It is another jam-packed week, beloved readers. Having had Transfiguration Sunday, we now move into Lent. And the first major day in Lent is Ash Wednesday. Before Wednesday, however, I want to put us in a frame of mind to understand what Ash Wednesday is, and why we need it. Then when Wednesday comes, we will consider some of the passages that make up that day.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:15 – 17)
“Look, but don’t touch!” That is a caution that most parents give at least once. Because in the world of a toddler there is so much to see and experience, but also so much that small hands should leave alone. Even some adults have a hard time keeping their hands off of/out of things that they should not meddle in. And the warning from our Divine Parent is often not heeded.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman,”Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Chapter 3, verses 1 – 5)
“Look, but don’t touch!” Not everything in creation is for all people; some things are specially created for certain people. Not everyone is equally gifted and blessed. People vary widely in their abilities and skills. And while we can admire what another person has, or what they can do, not everything is for every person. Looking, admiring, and enjoying the sight of sometimes have to be enough.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” (Verses 6 – 7)
“Look, but don’t touch!” How can it be “sin” to take hold of something and claim it as one’s own? How can it be “sin” to incorporating items and understandings into our selves? How can that be “sin”? Well, technically it is not. But one decision leads to another, that leads to another, and before you know it we are down a path that has unfortunate consequences.
The philosopher might ask why God put something in the garden that was so dangerous? The theologian might ask was original sin inevitable? The psychologist might ask when does a person become self-aware? I am wondering why God created a sneaky snake?!
“Look, but don’t touch!” Free will – we would not be human without it. If there was not something in the garden that tested humanity, how would humanity learn? Just as the Lord God created a tree/fruit that was unhealthy and allowed a creature that personified temptation, the Lord God also sent a Messiah that we must deliberately chose to follow and emulate.
We can chose to hold onto disbelief; or we can believe in God. That is the primary task of new believers, who are the focus of this lectionary year. We can chose to keep sinning, however we are sinning; or we can chose to confess, do penance, and be forgiven. That was the focus last year. We can continue on our way, struggling with life and faith; or we can renew and recommit ourselves to the Lord God. That is the task of the lectionary year to come. All of these things are our choices; and Ash Wednesday is one of the pivotal days for these choices. May you chose well believed reader! Selah!