5 Mar 2017
“The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” (Gen. 2:7) In the name …
Last week NASA released the news that one of its telescopes had discovered the first known planetary system around a single star that looked like our very own planetary system around our very own star. They found seven planets, and out of the seven, three of them are in that Goldilocks zone where there could be liquid water, where it’s neither too hot or too cold, which a lot of scientists call a habitable zone where life is possible. If there is life there, because we’re learning that life is more resilient than we once thought, because life on earth is being found in places we never thought anything could live and survive, but if there is life on any of those three planets, it’s probably not going to be intelligent life. The star that those planets are circling is what is called an “ultra cool dwarf.” This adds a lot of complications that can undermine the chance for life to develop slowly, methodically and over long eons of basically stable time, and all of that is necessary for intelligent life to emerge. And this is also why the very ordinary gift of human life that we may too often take for granted is so very extraordinary, is really so very miraculous.
Today’s Lesson that Karen shared with us is the second creation story told in the Bible. When you have two stories told back to back like in chapters one and two of Genesis, with no attempt to separate or harmonize them, it should be clear that we’re talking about creation-stories and not creation-science. Science is taking a beating nowadays, but a century ago Bp. Hodur was already talking in our young church about the science of creation and that the stories of creation found in the Bible are about giving meaning to the miracle of life not about describing the science of life. And when we listen to the story of Adam’s creation, as we did this morning, we hear a message that our bodies are a part of this world. In the words of Ash Wednesday, “Remember O man, O woman, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” We don’t have to take literally the idea that God scooped up some dirt and formed a man named Adam, a male who is created whole and complete in an instant and who immediately has the gifts we associate with intelligence, but we should hear the Bible’s acceptance that we are intimately a part of this world. This is the biblical basis for why we must care for creation. Creation’s gifts are not for us to use-up at our whim and to then be disposed. We are a part of creation, not it’s lord, that’s God’s privilege, and as a part of creation we have a responsibility to it that is really a responsibility to us.
But the story of human creation doesn’t end with dirt. Adam comes to life with the very breath of God. Breath and spirit are the same ancient word. God’s breath, God’s Spirit becomes our spirit, our soul. This is why our church teaches that our souls come directly from God. Others profess that souls are born like bodies. A child’s body is the product of its mother and father, and they teach souls are no different. Our souls, however, are a gift from God. This is why we don’t speak about original sin, which is the second half of this morning’s Lesson. We can’t inherit sin if we don’t inherit our parents’ souls. Our souls are from God so how could we claim that they are sinful by nature? And if we want to believe that this inherited sin is passed to each generation through our bodies, then we run into the unchristian doctrine that everything physical is evil. This was a heresy the early church condemned, and this is a teaching that denies the whole reality of Jesus’ physical, human nature. So we’re not sinful by nature; we’re sinful by choice, and that’s the bedrock message behind the sin of Eve and Adam. The breath of God is within us, and we have the choice to either be like God or to choose something, anything else that is not God.
And this choice, this temptation, brings us to this morning’s Gospel, the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Just like the story of Adam, we don’t profess that Jesus knew full-well and completely from the moment of Christmas what it meant to be our Saviour or the incarnate Son of God. Some mystical realization culminated at His baptism and Jesus became more aware, and He withdrew into the desert to be alone and to find meaning. Jesus had to deal with the reality of who He was and what He was called to do, and He had to face and resist the temptation to use his power for his own gain. The temptationstory is not about turning stones into bread, jumping from towers or flying to distant mountains. It’s about the kind of ministry Jesus was called to, one where He would preach and live a gospel of peace, where He would test the very limits of the power to love.
And then all of this leads us to the First Sunday of Lent. We, with Jesus, are entering our 40 days in the desert. We, with Jesus, are facing the temptations of using our power, that is our privileges and our prerogatives of choice, for our own benefit alone and not for the greater good of all, and for the good of the generations who will come after us. Life is miracle enough, spiritual life animated by the breath of God, is whatever is even more than miracle. We need to respect the miracle of creation by the way we treat creation especially at a time when that course may not be demanded by the law any longer. We have to also see that which is “more than miracle” in all the people of our world, especially says Jesus, in the weak, the sick, the stranger, the foreigner, the outcast, in other words, the ones who need to be treated as more than miracle more than others who may not need that blessing so desperately.
In the desert Jesus became more acutely aware of who He was and what He had to do. May our 40 days in the desert help us to do the same thing. May we find in Lent both our humanity and also our divinity, and in this way may we be ready to accept the power of the cross which leads to the promise of the resurrection. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo