2014-09-14 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
Echo the Story #2 of 36: REBELLION
“Me…a Keeper or Killer?”
The GodStory gets dark pretty quickly in our 36-week jaunt…here we are in week 2 and we only get one week to bask in the good and glorious work of creation. Now lest we move along too hastily…I want to stop and reiterate what we proclaimed last week….our ORIGIN is good. We were and are created in the image of God. We are image bearers of the face, heart, soul of God. That is a big deal!
You, me….we are good, God’s workmanship (handiwork) created, destined for good things in Christ (see Paul’s works in Eph. 2).
So, why does the story get so dark, so quickly? And what about the Fall…or what some theologians call “original sin.”
Well…millions of pages have been written about this but for our sake in terms of where we are in the GodStory today here’s what we need to affirm…
Yes, God created us and all of creation good.
BUT….when the first humans decide to go their own way and seek their own wisdom, the storyline of God’s perfect intentions for the world and all of creation go haywire.
Sometimes this part of the story is called “THE FALL”, but this year, in the ECHO series, we’re naming it as “REBELLION.”
Humanity rebels against God’s goodness and trustworthiness and for the rest of the story…for the next 34 weeks…we will wrestle with the struggle and the aftermath of the evil one who wooed and enticed humanity towards death….we chose to subvert the storyline….seeking to become gods ourselves…rebelling against God’s heart for humility and gratitude and instead allowing ourselves to be won over by control and contempt.
Ooooooooh, it’s a chilling, tragic story is it not!? And it’s not just a spooky campfire tale…it’s the story of us….
– it’s the story of why football players punch their wives in the face and then try to cover up their wicked ways…
– it’s the story of why religious zealots kill other religious believers
– it’s the story of why one day you and I can be perfectly sane and congenial to one another…and then the next day…or the next hour….or the next minute, we feel compelled and justified in the way we slay each other with words, looks of disgust, or actions that threaten, bully or domineer over the other…
– …it’s the story of our fractured human world and how, on a daily basis, we are complicit in scandalous, unacceptable acts against our…
It’s the way of a broken world…a way where the systems of power, oppression and evil are always pushing God’s good creation/order into the way of confusion/chaos.
And so today, we enter into the tumult of chaos and killing through the characters of Cain and Abel. Abel is really the secondary character in this story and though we’re prone to want to align ourselves with Abel (“look at me, I’m the good guy!)…there’s really not much to connect with in regards to his character sketch.
All we know is that Abel is a keeper of sheep and in the midst of one of the first recorded church worship services in all church history, it ends up being a matter of stirred-up envy and jealousy VS worshipping the living God (hmmmmm….sounds familiar?). Have you ever come home from Church madder than you were when you first got there? This has been happening for thousands and thousands of years…
We don’t know why one offering was better than the other…I mean, it’s like comparing apples and oranges isn’t it? Abel brings the firstlings of his flock, Cain brings an offering of fruit…and for some reason, the LORD had regard for Abel’s offering and less regard for Cain’s offering…
So Cain asks God, “How can I do better, Lord who loves me beyond measure and is slow to anger and abounds in forgiveness for sin & rebellion?” [I wanna be better!]
Ummmmm, no. Cain sulks.
He takes his toys out of the sacred sandbox and says: “I don’t wanna play anymore.”
He’s angry. He pouts. The first recorded pity party in biblical history.
And rather than smiting him for his whiny attitude tantrum (that’s what we would do wouldn’t we?)…God does what God will do for the rest of the GodStory and evermore….God will move towards Cain with tender mercy.
God asks: “Why?”
“Why are you angry? Why so sad? If you do well [choose the way of reconciliation], will you not be accepted?
(in other words…if you stay in relationship with me, with my gentle spirit and humble heart, you will find rest for your soul).
But a cautionary word is offered as well…
“And if you do not do well (if you don’t stay in relationship/if you don’t reconcile)…sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
And we know how it plays out…we know why we have ended up with a phrase like “raising Cain.”
Rather than running to the open arms of God…Cain saunters off to his field.
And Cain slays Abel in cold blood.
God’s questioning of Cain moves from WHY to WHERE…
“Where is your brother?”
Cain submits his non-guilty plea…
“I do not know…Am I my brother’s keeper?”
And the curse that fell upon Adam…now falls to the next generation.
Curse…toil…separation….Cain will be a fugitive, a wanderer for all of his days on earth.
Cain cries out…
“But….but…MY punishment is greater than I can bear!”
God, for a second time, does not smite him…but again moves towards Cain with tender mercy.
“NOT SO….you will not be killed….” [the murderer will NOT be murdered!]
And the LORD marks Cain with a mark of protection and declares words of promise: “You will not be killed by your enemies.”
* * * * *
What do we do with this tragic story that tells of our “undone-ness”?
In the light of God’s never-ending pursuit of us…
We are to embrace the “Cain character” and recognize that we are so often consumed by the anger and rage of Cain…
But the good news is that God moves towards us!
With grace…and with a heart full of desire for companionship and compassion.
God wants to take us under the shelter of his wings…
As the Psalmist says… (see Ps. 91).
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day…
We do not really know how it went for Cain…but for us, as we press into the promises and the bosom of God, we CAN move from having the heart of a killer to having the heart of a keeper…
As we are healed and made whole, we can also seek to be a healing presence for others…
Q: How and who is God calling me to “keep” this week? Imagine…
It’s not a matter of ownership…keeping my sister, or brother, friend, neighbour, co-worker, or colleague is a matter of looking after them…but somehow allowing it to fall between the boundaries of control < —– > humility.
The ECHO curriculum that we’re using makes this statement: “God is repairing us and calling us to join God in reparing the world around us.” Perhaps that’s a helpful way of framing your brother/sister-keeping this week.
In a quiet moment, bring your Cain-stained heart to God…and hear God’s words of grace & forgiveness…
“Almighty God, come quickly to
help us who are assaulted by many temptations, and as you know the
weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save, through
Jesus Christ our Lord.”
And as we are being saved this week, let us be keepers for our brothers and sisters.
Some insightful lyrics from the poet/singer Rich Mullins from his song “Brother’s Keeper” – –
And I will be my brother’s keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won’t despise him for his weakness
I won’t regard him for his strength
I won’t take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will ~ I will be my brother’s keeper.
[and the women’s version….I will be my sister’s keeper, not the one who judges her…]