Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for the Sunday’s Message; 12 July 2015

Scriptures for this week are: Genesis 3:1-7; Ephesians 6:1-4,10-20

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV and ESV

Hymns for Sunday

UMH 131 —  We Gather Together

TFWS 2071 —  Jesus, Name Above All Names

UMH 117 —  O God, Our Help in Ages Past

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These days we do not need to go far to find some terrible news. On Tuesday, July 7, 2015 these were the news items on my computer screen:

  • News related to the shootings in North Carolina in Mother Emmanuel church (Woodhall), and debates raging in our society about the confederate flag.

  • For some strange reason thousands of birds abandoned their nests and eggs and left a small island of the coast of Florida. This will have long term repercussions on the ecosystem of the region (Associated Press, Bird Mystery).

  • Bill Cosby admitted to drugging women (Associated Press, Huffington Post).

  • Subway spokesman Jared Fogle is a target of FBI’s child molestation investigation (Hanna).

  • Multiple militant attacks around the world…

  • News of abuse and misuse of power by the people trusted to protect and uphold the laws…

We do not have to go far to get confirmation that we live in a fallen world.

So what does it really mean, that we live in a fallen world?

When we say that we live in a fallen world, everyone in the church knows to point to the story of Adam and Eve eating a piece of fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. All of us know that story from Genesis 3.

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NIV2010 Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

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In this act of disobedience, evil and suffering were released and unleashed into the world that God created and declared “GOOD,” resulting in a “fallen world.” Repercussions of that act of disobedience permeate ALL aspects of our lives. Because of that act of disobedience, because evil and suffering were released and unleashed into our world, we are prone to suffering and disease and sometimes end-up in pain or in the hospital. It is because of that act of disobedience we live in a world where there are tornadoes and earthquakes and wars, and hunger and poverty. It is because of this act of disobedience sometimes our tires go flat, socks are lost, toast is burned, and angry words are exchanged.

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Before the “fall,” men and women lived in the constant presence of God. They were aware that God was always with them and they rejoiced in that presence.

After the “fall” God is still with us, but we have a tendency to sweep God under the rug; it is our choice, and we have the proclivity to do so. When we do that it is our hope that God is watching someone else.

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In our fallen world we do not perceive God to be an active part of our day-to-day lives; it is painfully obvious in the silence that falls right after the question, “And where did you see God in the last few days?”

The account from the Book of Genesis is terse; it is less than 200 words. Because of its brevity, it is difficult for us to imagine how it really happened. I was not at the Tree of Knowledge at the time with my camera rolling (although I would have liked to be) but I imagine that it took some time for the Serpent to orchestrate the Fall. It had to be a difficult task for the Serpent, because the reality of God’s presence was always with the first people, they knew him personally and had a relationship with him, and they were happy about that; there was nothing to hide. When we are consciously aware of God’s presence around us, it is as if “the full armor of God” protects us “so that [we] can resist [stand firm against] the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11).

When God created the first Man, that Man was instructed to avoid that one particular tree and its fruit (Genesis 2:16-17). Then God saw that “it is not good for a man to be alone” (Genesis 2:21) and God created Woman.

Anyone who has children knows that the best way to get your children to do something is to tell them that they are not allowed to do that particular task. I can almost hear Adam and Eve walking around the tree, contemplating how inviting and shady the grass under that particular tree was; the grass is always greener somewhere where we are not supposed to be. I can imagine them taking a nap in the heat of the day and thinking how much more comfortable they would be under THAT tree. I can imagine them looking at the leaves, smelling the fruit (oh it smells soooo good and looks soooo delicious). A few days later, they might have looked at it and smelled it again… Then after a few more days they might have touched it, then maybe licked it until temptation was impossible to resist and they took a tiny bite.

The Serpent tricked the woman to get her to try the fruit, she also gave it to the man (who was BTW right there with her and could have easily discouraged her from listening to the Serpent). When God asked the Man why he disobeyed God, the man said something like, “she made me do it…” The woman blamed the Serpent and the Serpent had no leg to stand on. Ever since then, blaming others for our misfortunes has become one of our human conditions. All of us do it to some extent. We become mature adults when we learn to take responsibility for our own actions and stop blaming others for all of our misfortunes.

Who among us has not tried to justify to ourselves why we deserve something that deep down we know is not good for us? Who among us has not rejoiced when we got away with something? And by the way, if you are feeling righteous right about now, because there is nothing in your life that is not good for you or because you never had to get away with anything, I want to ask you just one question: when was the last time that you drove 56 miles/hr in a 55 miles/hr speed zone?

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For me, the fact that we live in a fallen world is a great motivator to discern what God is doing in the world around us and to roll up my sleeves. Because we live in a fallen world there are people for whom the love of God is a strange concept and, I know it sounds counter intuitive, but I rejoice in that. The character of lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham from Downton Abbey had this line, “”If we only had moral thoughts, what would the poor churchmen find to do?“

God placed us here and now because the world needs God’s love and grace like never before. Being a Christian means that God called all of us to become the best version of what we can become. Being a Christian means that we are called to build bridges to our neighbors and to work with them, regardless of their spiritual beliefs.

That is how we meet our neighbors; by listening to their stories we learn about them; that is how we become friends. And the reality is that we cannot bring strangers or enemies to Christ. In order for us to help someone find Christ’s presence in their lives, we must have a friendly relationship with them first.

{Closing Illustration}

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Works Cited

Associated Press. Bird mystery: Thousands disappear and abandon eggs, nests on island off Florida’s Gulf Coast. 07 July 2015. http://www.foxnews.com/science/2015/07/07/bird-mystery-thousands-disappear-and-abandon-eggs-nests-on-island-off-florida/. 07 July 2015.

—. Huffington Post: Bill Cosby Admitted To Drugging Women In 2005 Deposition. 6 July 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bill-cosby-drugging-women_559af2d6e4b04a9c98e82247. 7 July 2015.

Hanna, Jason. CNN: Police at home owned by Subway spokesman Jared Fogle. 7 July 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/07/us/indiana-subway-fogle/index.html. 7 July 2015.

Woodhall, Joel. The Chronicle: Fatal Shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Stun Charleston. 18 June 2015. http://www.charlestonchronicle.net/96421/2152/fatal-shootings-at-mother-emanuel-ame-stun-charleston. 7 July 2015.

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