Last Sunday I continued our series exploring the great ‘Acts’ of the story of scripture, focussing on the Fall. Here is the summary of my sermon.
For the last few centuries the story of the fall has always stuck in the throat of Western culture. It is an affront to our narcissism, and a stumbling block to our desire for complete individual autonomy and mastery of our world. Adam and Eve’s choice to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil rather than the Tree of Life, sets in motion a devastating break in creation. A fracture between humans and God, between human and human, and between human and creation. This break spirals throughout history and into our day. Thus the story of Adam and Eve speaks deeply into our current situation and contemporary day failings.
Gen 2:15 tells us that God has given humans a commission, that is to be guardians or stewards of his creation. When I hear Steward I think of a guy in a flourescent vest keeping people off sports fields. The Hebrew word is Shomer, a term which carries with it a deeper meaning. In Rabbinical law, a Shomer is someone given charge with guarding something for another, it is a vow, a promise to safeguard an item in your care. Someone who keeps the Sabbath is a Shomer Shabbos. Human’s role in the earth is to cultivate and guard God’s creation, the home he has created for us to live in with him. But by the end of this story, the role of Shomer will be swapped for the quest to be like gods.
Into this story enters a strange creature, a serpent, but nothing like the serpents that we are familiar with. This serpent stands upright like humans, like God he speaks. Why is he there? We do not know? Did he feel aggrieved being passed over as a companion for Adam (Gen 2:20)? Again we do not know. The cherubim that Guard the garden of Eden, also guard us from the answers to these questions. But if you think about it a snake is indicative. Snakes are cold, their eyes glassy, their demeanor speaks of detachment. A snake standing the way a cobra does, looks something like a question mark.
And so the snake begins the crack in creation with a question. God speaks, the serpent who the new testament writers will link to Satan, questions. His questions are not honest inquiries for knowledge but rather undermining traps. Leon Kass observes that by intimating that Adam and Eve will be like God, that it is the serpent who first raises the possibility of polytheism and paganism, by suggesting that anyone apart from God may be gods.