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God loved the world this way: God created a world… and God gave that world to itself as a gift… and God created stewards for the earth… and God created those stewards in God’s own image.

And the world that God created was good and whole and balanced. There was enough and more than enough: food for the ravens and clothes for the lilies and so much more. And if I had to compare this world to something, I would say that it was like a garden… lush and green and beautiful.

And then those stewards broke it.

This summer, we are focusing on some stories about women. And this week, we are focusing on the story about how we broke the world. And it is a complicated story… because there is the version of the story that we broken people tell… and there is the version of the story that is true.

There is the version of the story that we broken people tell…

God told the man not to eat from the tree in the center of the garden. And the man told the woman not to eat from—not to even touch—the tree in the center of the garden.

But the serpent was crafty. And it tempted the woman. And the woman saw that the tree had beautiful fruit, and had sweet-smelling flowers, and offered wisdom about the ways of good and evil and everything in-between. So the woman plucked the fruit from the branch… and she ate.

And then she took some of the fruit to the man… and he ate.

And the world broke… because one woman did not obey her husband… who was the head of her world.

That version of the story—told in countless variations—has been passed down for generations. That first man might have told it to his sons, who told it to their sons, who told it to their sons, until it filled the world.

And men have used it to keep women on the margins… away from power… silent and submissive. Men have used it to say that women should not have an ounce of authority over men, because men were made first and were never deceived, and women were made second and succumbed to temptation.

Men have used it to say to women, “Remember your sin. And remember your place.”

There is the version of the story that we broken people tell. And there is the version of the story that is true…

God told the man and the woman—even before they were man and woman—not to eat from the tree in the center of the garden.

But the serpent was crafty. And it tempted the man and the woman. And the woman saw that the tree had beautiful fruit, and had sweet-smelling flowers, and offered wisdom about the ways of good and evil and everything in-between. So the woman plucked the fruit from the branch… and she ate.

And then she passed some of the fruit to the man—who was with her and who said nothing—and he ate.

And the world broke… because both of them—because all of us—traded the abundance of the garden for the fruit of a single tree. And we opened our eyes… and we saw ourselves… and we were ashamed… and we hid ourselves from God.

Our reading today is about the consequences of that story.

When God saw that we were ashamed, God asked us if we had eaten from the one tree that we weren’t supposed to eat from. And God gave us the chance to come clean. And we started shifting the blame. The man blamed the woman… and the woman blamed the serpent… and the serpent kept its mouth shut.

And curses rained down on everyone. And now…

…the serpent crawls on its belly and eats the dust and lives at war with humanity…

…and the man lives in toil and ploughs the land and eats only by the sweat of his brow…

…and the woman bears children in pain… and yearns for her husband… and lives under his rule.

And everyone left the garden. And everyone went out into a world that was not a garden.

God loved the world this way: God created a world; and God gave that world to itself as a gift. And that world was good and whole and balanced. It was lush and green and beautiful.

And then we broke it. We messed up our relationships. We traded enough and more than enough for the scarcity of a hostile world. And we were cursed with…

…well… we started saying that these people were over those people… that these people were at the center and those people were on the margins… that these people had power and those people had none… that these people should have enough and more than enough and those people should have nothing at all…

…and we divided ourselves… men and women and non-binary… rich and poor and middle-class… gay and straight and bi and more… able-bodied and disabled… neuro-typical and neuro-divergent… and a thousand other categories… a thousand thousand other categories.

We traded the abundance of the garden for the fruit of a single tree. We traded the image of God for masks that could hide us from each other.

But… and this is important… this is so important… this is prominent among the important things…

…that world… the world of masks and hierarchies and inside and outside… is not the world that God created. It is not a world that is good and whole and balanced. It is not a world that is lush and green and beautiful.

It is a world that is broken.

God loved the world this way… 

Before we left the garden, God made clothes for us. Before we left the garden, God gave us a way to live in a broken world. 

God loved the world this way… 

God came into the world as one of us, among a dispossessed people in an occupied land, and showed us how to live and love and be human. God lived the life that we could not live, and was the person we could not be. And even though we hung him on a cross and laid him in a tomb, God got up again, and stepped into a garden, and said to the world, “I am not done with you, yet.”

And here’s the thing…

We live in a broken world…

…a broken world that tells women to remember their sin and remember their place…

…a broken world that crucifies Christ again and again…

…a broken world that is ruled by difference and division and hierarchy…

…a broken world that says that these people are over those people… that these people are at the center and those people are on the margins… that these people have power and those people have none… that these people should have enough and more than enough and those people should have nothing at all…

…we live in a broken world.

But we are not of a broken world. We are not from a broken world. We do not hold citizenship in a broken world. We do not belong to a broken world.

We belong in a garden.

And even now, God is restoring the broken world. Even now, God is repairing the broken world. Even now, God is filling the cracks of a broken world with gold. Even now, God is planting a new garden in the very heart of the broken world.

And even now, God is calling us—you and me and all of us—to nurture that garden until it blooms with beautiful fruit, and sweet-smelling flowers, and the wisdom to see each other (and be seen) and to love each other (and be loved).

And that… is work. It is the work of telling—no… it is the work of living—a new story.

It is the work of learning to celebrate our friends and neighbors, and strangers and enemies, in all of their difference and diversity… of learning to tear down and cast aside the divisions and hierarchies that we have built…

…of welcoming each other as bearers of the image of God… as co-stewards of a world that God has created… that is good and whole and balanced… that is lush and green and beautiful…where there is enough and more than enough… food for every raven, and clothing for every lily, and love for everyone.

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