First Sunday in Lent, March 1, 2020, “Crossing the Boundary,” Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.”  Genesis 3:6 NRSV

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There was just too much traffic on the street where I lived when I was a child.  My parents set a boundary for me to stay in the backyard to play and never – ever – try to cross that busy street.  So I had the freedom to play with Rusty, my Irish Setter, in the backyard, or shoot some baskets or ride my tricycle there, but never open the latch on the gate, walk beyond the boundary of my backyard and try to cross that major thoroughfare.  If I dared to do that, there may be dire consequences – severe injury or even death.

All of us live with boundaries.  Yes, we have tremendous freedom, but there are limits to it.  We have the freedom to obey the civil law for peace and prosperity in the community, but if we break the boundaries of the law, we’ll pay for it.  We have the freedom to love our family, but if we stir up trouble, we’ll lose long-cherished relationships.

“Boundaries – When to Say Yes, How to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life,” was a New York Times Bestseller written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (1992).  They realized that oftentimes Christians and others have a hard time setting boundaries to lead healthy and balanced lives.  They address boundary setting from a psychological  and biblical perspective.  They answer questions such as why do I feel guilty if I say no to someone or when is it appropriate to say yes to a request or how to take better control of our lives.  These authors realize that we have the freedom to set boundaries for our lives and if we don’t do so, our lives will be miserable.

So boundaries are extremely important.  We have the freedom to set them within a Christian perspective and with good mental health practices.  And certainly God has set boundaries for us with the Ten Commandments so that loving God and neighbor we enjoy the peace which He can give.

The story in Genesis 3 about “The Fall” of Adam and Eve is in some respects about boundaries.  Here is what I mean.

Didn’t Adam and Eve have freedom in the Garden of Eden?  Adam was free to till the ground.  Eve was free to be Adam’s partner.  They had the freedom to enjoy walking with God in the Garden and to live in a close, loving relationship with Him.  They were free to eat of the abundance of food in paradise except for the tree in the middle of the Garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  But God set a boundary for Adam and Eve in that Garden and that first couple was never – ever – to cross it.

But in their human freedom, Adam and Eve could choose to obey God or not.  They had the freedom to cross God’s boundary and fall into sin or obey God’s command and live with love and responsibility.

What do you think happened?  They were tempted to be like their Creator.  They were tempted by the crafty serpent to cross God’s boundary and eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  They were tempted by the lies and false promises of the serpent.  Adam and Eve tasted the sweetness of the fruit of that tree, but it left the aftertaste of the dire consequences of sin.

Adam and Eve’s desire for power, their desire to make decisions for themselves without God’s guiding hand, led them to eat the fruit of that tree.  They no longer trusted in God, but fell prey to the deceit and empty promises from the words of the crafty serpent. They abused the freedom God gave them, became irresponsible, and sin took a stronghold in their lives and in this world.

Since St. Augustine in the fifth century, this “fall” of Adam Eve became known as original sin which corrupted all of humanity down through the ages.  It is this corruption of our nature, this original sin, which we struggle with each day.  We are tempted to sin against God, break His commandments, cross the boundary of the freedom He gives us to love Him above all things and to love our neighbors, too.   And in that crossing of God’s boundaries, we fall headlong into the dire consequence of sin – despair, hopelessness, and eternal separation from the most holy, merciful and gracious God.

In that moment of eating, their eyes were “opened” the text reads and Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness.  In that moment when Adam and Eve came to their senses, they remembered God’s boundary of not eating the fruit of that one tree and guilt and shame entered into their lives, into the world, and sadly into your life and mine, too.

But this First Sunday in Lent does not leave us with an Adam and Eve fraught with shame, sin, and guilt.  The Gospel reading from Matthew 4:1-11 is the temptation story of Jesus.

So what happened when the tempter tried to lure Jesus to forget about His identity as God’s Beloved Son sent into this world for our redemption.?

What happened when the tempter promised to give Jesus all the kingdoms of this world if Jesus would only bow down and worship the evil one?

Did Jesus cross the boundary and stop trusting God and begin to trust what was the deceit and empty promises of the tempter?

Three times the tempter attempted to deceive Jesus and have Him step across the boundary set by God and enter into the world of the evil one?  But each time, Jesus resisted.  Each time Jesus quoted Scripture to ward off the false promises which would lead Jesus to forsake His divine mission to save creation, the world, and you and me from  corruption and eternal death, and from lives lost in despair and chaos.

Three times Jesus was tempted and each time Jesus was the Victor.  Jesus did not resist the tempter to show how self-denyingly good He was.  He did not step across the boundary set by God which would make Jesus a false and failed Messiah.  Instead Jesus remained faithful to His Heavenly Father and faithful to His mission so that we as His disciples and members of His body could be raised up each day forgiven and free to love God and our neighbors.

With the coronavirus on the rise and a fear of pandemic, we begin to ponder how fragile and broken our lives can be.  We see the drop in the stock market.  We begin to wonder if our pension plans and IRAs will hold up and make our futures financially secure.  We wonder if the American Dream or health products or manufacturing will be in jeopardy because supply lines may be disrupted for a long time.

We wonder if sin which corrupted the world and human nature and brought on diseases and death can ever be overcome.  We wonder why Adam and Eve who had everything going for them in Garden, disobeyed God, lost their trust in God and crossed the boundary trusting in the false promises spoken by the serpent which led to sin and its dire consequences of hopelessness, brokenness, and corruption of the world, of humanity, and of you and me.

But thanks be to God that He sent His only Beloved Son into this messy world to bring peace and comfort!

Thanks be to God Who sent Jesus to heal, to forgive, to suffer and die and rise again for your salvation and for mine!

Thanks be to God for His Victorious Son who gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we can resist the temptations of the evil one and remain faithful to God!

Thanks be to God Who daily and graciously grants us the gift of the Holy Spirit Who forgives us and raises us up to new life!

Thanks be to God for the Holy Spirit Who aids us in our daily struggles against sin so we can resist crossing the boundaries of God’s commandments and enjoy life in the peace and love of faithful Christian communities!

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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