People love to argue about the Genesis story of creation, picking it apart and comparing it with theories of the big bang and evolution and many other possibilities.
Truthfully? I believe what scripture says, but the details don't trouble me too much. What I believe is that life begins and ends with God. And I guess I'm just too lazy to argue about the details.
Most of you know the Genesis story. God created the man, called him "Adam," and created a companion for him, named "Eve." God was with them every day. They were given full freedom and authority over all of God's creation and encouraged to enjoy it.
There was only one rule: Don't eat from one certain tree in the garden. Anything else was fine - just not that one tree, out of who knows how many other, perfectly good trees.
When the tempter approached Eve, what he offered her was KNOWLEDGE. At the very beginning of history, humanity was told that knowledge was good, that knowledge was power: "You will be like God, knowing good and evil." That knowledge came at a very high price. We lost everything, except God himself ... yet we've still desired and pursued knowledge ever since.
John Keats wrote, "Knowledge enormous makes a god of me." Which is pretty much the story of what happened that day in the garden. Here's the sad thing. Knowledge isn't enough to even make us fully HUMAN, let alone godlike. Many of us are news junkies, and fresh news is available to us 24/7. Our knowledge IS enormous, just as Keats said - what we don't know is what to do with all this knowledge.
We have no clue how to get along with others, how to handle conflict, how to avoid war, or even how to handle peace, if we have peace. We have facts, we can quote statistics, we have almost unlimited knowledge - but we do the same tragic, stupid things over and over, so much so that we've actually invented a cliche to go with it: "History repeats itself." History repeats itself because our knowledge isn't enough.
We're thoroughly computerized, our technology is astonishing, we can stay in constant touch with each other and the world, but when it comes to actually COMMUNICATING ... we're still not so smart. Even with all that knowledge, we can't maintain our deepest, most valuable connections with each other. We have amazing command over nature, yet we're still mean and murderous. Our scientific knowledge is staggering, yet one of the things we've discovered is how to wipe out the entire world. We can't even be trusted with the knowledge we think we have to have.
And, just like that day in the garden, God walks into the midst of all this and asks, "Where are you?"
When Adam and Eve eat of the tree of knowledge, they don't see that they're like God, which is what the tempter promised. What they see is that they're naked. And the first bit of knowledge they acquire is shame. They hide behind fig leaves. And when God comes to the garden that evening, they hide from him, too.
What else have they learned? Adam says, "This woman you gave me ... SHE gave me that fruit." Adam blames God and Eve. Eve blames the serpent. So it seems the next bit of knowledge they've acquired is how to be angry and defensive, and how to place blame on others.
Some things never change, do they?
So, where is God? God comes to us, every day of our lives, just as he came to the garden, with a question that we rarely want to spend time answering: "Where are you?" Are we feeling guilty and ashamed because of unconfessed sin, which makes us hide from God and try to avoid him?
Are we so caught up in the world and all its temptations - such as seeking after knowledge as if it's worth dying for - that we neglect and ignore the deepest, most valuable connections in our lives? Would we rather be right than reconciled? Is all our knowledge making our lives better, more satisfying, more joyful? Where ARE we?
When God asks us that, it's NOT to punish or condemn us. Like any good parent, who loves his children, God keeps after us until he finds us where we are. He WANTS us to be forgiven and free, and to be eager to walk with him in the garden because we know we're loved and accepted. We don't have to live in shame and guilt. Life in Jesus Christ is based on joy and freedom, even when things get tough. And that's what I invite you to, today.
Come to Jesus, receive his love and forgiveness and acceptance, and leave guilt and shame behind. KNOWLEDGE was never meant to rule our lives. Life in Jesus is meant to be freedom and JOY.
Rev. Susan Bennett is pastor of Stockbridge Presbyterian Church. She and her husband live in Stockbridge with two giant Rottweilers and a 15-pound rescue dog who is the boss of everybody.