There are times when I question something that seems to be so disjointed at the beginning, can in some way coalesce into something that makes sense. This was the way I was feeling when I read the lessons appointed for today.
Here we find Adam hiding from God because he was naked and so was Eve each blaming the other. The serpent tricked Eve into eating fruit from the forbidden tree, (which we know as the tree of Knowledge), and her eyes were opened to the world. Eve then decided to share her discovery with Adam. I can almost hear the “he said, she said,” conversation. When God found this out he was so livid with Adam and Eve, including the serpent, because they sinned, they broke their relationship and trust with God. They stopped trusting in what God provided and only focused on what they could not have. What we sometimes forget is that Satan was once an angel who rebelled against God, and was kicked out of heaven. Satan does exist to disrupt all that God has made, in order to tempt us and cause us to sin; he will never win this battle. He wants to come in and rule our life by trying to become like God, knowing both good and evil. Sin makes us focus on what we cannot have instead of looking at what we have. As human beings, we have a difficult time accepting the provisions God has given us, and we yearn for what we don’t have. God provided everything for Adam and Eve except for becoming like him. However, God never gave up on Adam and Eve, instead of living in a totally sin free world they now had to suffer the consequences of their actions.
God had a reason for them not to eat from the tree of knowledge, in today’s world it would be called information overload, more information than we can handle or even use. Was God protecting them from having their eyes opened too soon, if ever? What happened to Adam and Eve was their ability to relate to each other in their sin, but not to God. Instead because of their disobedience, they felt shame over what they looked like and guilt. They did not physically die, but were cursed and banned from the Garden of Eden, and from God’s presence. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in God’s creation before Adam and Eve sinned; and not worry about anything? Instead of being blessed in God’s presence they brought God’s curse on themselves, and to anyone coming after them. Their and our relationship with God was now broken beyond repair. This is where the doctrine of original sin comes from, and from this, our initiation through the sacrament of Baptism into God’s Kingdom. We are the inheritors’ of this sin, yet through Baptism, we renounce Satan and all his spiritual forces, powers, and desires that destroy and corrupt all God’s people. We are given the opportunity to return to God in Jesus Christ and begin this relationship anew with God again, accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. Through our study of Scripture, we know how God saved us through his love and forgiveness of our sin. It is through God’s love for us that he wants to restore all of humanity and all of his creation, leading to that final day when we can experience his presence forever.
As I thought about the collect and lessons for today, I kept thinking about the phrase “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” Here we are being called upon to do what is right under God’s guidance. Even with God’s guidance and trust Adam and Eve sinned and broke their relationship with him. It takes strength to resist sin, even under extreme pressure. The serpent took advantage of God’s trust bringing evil into the world. AW Tozer states: ‘God answers our prayers not because we are good but because he is good.” God is good because he is God and there is no other like him.
How do we go about thinking God’s thoughts after him?
In the lesson from Second Corinthians today Paul reminds us that our bodies are only temporary and will soon die, it is our inner nature, our soul, which lives on, and is being renewed daily. And part of that is learning to discern God’s way of living from the way the world wants us to live.
Paul reminds us that our thoughts should be based on the foundation of Scripture rather than the world’s opinion.
Sinclair Ferguson, a reformed theologian, reminds us that when we face decisions we are to think scripturally. What have we heard, what have we learned from studying God’s Word in our life. It’s not right from wrong, but what is the best decision based on God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness, not being judgmental, but showing God’s grace in all things.
Discernment stems not from only thinking God’s thoughts after him but having a kind of sixth sense to be able to distinguish if we are being guided by God or other voices, separating what is the good, the better, and the best. Our search committee is in the process of doing just this. Which candidate is the better or best choice to become our new rector? Which candidate comes with gifts, talents, skills to lead us forward in ministry?
It is through this sixth sense by which spiritual discernment takes place. The Scriptures, the Psalms, all speak to us of discerning what to do and what to avoid. Psalm 86 from the Good News Translation says: “Teach me, LORD, what you want me to do, and I will obey you faithfully; teach me to serve you with complete devotion.” Speaking God’s thoughts after him is to nourish our own sixth sense. It is through nourishing our relationship with God on a daily basis in which this takes place, and through this, we are able to make better decisions.
Even in our Gospel reading for today, Jesus is being accused of being demon possessed. The teachers and leaders of the religious law used this argument to detract the people from following Jesus, so by denying the miracles of Jesus, they would not have to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus warns them that they cannot believe in God and deny him at the same time; we cannot serve God and man at the same time in two separate kingdoms, and as we all know, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” You see we have a relationship with Jesus in both places. When we are baptized we become part of the Kingdom of God with one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom. Our time on earth is temporary our time in heaven is for all eternity. It is through serving God that we serve each other.
How do we go about doing this? William Phillips in his book Why we Pray gives us some perspective about speaking God’s thoughts after him. He explains how prayer gives us insight into God’s thoughts. And through prayer, we know God hears us, and in turn, God speaks to us. Throughout Scripture, God spoke directly to the Israelites, through his prophets, apostles, and miracles. Today God speaks to us through his Holy Spirit and through his Word. Because we are created in his image God yearns for us to have a relationship with him. God brought us into this world to have this connection with him. No wonder God was so distraught when he found out Adam and Eve broke their bond with him and his trust in them. We have a relationship with a living God, Jesus both human and divine, whom we can be in communion with at all times.
We pray to God because he is the one and only living God, he is sovereign over all of us; one who hears us our deepest needs, desires, and concerns, and who offers his strength, courage, wisdom, and discernment. Thinking God’s thoughts after him is a two-way process which involves God and us. It is when God abides in us and we in him we can feel his presence and hear what he is saying.
As we grow in our relationship with Jesus we become one in him and he in us. It’s like looking through God’s eyes and seeing what he sees. It is through a meaningful relationship with God, through his Son, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can think God’s thoughts after him knowing God is good and from him, all right things proceed. Amen