March 13, 2011 - First Sunday of Lent

In the beginning the world was perfect. God made it. God makes perfect things. Everything was perfect. Adam and Eve were in the garden, and life was very good. You know the story. There was lots of fruit, and they can eat any of them except one. If they eat that fruit, they will die. We might want to ask God why he even made that fruit. God might ask us where we were when he was creating the universe. God does not need to explain himself, and we probably would not understand him if he did. It was completely reasonable for there to be one tree out of a whole garden that was not for eating. Let us not try to pass the blame around here.

Eve was deceived into thinking that she should eat the fruit on the tree that was not for eating. So she ate it. Then she gave some to Adam. He was not deceived. He knew that eating the fruit would lead to death. So why did he eat it? Perhaps, seeing that Eve had eaten the fruit and would therefore die, he decided to throw in his fate with hers and ate as well, the original Romeo and Juliet. Whether he was afraid of life without Eve or afraid for her and what she would suffer, he decided to go with her into sin.

This was a mistake. When we think about all the evil in the world from his time until now, Adam’s romantic gesture seems kind of stupid. God had made the world perfect, and, up to that point, the world was perfect. Through this mistake, death came into the world. It was like throwing a hammer into perfect clockwork. Death was not a punishment by God. The world was no longer perfect. Cain will kill Abel. Even those who are not killed will die as a result of their bodies breaking down. The error having been made, death just comes right into the world.

Adam was supposed to be king of the world, so, when he sinned and let death into the world, “death reigned through him.” Adam was up here in the garden of Eden. When Eve fell, maybe there would have been some way to help her back up, but, when he jumped down after her, there was no chance. Adam and Eve were both down in imperfection now, and so are all their children, including us. It is only logical that, if the parents fall, their children, whom they have after the fall, will be down where their parents are. We all have to live now down in imperfection, because we have no way to get back up to perfection.

“From Adam until Moses” people were killing each other, committing adultery, lying, coveting, stealing, worshipping false gods, and they were unhappy. We were not made to live in imperfection. When God gave Moses the law, people still did all those things, but now they knew what was making them unhappy. The law is like turning on the light in a filthy room: the light cannot clean the room, but at least we know where all those smells are coming from.

We need something then that can get us back up to perfection. No one on earth can because we all are imperfect. Even when God flooded the earth and only Noah and his family came through, the sin came through with them. Even though Noah was a righteous man, he was not perfect. The solution is a perfect man. The solution is Jesus Christ. We see in the Gospel today that he is perfect. Satan gives him three chances to make an error, but Jesus does not fall for any of them.

These were some serious temptations. Jesus “fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” There is an understatement. Fasting for forty days is going to make a person very hungry. “Turn these stones into bread.” Jesus knows that he can do it too, but he does what is right and continues fasting. Jesus is standing on top of the tallest tower in Jerusalem. “Throw yourself down; the angels will catch you.” He knew that they would too. He could do it just for the fun of it, or to see if it was true, but he does not. Now Jesus is on top of a very high mountain. “Bow down and worship me and I will give you everything you see,” Satan says. What would you do for a million dollars? What would you do for all the power and riches in the world? Would you worship Satan? I mean if it was a real offer, would you? We worship him for less all the time. We worship him every time we sin. Jesus does not.

Jesus, by his obedience, conquered death and took his rightful place as king of the world. He can now offer the free gift of grace to anyone. Through Adam death entered the world, through Jesus life entered the world, but “the free gift is not like the fall.” If Jesus just brought us back to perfection, just undid the fall, we would sin again, fall again. The solution of God is greater than the mistakes of men. Jesus Christ is going to reign; he will never fall; he is perfect forever. We do not want to reign ourselves; we want to reign through him. He reigns, and, we, by “receiving the abundance of grace and the gift of justice” become united to him. He is the head; we are the body. So long as he is perfect, we get to reign, and he is always going to be perfect. No matter how imperfect we are, he is still perfect. He is like the superstar who can take this ragtag team of nobodies to the championship.

We just need to be united to Jesus. We need to be on his team. This can only be done by Jesus. He is the perfect one, only he can rescue us by his grace and his free gift. We, for our part, have to receive the gift. We have to despise the imperfections around us. We have to despise the imperfections within us. We have to let our desire for perfection rule our lives. Whatever is holding us down here, we will have to give up. Are you dissatisfied with this world? Do you want more out of life? Good! This Lent, we can cut every chain that holds us to this world and cling to Jesus instead. Then, when he rises, we will rise with him.