Do You Trust God? (A Sermon for Lent 1A)
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (Cypress, Texas)
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
March 5, 2017
The two most important words spoken by the serpent are “God knows,” because they arouse suspicion. They carry a corollary suggestion: “God knows . . . and you don’t.” The serpent hints that God has not told the full truth.
For Adam and Eve, at its deepest level the issue of knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil, becomes an issue of trust. Can human beings trust God? Can Adam and Eve, can any human being, trust that God has our best interests at heart?
So they eat the fruit, their eyes are opened, and we all know what happens next, right? God shows up and asks what’s happened. Adam points to Eve, “She did it. She made me eat the fruit.” And Eve points to the snake, “The serpent tricked me!” This sense of mistrust is grounded in their failure to fully realize that they were made in the image and likeness of God.
Which brings us to the Gospel lesson for today.
The snake in the Genesis story may not have been Satan, but here Satan is at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and he’s doing with Jesus exactly what the serpent did with Eve; he’s appealing to vanity. “Are you the son of God? Well, then, act like it! Show these people! Do something really incredible — turn stones into bread, throw yourself off the Temple, rule the world!”
Jesus, however, turns each temptation aside with a quotation from Scripture. Each is different, but each of his responses boils down to the same thing – “I trust God.” And his life will bear that out even to the end. Even at the hour of his death, in the most painful of circumstances, Jesus will live out that trust: “Not my will but yours” (Luke 22:42) . . . “Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Lent is a time for us to ponder. In this season, we find ourselves in the shadow of the valley of death. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Remember, you are going to die. Remember, you are going to hurt. Remember, life is going to be hard.
Y’all may not know this, but I am an avid West Wing fan. I’ve probably seen the entire series 20 times, and Elizabeth and I are always re-watching it. I created a class at seminary looking at the theology of Jed Bartlet and The West Wing. And early on in the series, Leo McGarry, the chief of staff, shares a powerful story that I think can help us as we journey through Lent.
“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.”
A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.”
Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on”
Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.’”
Can we trust God? Do we trust God? Do we really trust that God knows what we are going through, and that God knows how and why and where we are tempted and lost and hurt? Do we trust that God knows the way out?
In the Incarnation, Jesus jumped in the hole with us. In Lent, we know that God knows what it is like down in this hole. And in Easter, we know that God knows the way out.
Now all we have to do is trust.