First Fears

In the beginning, Adam and Eve had no fear at all. But fear became part of the human experience. Just what fears entered their lives?

Their first fear came with their discovery of their naked condition but just what were they afraid of? It doesn’t appear to be danger of being injured. It rather seems to be acute awareness of their vulnerability to the general environment. It says “their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked”. The intense feeling of being naked motivates them to make coverings of leaves.

As they anticipate the arrival of the Lord, they run and hide. This is an act of pure fear. They stop running as reason comes back but let Adam explain, “…I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.” Adam speaks as if they had no handmade coverings. He needed a lot more leaves between him and God. Adam speaks as a man who feels alone in the world.

We can be sure of this: they did not want to be seen as naked. The fact that he answers the Lord shows he had a good relationship. But now he becomes silent as the reason for this this knowledge and fear is examined. The information comes out with much blaming and very little responsibility taking.

This is the source of fear: separateness. Adam is now one separated from God, his wife, his environment. He is even divided within himself, he feels blame but tries to cast it off himself without success. With this separateness will come sorrow for both the woman and man.

We turn to the first man born: Cain. He discovers a new fear. Cain remakes himself into a heartless murderer. Cain has discovered killing is rather easy and now he fears retribution.

Eve indicates her fear of having no one to lead the family after losing Abel. She and Adam find hope in a new offspring, Seth.

The next fear is fear of drowning. At first, no one but Noah and family take this seriously. They build a boat for the purpose of surviving an enormous flood. When the flood waters eventually start to rise, the people find their fear will not enable them to find any way to save themselves. There is no time left now.

We learn about another fear from Noah. It is a fear of disrespecting order. The patriarchal family of Noah and his sons is now the foundation for a new society. This is endangered by one son who shows disrespect for his father. Noah recognizes the danger of this and deals with it before it can topple the fresh start.

The Lord does not want men to be full of fear. His remedy for fear is trust in God. He cares even about the small birds and will surely care for those who trust in him.

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Glory

We look among the faded tatters for glory. But why does the true glory escape us?

We know a human life could be glorious yet why do we always discover a fatal flaw? So we idealize. We build pedestals and place something high. But we know it is our imagination.

Why the idol? Why this statue? We demand meaning! But we know we are making it up. We read and hope to find meaning. We listen. We look. We are always ready to stick a stake in the ground and say, “Here is meaning.” But it is only a grave marker. Read this poem. Listen to that song. Hear this orator speak. Consider this artwork. Look at that building with its majestic lines. That bridge is so much more.

In the museum, look, there is David. And what moved the sculptor to trace the beauty of the female shape in such detail?

All shadows. All former glory. All that is left are hints. Indications. We gaze at the ruins of humanity and imagine its greatness. Yet, we can’t look too close or we see how it is not what it was or what it could be.

Isn’t that where we look best? Former greatness. The ruins of a civilization. As we look closer, we find human sacrifice. We find falseness. The golden statue is a thin shell full of sawdust. The soaring tower was used to hold men captive. The cellar is filled with bones and rags.

The throne is dusty. The former greatness is gone. The halls are empty. The paintings faded. The glory is gone.

What happened to us? Why are we disappointed as we examine things closely? And the disappointment sinks slowly into despair.

The canvas of human history has been painted on over and over. This time we will get it right. We will promote goodness. We will learn from past mistakes. But something trips us up once again.

What is that which keeps us from glory? We desire to see it. To feel it. We know it is there, just beyond our grasp.

And we are right. The glory of man is our destiny. But we are in our own way. The ego opposes the conscience. Yes, it is the outsized ‘me’ that is in opposition to the ‘you’ that desires glory. We can’t grasp glory because to touch it is to foul it beyond recognition.

And for this very reason, our glory, which we are meant to have, has been moved. Our hands must be washed before we can handle our glory. Our glorification awaits us. Maybe it can’t be found here. Can we follow the traces? Can we find the beginning by starting at our end. Will knowing the beginning help us?

The European watched the Nile flow into the ocean. He wondered where the magnificent river began its journey to this sea. He enlisted others in the search. Yet, each try ended in failure. One man succeeded. He wasn’t even trying. He began at a lake unknown by the Europeans. He started at the source.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

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Beyond Good and Evil

We had a chance to choose between two. One was ‘knowing good and evil’. But it was difficult to choose good over evil. Cain, the firstborn, did not do so. More and more bad choices made for a world full of people who dealt with disputes violently. Now ask why a flood washed the earth clean of all people except eight.

Noah kicked off the new try by getting rather drunk. But if anyone deserved a beer, it was Noah. Nevertheless, nothing in human nature had been changed. How is it God allows people to do as they please?

This question was answered with a terrible thing where Jesus was killed without mercy by us. I include myself in the crowd yelling ‘crucify him’. Or did you hammer a nail? Or did you pass by and mock him as he died.

