By Request: I am going to start posting the manuscript of my sermon. It will not be exactly as I preached it as I do not use the manuscript when I preach, only an outline. While I am going back and proof-reading for mistakes, I am not going to promise this will be error free.
The snake was the most intelligent of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?” The woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the garden’s trees but not the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘Don’t eat from it, and don’t touch it, or you will die.’” The snake said to the woman, “You won’t die! God knows that on the day you eat from it, you will see clearly and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it, and also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then they both saw clearly and knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made garments for themselves. During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God in the middle of the garden’s trees. The Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” The man replied, “I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the woman, “What have you done?!” And the woman said, “The snake tricked me, and I ate.”
The Lord God made the man and his wife leather clothes and dressed them. The Lord God said, “The human being[e] has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” Now, so he doesn’t stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever, the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to farm the fertile land from which he was taken. He drove out the human. To the east of the garden of Eden, he stationed winged creatures wielding flaming swords to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:1-13, 21-24, Common English Bible
Baseball hall of famer, the late Yogi Berra was famous for his quotes that quite possibly made sense to very few people beyond himself. Berra was famous for saying things like “If you find a fork in the road, take it.” On another occasion he said, “Baseball is about 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” Yet another time he said, “I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.” And, “I usually take a two hour nap from one to four.” I will pause for a second and allow that one to soak in.
Berra was also not afraid to tell on himself. Once, when speaking to an audience he commented about his looks saying, “So I’m ugly. I’ve never seen anyone hit with his face.” When getting ready to eat pizza after a game it is reported he said, “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” When speaking about effort on the field Berra said, “You have to give 100 percent in the first half of the game. If that isn’t enough, in the second half, you have to give what is left.” Berra wasn’t always known to speak the truth but he also said, “Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”
Two more before I move on. One of my personal favorites is a quote about switch hitters. Berra said, “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.” And, the last one maybe Berra’s most famous and it lends itself to the sermon today as the title, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
A little over a week ago I thought about that last Yogi Berra quote. Had last Sunday not been Mother’s Day you probably would have heard this sermon at that time. Anyway, a little over a week ago, I had The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on the television. While I am not crazy about everything Colbert does on the show, for the most part I like it and that is particularly true of some of his guests. Anyway, back on May 8, I had the show on but wasn’t paying that much attention to it, as I was working on my blog, when Colbert started talking about a musical guest on the show that night. His name was Roger Waters and I don’t think I had ever heard of the man. But, as Colbert continued talking he said that Waters was formerly a guitar player and lead singer from the rock group Pink Floyd. I made a quick decision that I wouldn’t be watching that. I have never been a fan of hard rock in general and Pink Floyd in particular. Back in my movie operator days if I was the first operator to run a movie I had to watch it, whether I wanted to do so or not. When Pink Floyd’s movie The Wall came out, I was the first operator to run the movie so I had to watch it. It was quite possibly the weirdest movie I had ever seen. I really wasn’t interested in Mr. Waters or his music. I had to watch the movie. I did not have to watch the TV show.
Anyway, as the show continued. I still wasn’t paying all that much attention when I heard Colbert say something to the effect of “Here to play the single “Déjà vu” from his new album, Roger Waters.” Simultaneously I looked up from my laptop at the television, grabbed the remote from the end table, and thought of Yogi Berra saying “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
I was about to turn the TV off but as I was looking on the screen, but there was not an electric guitar anywhere in sight. Waters and those backing him up in the band were all playing acoustic guitars. That is a pretty good indication there won’t be much hard rocking going on. Beyond all that, Waters was also backed up by a large string orchestra. That got my attention and caused me to rethink turning the TV off.
While I am glad I kept the television turned on, it wasn’t because I heard something profound that made for some really good theological insight. Quite the contrary. I am glad I kept it on because I heard something I considered to be frightening that I probably would not have otherwise heard.
While I am not going to quote the whole song for you, I do want to share with you the words of the first verse:
If I had been God
I would have rearranged the veins in the face
To make them more resistant to alcohol and less prone to aging
If I had been God
I would have sired many sons
I would not have suffered the Romans to kill even one of them
If I had been God
With my staff and my rod
If I had been given the nod
I believe I could have done a better job
I don’t know about you, but I for one, am glad that Roger Waters is not God. I say that because I believe he could not have done a better job. Just the thought of ANY of us doing God’s job, much less thinking we could do it better is beyond frightening to me and I hope to you.
