

And YHWH God put him out of the garden of Eden, to work the ground from which he was taken.  And He expelled the human, and He had the cherubs and the flame of a revolving sword reside at the east of the garden of Eden to watch over the way to the tree of life.

Psalm 90:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

2 Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3 You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

6 In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

7 For we consume away in your displeasure;

we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.

8 Our iniquities you have set before you,

and our secret sins in the sight of your countenance.

9 When you are angry, all our days are gone;

we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

10 The span of our life is seventy years,

perhaps in strength even eighty;

yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,

for they pass away quickly and we are gone.

11 Who regards the power of your wrath?

who rightly fears your indignation?

12 So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

Mark 8:1-10 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

About this time it happened again that a large crowd collected and had nothing to eat.  Jesus called the disciples over to him and said,

My heart goes out to this crowd; they have been with me three days now and they have no food left.  If I send them off home without anything, they will collapse on the way–and some of them have come from a distance.

His disciples replied,

Where could anyone find the food to feed them here in this deserted spot?

Jesus asked them,

How many loaves have you got?

They replied,


So Jesus told the crowd to settle themselves on the ground.  Then he took the seven loaves into his hands, and with a prayer of thanksgiving broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people; and this they did.  They had a few small fish as well, and after blessing them, Jesus told his disciples to give these also to the people.  They ate and they were satisfied.  Moreover, they picked up seven baskets of full pieces left over.  The people numbered about four thousand.  Jesus sent them home, and then he boarded the boat at once with the disciples and went on to the district of Dalmanutha.


The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


This seems like a good time to quote Calvinist theology.  There are three covenants in Calvinism.  The first is the Covenant of Redemption, in which the members of the Holy Trinity agreed to redeem human beings.  Then there is the Covenant of Works, which is of pre-Fall origin.  The formulation is simple:  obey God and live (spiritually and physically); disobey God and die (spiritually and physically).   Grace did mitigate the penalty, as in today’s reading from Genesis.  Sin being universal after the Fall, a third covenant, one of grace, became necessary.  Since we are incapable of fulfilling the terms of the Covenant of Works, life and death are spiritual, not physical.  Jesus fulfills the terms of the Covenant of Works.  (Thanks to R. C. Sproul for his summary of the covenants in What is Reformed Theology?  Understanding the Basics, Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 1997)

That aspect of Calvinism provides a useful prism for interpreting the readings for today.  Grace was present simultaneously with judgment; God expelled the mythical Adam and Eve from paradise and denied them immortality, yet protected them from immediate death.  The myth communicates a profound truth:  Although we cannot evade all consequences of our actions, often we do not receive all that we deserve.  This is grace.

Speaking of grace, we arrive next at the Feeding of the Four Thousand.  I do not care about engaging in the argument about whether this is a retelling of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (men) plus an uncertain number of women and children.  No, I have a different priority.  Read with me:  Jesus had compassion on the people, some of whom had a long trek back home.  Literally, as J. B. Phillips translated the text, his heart went out to them.  So he fed them.  His grace was abundant, to overflowing:  seven large baskets (hampers, really) full of leftovers.

This story is a foretaste of the Holy Eucharist, one of my favorite activities.  I am so attached to it that I seek to partake of it at least once a week, usually more often.  Jesus is the bread of life–spiritual life.  He is present (really present) in this sacrament.  So, each week, as I pray the Hail Mary silently and partake of bread (and often wine, too), I take my Lord into myself.  If I am what I eat (an apt expression in this context), I become holier for this simple act.  And my spiritual life deepens.  The body will die, but something of myself will continue.  May it do so in the presence of God.  That is called eternity in the afterlife.  May you do likewise.

That will be grace, for all of us.




Words by Sister Suzanne Toolan, R.S.M.

As published in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), hymnal and worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

1.  “I am the bread of life.

You who come to me shall not hunger,

and who believe in me shall not thirst.

No one can come to me unless the Father beckons.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

2.  “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world,

and if you eat of this bread,

you shall live forever,

you shall live forever.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

3.  “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man

and drink of his blood,

and drink of his blood,

you shall not have life within you.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

4.  “I am the resurrection,

I am the life.

If you believe in me,

even though you die,

you shall life forever.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

5.  Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ,

the Son of God,

who has come into the world.

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

Week of 5 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  A Fig Tree

Image Source = Fir0002

Returning the Beauty of God to Earth

FEBRUARY 10, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Genesis 3:1-8 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And the snake was slier than every animal of the field that YHWH God had made, and he said to the woman,

Has God indeed said you may not eat from any tree of the garden?

And the woman said to the snake,

We may eat from the fruit of the trees of the garden.  But from the fruit of the tree that is within the garden God has said, “You shall not eat from it, and you shall not touch it, or else you’ll die.”

And the snake said to the woman,

You won’t die!”  Because God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you’ll be like God–knowing good and bad.

And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and that it was an attraction to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to bring about understanding, and she took some of its fruit, and she ate, and gave to her man with her as well, and he ate.  And the eyes of the two of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  And they picked fig leaves and made loincloths for themselves.

And they heard the sound of YHWH God walking in the garden and the wind of the day, and the human and his woman hid from YHWH God among the garden’s trees.

Psalm 32:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,

and whose sin is put away!

2 Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,

because of my groaning all day long.

4 For your hand was upon me day and night;

my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

6 I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

7 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble;

when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

8 You are my hiding-place;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

Mark 7:31-37 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Once more Jesus left the neighbourhood of Tyre and passed through Sidon towards the Lake of Galilee, and crossed the Ten Towns territory.  They brought to him a man who was deaf and unable to speak intelligibly, and they implored him to put his hand upon him.  Jesus took him away from the crowd by himself. He put his fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with his saliva.  Then, looking up to Heaven, he gave a deep  sigh and said to him in Aramaic,


And his ears were opened and immediately whatever had tied his tongue came loose and he spoke quite plainly.  Jesus gave instructions that they should tell no one about this happening, but the more he told them, the more they broadcast the news.  People were absolutely amazed, and kept saying,

How wonderfully he has done everything!  He even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.


The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Sin spoils creation.  The reading from Genesis describes the original sin, which is hubris, in mythological terms.  There is nothing wrong with knowing the difference between good and evil, but there is plenty wrong with seeking, on our own power, to be like God.  We are not God, and nothing will change that fact.  And we cannot hide from God, either, no matter how much we try.

I feel the need to make a few other comments about Genesis 3:1-8:

  1. The snake is just a snake.  It plays the role of the mythological trickster (such as Loki or Coyote), whose function is to introduce chaos into the established order and to challenge conventional rules of behavior.  Some tricksters are openly villainous, where as others are morally ambiguous.
  2. Later Christian tradition associates the snake with Satan.  This is not a Jewish understanding, and Genesis is a Jewish text.  By the way, the theology of Satan evolves throughout the Jewish Bible, so that the Satan (“the Adversary”) begins by working for God (as in Judges and Job) and ends by opposing God (post-Exilic period).  And, by the end of the First Century C.E., the Revelation to John tells the story of the Satan in such a way as to ignore the part about “the Adversary” ever working for God.  This seems like a good time for me state plainly that, due to my knowledge of the history of theology of the nature of Satan, I cannot and do not believe in the existence of Satan, or personalized evil.  (Call me a heretic if you please; I will take it as high praise.)
  3. Talmudic tradition states that the fruit Adam and Eve ate was the fig.  The choice of fig leaves to cover selected nakedness becomes ironic in that understanding of the story.

The story of Jesus continues in the Markan Gospel.  When last we read about Jesus in Mark, he was in Tyre, a city the Phoenicians had founded on the Mediterranean coast.  He was surrounded by Gentiles.  When we resume the story where we left off, we read that our Lord and Savior takes the scenic route to the Decapolis, a region with ten cities and many Gentiles, as well as a fair number of Jews.  Jesus is still surrounded by Gentiles.

There Jesus meets a deaf man with a speech impediment.  Of course the man has a speech impediment; he is deaf.  We humans learn to speak by listening to others.  Local superstition holds that spittle has curative powers, so Jesus uses what the man and his believe and puts a good shamanic show for everyone.  The power of the healing is not present in the show, however.  The Gospel of Mark tells of Jesus healing people with various conditions with a word, and even doing this in absentia.  Yet the shamanic show serves a purpose; Jesus is meeting the deaf man and his neighbors where they are.  He demonstrates respect and compassion for them in this way.  Our Lord and Savior sees a man who needs his help; he does not see a medical case.

Jesus tries to keep his Messianic secret, as he does elsewhere in the Markan Gospel.  But, as elsewhere in Mark, people talk anyway.  They say that he does all things well.

What, you ask, is the connective tissue between Genesis and Mark?  Funny you should ask.  William Barclay provides that connective tissue in his Daily Study Bible volume on the Gospel of Mark:

When Jesus came, bringing healing to men’s bodies and salvation to their souls, he had begun the work of creation all over again.  In the beginning everything has been good; man’s sin had spoiled it all; and now Jesus was bringing back the beauty of God to the world which man’s sin had rendered ugly.  (page 182)

We ought not get too big for our britches, a metaphor which fails to apply to Adam and Eve.  But God, in the form of Jesus, meets us where we are and in our own cultural context.  And, if we are willing to recognize who (and what) we are and who (and what) Jesus is, he can work with us to make us who (and what) we are supposed to become.  This might not be what we want to become, but God knows better than we do.   Details will vary according to each person, but the principle is constant:  Empowered by God, we are called to help communicate the beauty of God to a world sin has rendered ugly.




Words by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

As printed in The Methodist Hymnal (1965), of The Methodist Church:

1.  O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise,

The glories of my God and King,

The triumphs of his grace!

2.  My gracious Master and My God,

Assist me to proclaim,

To spread thro’ all the earth abroad

The honors of thy name.

3.  Jesus!  the name that charms our fears,

That bids our sorrows cease,

‘Tis music in the sinners’ ears,

‘Tis life, and health, and peace.

4.  He breaks the power of canceled,

He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean;

His blood availed for me.

5.  He speaks, and listening to his voice,

New life the dead receive;

The mournful, broken hearts rejoice;

The humble poor, believe.

6.  Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,

Your loosened tongues employ;

Ye blind, behold your Savior come;

And leap, ye lame, for joy.