In our first reading today, we see what I believe to be the first example of someone being thrown under the bus.
Alright, so you’ve got Adam and Eve and everything is great in the Garden of Eden. There is perfect harmony, none getting sick, all of your food covered, its really this great all-inclusive life. Oh, and you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to wear in the morning either.
Now everything is great until this serpent shows up. (As an aside here, nowhere in the text is the serpent identified as the devil, that was something we added on later). And the serpent is this crafty thing and begins to ask questions.
“Why can’t you eat that fruit? Don’t you think that’s a rather arbitrary rule? What do you think it tastes like, that big shiny, red, juicy, fruit up there.”
And like any rule, inevitably it will be broken. The humans eat the fruit and everything goes downhill from there.
But it’s interesting here that this isn’t some wrath of God type of stuff. It’s not as if they ate that fruit and suddenly there was thunder and lightning and clouds of smoke.
No, our text says it this way: “They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves . . . among the trees of the garden.”
Alright you two, God says. What’s going on here?
Now there were a million answers Adam and Eve could have given. A million different versions or scapegoats or deflections. Plausible deniability. Pleading the fifth.
But no, without missing a beat, the man points to the woman and says: “She did it.”
Or rather, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”
Well thanks Adam, thanks a lot.
And so God turns to the woman. She points to the serpent. “He did it.”
And so it goes, on down the line. Perhaps the original sin here is not taking responsibility for our actions, finding some convenient scapegoat to pile on all our problems.
As a story that reflects human reaction to threats, this is really perfect.
I mean, have we really come that far from this confrontation in the garden. From the child with his hand in the cookie jar, to the corporate CEO caught embezzling money, the temptation is always, always there to cast blame on someone or something else.
Our ability to rationalize and project, makes us feel better, makes us feel stronger and holier than thou. Because, let’s face it… it’s not our fault, right?
I wonder if we can all think of ways that we’re acting like the two in the garden.
Maybe there’s someone in your life that you’re piling a lot of anger and fear onto, perhaps not intentionally…but does that person really deserve all that you’re giving them.
Or maybe you’re doing something wrong—something you know is wrong—but you’re simply rationalizing it away. Not worrying about the consequences because, well, they’re doing it too!
I heard an interesting talk recently on cheating—even just little things: glancing at someone’s answer on the text, not giving back that extra change the cashier gave you, things like that. Apparently we all do it from time to time, so let’s not get all Adam on each other. And when faced with the temptation to cheat on a larger scale, we can do it very easily, rationalize it away, up to a certain point. And if someone else is involved, well all the easier.
Adam and Eve and the serpent made the perfect team because they could rationalize it together.
Look at the distance that we’ve travelled from the beginning of the story to the end. At the beginning we’re in this carefree garden where the creator walks in the evening breeze. But by the end it’s all crumbled…or at least beginning to crumble. Trouble has appeared and fingers begin to point.
How do we react when there is trouble? How do we react when confronted with betrayal or threat?
I was troubled this week by the scenes of a mosque in Phoenix being surrounded by crowd of armed men and women. I don’t know how many of them were Christian, but I can’t help but picture the crowd in our gospel lesson, surrounding Jesus’ home, hurling accusations at him.
Yes, we are fighting radical Islamists in the Middle East (and their sympathizers here at home, as an arrest this week in Boston reminded us). But are the people who are attending prayers on a Friday in Phoenix, Arizona—ones who go to work and school and football games and pay taxes—are they really the enemy? Or is it an easy target to project fear and anxiety and paranoia?
Throwing each other under the bus. It’s as old as time. For far to long, the church did it with Jewish people, or people or other races, or foreigners, or gay people, or trans people, or people who pray differently, sometimes to the point of absurdity.
But if we look to Jesus, if we look to God, we can see a way to break the cycle. God forgives the man and woman in the garden, there are consequences for their actions, but God continues to care for them and tend to them. Even the snake goes on his way.
New relationships emerge from the Garden. God lifts the endless cycle of blame. And takes us fallen people as his own. Jesus takes this further. Who is his family? Not necessarily his biological family or his fellow rabbis and teachers. No, it’s the ones who do the will of God. The ones who reflect God’s love, the ones who forgive like God forgives, the one who give themselves away like God does. The ones who defeat power and scapegoating and blame and mistrust not in kind, not in an eye for an eye, but in the perfect weakness of the cross.
There is no blame. There is no scapegoating. No one is thrown away. There is only forgiveness.
This is the path back to the Garden. This is the way back to God. Building our lives on the rock of Christ’s love and mercy and hope.