But let us move on. Past the gravesite. Into the new age. It is a new age, you know. The Law and the Prophets are over. The time of relying on a sense of right and wrong is over. We can and should move beyond ‘good and evil’. That’s right.

The other choice was and is and always will be: Life. It’s not a tree now. The hand that reaches out for Life is not physical but still very real. Jesus said, “I am The Life”. The choosing is continuous.

Can we embrace a new way of thinking? Can we employ a new sense of Life over Death? What? You don’t have that power? Why not? Didn’t Jesus use his strange method to make all good available to you and me? Didn’t God pour out his Holy Spirit on all people? Yes, I’m pretty sure he did.

No excuses for either of us. We have what Peter and Paul talked about in their different manners. The old deal is off the table. The new deal is the regeneration of the spirit inside a person. Death gives way to Life inside. But again we choose between Life and death. The old method of choosing good over evil never worked. It was a method of holding together a society that would allow each one to do their own choosing, that’s all.

The Tree of Life is not on earth. The choice was always choosing Jesus. We just didn’t know his name. Now we do.

The new way is open. We will be unable to explain why we didn’t follow him. Let us follow him to glory. Yes, that is what God wants for you and me. He wants to glorify you. New body included. Never able to die. Kinda like angels but not.

Choose now. Keep choosing. Make mistakes. Accept correction. Get back up. Walk on. Keep following. Look at him. Ask him stuff. Ask him for stuff you need. Do it like he did it. Right now. In this moment that will become eternal.

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Forget This

For this exercise, let’s forget everything about Jesus except one things…thing*.

Jesus is innocent of anything that could deserve the Roman penalty of death. Pilate said so. Not that we use him as our source of truth, but (pause) he was the guy in charge, Romanwise.

Who killed Jesus? The promoters were local leaders who did not like him. Fine. Hate him. But kill him? They did not have the authority to do it. Enter Pilate. They need his approval. Pilate allows it. Then we have the soldiers who carry it out.

Let us look closely at these three kinds of people. Religious. These guys condemn him to death. The verdict is unjust on its face. The method is sneaky. But they are not satisfied with an unjust verdict, They work hard to carry it out. They coerce the governor into approval! They threaten him with another riot. He cannot bear another event in his jurisdiction that would surely get back to Rome. Rome does not fire governors. They execute them.

This puts Pilate almost in a ‘him or me’ situation. He folds. But the raw hatred of the ones who demand the death of Jesus is what we are looking it here. Do they go home and consider it a good days work? Why do they hate him? Easy one. He threatens their world. He is undermining their authority. They are threatened directly by him. So, for love of their existing power, they engineer his death.

Back to Pilate. He saw a threat and found a way to sleep easily that night. My job remains secure, he thinks.

Last, we look at ordinary guys, Roman soldiers. They collect their pay. They also are not just fired. They lose everything if they do not do as told. They are told to kill Jesus using the Roman method. But it is worse than that. They seem to enjoy their grisly work. This guy was important just last week. Now he dies. Hammer that nail. Hoist this cross.

Now, where are you in this picture. You can only pick one. Do you have religious power? Do you have political power? Are you a working person? If you don’t work, where did your money come from? Successful business? Investment? You have money based on a structure that pays out money you need.

You and I are these people. We are there in that very moment. We are people who rely on a system that gives us power and money. But there is more. They thought about their position in the system and decided to go ahead with an execution. It was for their own benefit.

Now we look at the heart of each one. Do we see any hope? Do we see any thought of justice? Or a thought of right and wrong? We do not. This is the effect of our disconnect with goodness. The opposite of goodness is self-interest over all else. An agreement with others around us that our interests come first. And this very fundamental state is common. It can be called several things including sin. The state of a person without continuous reference to God is called sin.

Can anything be done to change this state that results in a heart hard enough to help kill an innocent? Yes, but it may be good to see where we are on the road to a stone-cold heart. Yes, you will arrive at that state. You may have already done so. An abortion planned by a guy and a girl would qualify. Have you said a leader that you don’t like should die? That qualifies. Have you cut off a relationship that does not serve you? Again, the beginning of a plan to rid yourself of a person you hate. Cain killed his brother because he was an annoyance to him. Killed him dead.

How can you become good? How can you rid yourself of evil thoughts? Any thought that is unkind toward another person is a step on the way down. I’m including myself as I write this. The answer is: you can’t; I can’t. Go ahead and try. Try as hard as you like and see if I am right. You will eventually agree with me. You cannot attain to inward goodness. But there is a cure. Follow him who showed us what sin does to people.

The marker in time is the killing of Jesus. It is also the event that led to change in the human heart for many. How? Don’t know. Faith? Foolish trust in God? Believing the one who came back from the dead? Call it whatever you like. You reach out into the invisible and will find One who touches you back. You can connect to the Eternal. Jesus made it possible.