The scriptures selected for this day are evocative, powerful, and intense; they are all based on one theme - Satan tempted Adam & Eve, and Jesus. Adam & Eve yielded their will to the tempter, and Jesus submitted his will to God. The Creation story is shrouded in many questions the text doesn't address - yet there is a message for us.
In the Epistle to the Romans, Apostle Paul eloquently recounts the theology of this redemption story like no other. 'Human sin,' he explains, 'spread universally like an epidemic;' - 'all die through Adam's trespass,' and 'through Jesus, the remedy runs like a medicine to all who take it.' The story is sympathetic, yet there is hope and grace even in the tragedy.
Most people take the Creation Story at face value. The story sounds like a Sci-Fi movie script, and more so as we try to narrate the story to children or if they tell their versions using legendary stories they know. Indeed, several 'bodies of stories' of mythological legends from different cultures exist. And, like the 'Fall and Redemption' story, the hero or heroine rescues the victims from the 'bad guy.' In C.S. Lewis' book, 'The Siler Chair,' the evil witch appears as a beautiful lady. 'Her voice is of an angel; her charm disarms; her words soothe. She weaves an entrapment around her victims, and they are defeated. Her rage reveals her true form as [she] seeks to crush her victims.'
Unlike the mythological stories, we still are part of the Genesis story; Adam and Eve are defeated - they are afraid, hide from God, and blame others. From here on, childbearing becomes painful, and a woman's relationship with her husband will always be a struggle. God curses the ground so that only with great toil and sweat do we pry from it the very food we must have to survive. And then we age, our bodies rot and return to the mud from which we're formed. Yuck!
It is not that the Creation story is believable – that's not the issue here. The story is credible because it describes us and tells the truth about humanity. In our unique ways, we are a mirror image of Adam and Eve. We are forced to decide what to do with something that looks good, seems perfect, tastes excellent, and is popular. All the wrong things we love (or, to put it bluntly) – all the sins we intentionally or unintentionally choose are in those categories.
Still, as we have learned from Adam and Eve's story, there are consequences to the choices we make. They were well aware of the effects of their choices, but they put God to the test, and nothing else worked after that. As sad as are the physical consequences of sin, the spiritual reality is far more frightening. We are naturally sinful – we cannot exempt ourselves because of our weaknesses.
In the gospel, Matthew tells us that Satan came to Jesus at his weakest point when he had fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. Satan did not appear in his true form – not as a pretty snake or a creature with horns. Satan never appears in his true form. His craftiness means he disguises himself using good and bad things to tempt us to rebel against God and destroy ourselves. Satan lies and deceives, and his power is far greater than we hope to resist. That's why we cannot redeem ourselves. We need a Savior who stands between God and us.
So, the message in these two stories is to warn us; we must stay alert, be more assertive, and develop spiritual habits – just as Jesus applied in his case. Over time, we have come to trust that Lent is an excellent opportunity to exercise some of our spiritual habits. At the same time, we must be careful of thinking we can fast for forty days and use what we have developed spiritually to escape our situations temporarily. That will miss the point of spiritual growth and make us forget or misunderstand spirituality.
As we celebrate the Holy Communion, we will come to the altar together to celebrate the victory Jesus won by doing the will of the Father – by dying on our behalf. We will feed on the bread and wine with thanksgiving in remembrance of Christ's death and resurrection to cover our sins and to live under grace. The biggest threat is facing our readiness. AMEN!