Pretty much, from the beginning of time, people have thought much the same as Mr. Waters, that they could do a better job of running the universe that the deity who made it and all that exists within it. The world, throughout history, has been ripe with people who thought they could do it better than God or who actually thought they were God.
The internet has many examples but I wanted to share just one with you, an atheist named Jon Webster who calls himself “The Thinker.” Webster has written a book he titled 10 Decisions I Could Have Made Better Than God (I am unsure how an atheist could do a better job at anything than a God he doesn’t think exists). He has a list of the ten things online with a brief explanation of each. He covers things from a very negative perspective like biblical creation, the flood, the virgin birth, the need for the crucifixion and more. He uses very basic logic to try to refute Christian understanding, Scripture and tradition.
Throughout history there have also been those who have thought they could do a better job than God. The Pharaoh’s thought they were a god. By definition that would mean they thought they could do better than the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus. Others believing they are or were gods, Roman emperors, Dalai Lamas, Inca emperors, Homer – author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, Buddha, Alexander the Great, Simon Magus, Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh, Wayne Bent, Brian David Mitchell and Charles Manson and that is the short list. There were many, many more, some you may have heard of many others you probably have not heard of both in history and today in the world.
These are the people on the extremes. We might well call those people “wackos” or some other such derogatory term. After all, they really are the extremists. But truly, while not on the extremes, we are a great deal more like them than perhaps we want to admit.
How often do we break divine law and attempt to rationalize it away? How often do we go against what we know to be the will of God because it doesn’t fit in with what we want out of life? How often do we think we understand the ways of the world better than God and try to live out our own answers?
If we are completely honest with ourselves, the answer is far more often than we should ever want to admit. Do we live a Prodigal Son lifestyle on Friday and Saturday nights only to come to church on Sunday morning seeking forgiveness? Or, we tend to ignore the needs of others in an attempt to benefit ourselves. This list could go on all afternoon.
David Callahan begins his book The Cheating Culture with an episode of dishonesty during a time of great national tragedy. When total chaos gripped Manhattan after September 11th, some members of a New York credit union discovered that, because of a computer software glitch, they could withdraw unlimited amounts from cash machines.
Did the credit union rush to cut off their members? No, it trusted its members to use their ATM cards responsibly. But this trust proved to be costly. Over a period of about two months, as many as 4,000, otherwise honest members, overdrew their accounts — some by as much as $10,000. Some of the money was returned, but $15 million remained missing. Finally, the credit union called in the authorities to make arrests.
Our lesson this morning, commonly called “The Fall,” finds Adam and Eve still living in the Garden. All was right, no, better yet, perfect in their world. They have everything they could want in life, all within easy reach, thanks to God’s grace and providence.
But the snake, you can call the snake the devil, Satan, powerful forces of evil or some other such term that makes you really think about how bad temptation can be when it enters our lives. The snake approaches Eve and asks if it is true that she and Adam can’t eat of the trees in the garden. She tells him no, they can eat of any tree in the garden except the tree in the center of the garden or they will die. Satan tells her that they won’t die but instead they will be like God, knowing good from evil. They eat and their eyes were open. They know the evil around them, they can see it all right in front of them and they are ashamed.
There are several lessons in this passage. We are going to save most of them for another time. What we are going to focus on here is, “You will be like God.” Think about it for a moment. Just a little bite and you will be like God.
It seems to me that Adam and Eve wanted to be like God or there would have been no temptation at all. When we are tempted to do something we know is wrong, we want to be like God. We, all too often, think we really know things better than God. The thinking might go something like this, “God is up there in heaven looking down on all of us, but God really isn’t involved. If God were really involved and knew what we were up against, God would place those restrictions on us. So, since we know how hard things are and we know God wouldn’t want to make things more difficult for us, I can just go ahead and do what I want. God won’t mind. Then, when we think like that, we are saying we know better than God.
When we read through the pages of Scripture, Moses kills a man, an Egyptian soldier for the way he was treating a Hebrew Slave. His actions force him to leave town. Thinking back to Adam and Eve, and others, It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Move ahead years later. David has gone against God and had an affair, committing adultery. He tries to play things off on the woman’s husband. When that doesn’t work David has the man killed. Two commandments broken. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Absalom wants the power his father David holds. He stages a coup, dishonoring his father, in order to assume his father’s throne. He violated one of the Ten Commandments. Clearly his actions were falling outside the realm of God’s will. It doesn’t sound like there is much honor for his father. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Herod lusts after a girl who dances for him. He is willing to do anything to have the girl so he makes an outrageous promise. He will give her whatever she wants. She asks for the head of John the Baptist, which Herod gives the girl. Again, he is living outside the will of God. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Judas doesn’t like what he sees Jesus becoming. Jesus isn’t the kind of Messiah Judas and others thinks Israel needs. So he sells out for 40 pieces of silver. Clearly he thinks he could out do Jesus. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Peter is scared and worried over being known as a disciple. He forgets what Jesus taught him and the others about worry. He denies he even knows Jesus. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
In history, Joan of Arc, after saving France, is burned at the stake because some feared she was a witch. It’s like deja vu allover again.
In Salem Massachusetts, the number one test to determine if one was a witch was something called bound submersion. There was no good outcome for this test. The hands a feet were bound and attached to a large rock. The accused “witch” was then thrown into the water. If they managed to float it was confirmed they were a witch and would be executed in another way. If they drowned they were innocent. The end result? 100 percent of those accused and “tested” this way died. It’s like deja vu all over again.
Adolf Hitler sees the Jews in Germany as representing everything that is wrong in Germany and pours out propaganda for his cause. The Jews were imprisoned and many, as we know were executed, to the tune of 6,000,0000 dead. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Osama Bin Laden recruited martyrs, or at least that’s what he called them, to fly airplanes into two skyscrapers, the Pentagon and probably the capitol or White House to kill everyone on the planes and everyone inside the buildings. Where are the commandments? Where is the love? It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Someone drinks and gets behind the wheel of a car or dangerously speeds down the road, or texts while driving or otherwise acting in a manner that denies responsibility. It puts people’s lives at risk. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Someone cheats on their taxes in an effort to save money. They never even think about it as cheating their fellow citizens. They never see it as stealing. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
By giving in to the temptation, Adam and Eve are essentially claiming that God isn’t good. They’re giving in to the deception that good is possible apart from God, the source of all good. The Scriptures call this being separated from “the life of God.” When these first people eat the fruit, it isn’t about the fruit; it’s about their dissatisfaction with the world God has places them in. Creation isn’t good enough for them (Bell, Rob Sex God).
It seems to me, when we strive to do everything on our own, when we try to find the goodness in life outside of a relationship with God, we too are making a claim that God isn’t good or at least that God isn’t good enough. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
In the blog Red Letter Christian author and teacher Tony Campolo wrote a post titled “What Do You Mean by Sin.” He wrote:
From time to time, I have been asked in the academic classrooms where I have taught to define what I mean by sin. I always respond by saying, “Sin is what diminishes the humanity of another person and of the self.”
When I lie or cheat or commit adultery, I am diminishing the humanity of the other person and I am diminishing my own humanity. … Anything that makes homo sapiens less human is contrary to the will of God. Sin is more than just breaking some rules; it is more than just violating a verse of Scripture here or there. It is what hurts the humanity of another….
To this day, when I am questioned about what I mean by sin, I answer the question as posed, but I do not leave it there. I continue on to the great work of the Spirit of God inside each of us. Sin does not have the last word! The Spirit renews us and moves us into a relationship with the resurrected Christ!
I love Campolo’s words. When I sin I diminish the humanity of the other person. That is a powerful concept. When I put my focus first on myself, I diminish God and I diminish neighbor. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
But, if I can manage to put God and others ahead of myself then I might be able to quote Isaiah instead of Yogi Berra. “See, I’m doing a new thing.” If I am doing a new thing, it certainly won’t be like déjà vu all over again.
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved