February 19, 2013

Lenten Journey: Original Sin

Wretched man that I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! 
- Romans 7:24-25

For Reflection...

Once upon a time God created human beings.  I don't know how God did it.  Evolution seems indisputable, but God can create however God wants.  In any event, self-consciousness arose in the fullness of time according to a plan in the eternal mind of God, and there was adam, which in Hebrew is human.  
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
- Genesis 1:27
Created in the very image of God.  It is no wonder that God declares them not just good but "very good" (Genesis 1:31).

What does it mean that we are created in God's good image?  Here's what I think:  The Son of God always was, and we are made like him.  He becomes "like us" (cf. Hebrews 4:15) only in that we were made in his image.  What separates us from him is what we call sin.

How have we fallen so far?  Yesterday we took up our courage and began to look at our own sin, but the Christian story teaches us that my personal sin is only a latter chapter in the story of humanity's collective sin.   Even if we move past the idea of self-help to a recognition of our dependence upon God, we often understand God's plan for our salvation to be about God and me alone, my personal relationship, as we say. While it is true that my relationship with God matters -- and we'll get there -- if we're to understand what any of this has to do with Jesus, we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

If we're to see the creation stories in Genesis as in any sense True, we must give credence to humankind's place at the pinnacle of the created order.  We humans, out of all creation, are God's elect.  That doesn't mean we're better than rocks or trees or cows or stars or angels.  It means we were given a particular role to play.  We were given the task to be the stewards of the rest of creation (Genesis 1:26).  We humans are the intermediaries between God and everything God has created.  We humans are meant to bridge the gap.

But something went wrong on our end.  There are many, many interpretations of Genesis 3, where the first man and first woman, enticed by the serpent, succumb to temptation and eat the forbidden fruit.  What does this allegory signify?  In earlier times, it was seen as some sort of sexual sin.  Looking at the text, we might wonder if their original sin is disobedience? Or is it ingratitude, as suggested in something I recently read?  Or, as I am inclined to believe, is it the most basic form of idolatry, wherein I eschew the idea of any god other than my own self will and confuse my true dependence for a false freedom?

What is certain is that there is a rupture in the relationship between humans and our Creator God.  We, who were supposed to hold the space between the Creator and creation walked away to do our own thing.  Faced with temptation, we acquiesced, leaving creation to be overrun by the "powers and principalities" (Ephesians 6:12).

We know it's true.  All we have to do is read the morning news.  It is not just our own souls that are broken; it is the whole world, from the most intimate human relationships to nature itself.  Things are not as they should be.  But God never intended to leave it that way.

For Entering In...

Spend a few moments in the quiet becoming present to yourself.  Notice how it feels to be in your body to be here, now.

Invite God to be present with you.  Notice what it feels like to be in God's presence.

Reflect on these questions:
  • What does it mean to you that humans are created "in the image of God"?
  • How do you understand human beings in relationship to the rest of creation?  What do you think it means that God made humans to be the stewards of creation?
  • What have you learned or thought about "original sin"?  What, if anything, do you believe it has to do with you and your personal relationship to God?
  • What do you think is meant by "powers and principalities"?  What powers do you see acting for ill in the world today?
  • If it is true that all of creation is broken by sin, what do you see as the most egregious manifestations of that brokenness?  In what circumstances does your heart most cry out for God to act in healing and saving ways?  Write these down.  They will be important later, when we reflect more on how each of us is called into mission in God's kingdom.

- As you complete today's reflection, take a moment to consider your own personal failings.  Can you confess them to God and receive the forgiveness that God is holding out to you even now?

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