Sermon 9-13-2015 ‘The High Cost of Hunger’
http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/758-adam#1; unedited full text of the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1908.
Pastor Ruthie Tippin, Indianapolis First Friends Meeting
Scripture tells us of God creating the world in six days, and then taking a day for rest…The Jewish Talmud describes Adam and Eve’s first day on earth, and divides it into twelve hours. In the first hour, Adam’s clay is heaped up. In the second, he becomes an inert mass. In the third, his limbs extend. In the fourth, he is infused with a soul. In the fifth, he stands on his feet. In the sixth, he gives names to all of creation. In the seventh, Eve becomes his mate, and in the eighth, “they ascended to the bed as two, and descended as four” (Cain and Abel were born). In the ninth, he was commanded not to eat of the tree, in the tenth, he went astray, in the eleventh, he was judged. And in the twelfth, he was expelled and departed (BT Sanhedrin 38b).
It sounds so clean – so clear – so antiseptic. 1,2,3,4… but there was so much happening in between those numbers. Think of all the things that happen in each hour of each day for you. The ‘Daytimer’ was invented just so people could keep track of their lives, hour by hour, minute my minute…
If we remember the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden from Genesis, Chapter 2, we can imagine how their hours were spent. Their time was spent in companionship… with one another, with creation, and with the Creator. The story is collapsed into only a few verses, but if we consider it, imagine days – weeks - months – years of living in a garden of God’s creation with God. Every day, hearing God walking, having conversations, spending time together. That’s what was intended when God thought and spoke creation into being, and made humankind in God’s own image.
God could have said nothing. God could have allowed Adam and Eve to wander through the garden, hungry, choosing anything they wanted or needed for food. Instead, God warned them that there were limits… there was one tree that was not theirs to eat. In fact, if they ate of that tree, they would die. It wasn’t that its fruit was meant for cattle and other beasts in the garden, or that its taste was bitter, or that it would make them ill. They would die if they ate it. And God went further to tell them what the tree was… it wasn’t an apple tree, or a palm, a peach tree, or a pine. It was a tree of knowledge. Of knowing. Not understanding astronomy, or hydrology, or mathematics. This was the tree of knowing good and evil. And God did not want them to know good and evil. This was God’s to know.
Why did God put such a tree in the garden with humankind? I don’t know. It was God’s garden, and God planted what God wanted, and perhaps needed to plant there. Somewhere in creation there needed to be the knowing of good and evil, but it was God’s to know and humankind’s to trust God with.
This was God’s ‘garden space.’ Think of it perhaps like our garden boxes on the north side of our Meetinghouse. Many people raise their vegetables there, including the preschool children. Each person knows which garden bed belongs to which person or group. No one would consider picking the fruit of the preschool… it’s theirs to grow, to tend, to pick, to use. No matter how juicy, how ripe, how ready the fruit of their garden is… it is not be chosen or eaten by anyone else.
Too often we hunger for what we think we need. What we think we want. What we think will be satisfying. Soon we discover that it’s far too much for us to swallow. It doesn’t sit well in our bellies, it doesn’t nourish, it doesn’t satisfy. In fact, it makes us sick – very, very sick. We may not notice it at first. The cost to us may be taken from us slowly – incrementally. But one day, as God told Adam, we will die.
We don’t have to know everything. We don’t have to understand everything. Our appetites can be controlled, acknowledging that someone else knows more than we do. That someone else understands what we do not understand. God asked Adam and Eve, God asks us, to rely on the relationship – the daily, hourly, presence we enjoy with God – in order to know that God will nourish us with all that we need, and more.
Snakes slither in and out… they are interlopers. They have nothing constant to offer. Their work is to interrupt and break apart the soil… to destroy the constancy of relationships.
The Midrash is a collection of stories that Rabbi’s use to ‘fill in the gaps’ explaining things that scripture doesn’t always tell us. I love this Midrash story:
"Why was only a single specimen of man created first? To teach us that he who destroys a single soul destroys a whole world and that he who saves a single soul saves a whole world; furthermore, so no race or class may claim a nobler ancestry, saying, 'Our father was born first'; and, finally, to give testimony to the greatness of the Lord, who caused the wonderful diversity of humankind to emanate from one type. And why was Adam created last of all beings? To teach him humility; for if he be overbearing, let him remember that the little fly preceded him in the order of creation."
God’s garden was a place of companionship and love for Eve and Adam… they had all they needed and more. God gave them free flowing water, food to eat, shelter, beauty, sustaining presence, and asked them to develop an appetite for obedience. Do we hunger for God’s intentions for us? Do we enjoy the nourishment that God has for us? Or are we enticed/tempted by what is not ours to consume? Of course we are… we’re not that different from Adam or Eve. Snakes have interrupted our communion with God, too. Even though God has given us the Tree of Life to eat from, we still travel closer and closer, with great curiosity, to the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And, we’ve suffered for its tasting.
God did not abandon Adam and Eve – God provided for them, even as he cast them out of his garden. They could not remain with God there, so God went with them, past the fiery swords of the angel guard into the wider world. God always gave them the choice to feed on his provision for them; it was theirs to take. Would they make that choice? Would they hunger for the things of God? God asks us this question today. Every day. Every hour. Are we hungry for God? Do we choose fruit from the Tree of Life?
George Fox discovered this Life when he found the garden of intimacy with Christ, in communion and companionship. He said that he passed back through the passed back through the fiery guard of angels’ swords into the garden of Eden again… hear his journal entry:
“Now was I come up in spirit through the flaming sword, into the paradise of God. All things were new; and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter. I knew nothing but pureness, and innocency, and righteousness, being renewed up into the image of God by Christ Jesus, to the state of Adam, which he was in before he fell. The creation was opened to me; and it was shewed me how all things had their names given them according to their nature and virtue. And I was at a stand in my mind whether I should practice physic for the good of mankind, seeing the nature and virtues of the creatures were so opened to me by the Lord. But I was immediately taken up in spirit, to see into another or more steadfast state than Adam's in innocency, even into a state in Christ Jesus that should never fall. ...Great things did the Lord lead me into, and wonderful depths were opened unto me beyond what can by words be declared; but as people come into subjection to the Spirit of God, and grow up in the image and power of the Almighty, they may receive the word of wisdom, that opens all things, and come to know the hidden unity in the Eternal Being.”
Our appetites, our hunger can be satisfied. In the end, God’s design – companionship and communion - was true, exact, and intentional. There is no need to hunger for the knowledge for good and evil. We will receive far more: wisdom, all things will be opened to us, and we will come to know hidden things… all that the Creator has for us. What are you hungry for this morning?