A gentleman moved into a small town. On his first night he went to the local tavern, sat! down, and ordered three beers; drank them quietly, and went home. He repeated this every night, arousing the curiosity of the regular customers. Finally, the bartender asked him about his strange behavior.
“I have two brothers. One lives in Tampa, and the other in San Francisco. We don't get together very often, so we all agreed that when we are drinking apart from each other we will each drink a beer for the others. It's our way of being together even when we are apart.”
Everyone in the bar was touched by this sign of fraternal bonding, and word of it soon spread across the local countryside. People would come from miles around just to watch the stranger drink his toast to his brothers.
Then, one late winter evening, the gentleman came into the bar as usual, took his regular seat and ordered TWO beers. Setting the beers before him, the bartender said: on behalf of the whole community, I want to offer our condolences.”
“What do you mean?” came the response.
“Well, when you only ordered two beers I assumed one of your brothers has died.”
“No, no, my brothers are both alive and well. It's just that unlike my brothers, I've given up drinking for Lent.”
Some people are all about sacrifice!
Welcome to Lent. In my childhood, it was the custom to give up something for Lent; a sacrifice designed to help us remember Christ's sacrifice for us. I don't think too many folks still follow this practice; but if you do, I wish you well. Of course, Lent and even Easter, wouldn't have been necessary if Adam and Eve had not listened to the temptations of the serpent.
The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the Woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?”
2-3 The Woman said to the serpent, “Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It’s only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘Don’t eat from it; don’t even touch it or you’ll die.’”
4-5 The serpent told the Woman, “You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.”
The one thing about the serpent's temptation that leaps off the pages of scripture is this: the serpent lied. “You won't die.” he told the woman, “Because God knows you'll be just like God.” We know that's a lie, because Eve and Adam both died, as has every generation since. Temptation is a lie. It promises us that which it can never deliver: in fact, the only thing falling for temptation does deliver is guilt and trouble. Secondly, the serpent played on the human d:desire to be more than human.
God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,[b]
male and female God created them.
But for Adam and Eve, being simply an image wasn't enough. Like all people, they aspired to something more, something higher. And that's what the serpent offered them. “Why be God's image when you can be God's equal?” he offered. “All you have to do is eat this delicious fruit, and godhood can be yours.
John Piper says that sin "gets its power by persuading me to believe that I will be more happy if I follow it. The power of all temptation is the prospect that it will make me happier."
So Eve ate, and so did Adam. It really makes no difference who ate first, the result was the same. Guilt and shame. Yes, their eyes were opened, but what did they see? They both saw clearly and knew that they were naked. And while the Bible doesn't use the terms, sewing clot hes of fig leaves makes it clear they felt guilt and shame: the same things we feel when we have sinned.
Although guilt, and shame are often used together, they are not the same thing. Guilt says: “ I know what I did, and I know it was wrong.” Shame, on the other hand, says: “I am wrong. I am no good.” And that's exactly how the evil one wants us to feel. Not so with God. Even though Adam and Eve gave in, and even though that deformity in our spiritual DNA has been passed down to each of us. God still loves us. God still wants us. Jesus came to get the kingdom of God into us; to restore us to the image of God in which we were made. That's the reason for Lent; the reason for the Cross; and most of all, the reason for the Resurrection.
Tom carried his new boat to the edge of the river. He carefully placed it in the water and slowly let out the string. How smoothly the boat sailed! Tom sat in the warm sunshine, admiring the little boat that he had built. Suddenly a strong current caught the boat. Tom tried to pull it back to shore, but the string broke. The little boat raced downstream.
Tom ran along the sandy shore as fast as he could. But his little boat soon slipped out of sight. All afternoon he searched for the boat. Finally, when it was too dark to look any longer, Tom sadly went home.
A few days later, on the way home from school, Tom spotted a boat just like his in a store window. When he got closer, he could see -- sure enough -- it was his!
Tom hurried to the store manager: "Sir, that's my boat in your window! I made it!"
"Sorry, son, but someone else brought it in this morning. If you want it, you'll have to buy it for one dollar."
Tom ran home and counted all his money. Exactly one dollar! When he reached the store, he rushed to the counter. "Here's the money for my boat." As he left the store, Tom hugged his boat and said, "Now you're twice mine. First, I made you and now I bought you."
If you ever think that you aren't worth much and if you think you're cheap, just remember what God thinks of you. He thinks you're His. Twice His. First, you're His because He made you. And second, you're His because He bought you on the cross. He paid a price to redeem you. That price is reflected in this simple meal of bread and juice, this simple meal from the ultimate sacrifice. Come, eat, drink, give your guilt and shame to God's care, and let go of your sins to God's cross. The table is set. Forgiveness is yours for the claiming. Freedom from shame is yours for the claiming. Come and be free. Come and feast. AMEN.