Monday, February 4, 2008

This week's sermon: Continuing consequences

Genesis 4.
The Births of Cain and Abel. “With God’s help, I have made a man,” Cain. Eve was awed by the process of creating life, and giving birth. She recognizes the hand of God at work. They have another son, Abel.
Cain and Abel present the first sacrifices. Cain brings an offering to God. Abel follows suit. They both bring from what they have, both from the labor that they have chosen. God favored Abel’s offering more than Cain’s. We don’t know why, but we do know that God is just. Cain is angry at not receiving favor from God for his offering. God talks to Cain and tells him that he needs to be careful. Cain is not happy with God’s decision to accept Abel’s offering, and in becoming angry, he is setting himself up for sin to take advantage.
Cain talks to Abel, and the next thing you know they are in the field and Abel is dead and Cain has killed him. Sadness over God not looking with favor on his offering led to self-pity, which led to anger, which led to jealousy, which led to hatred for his brother, and finally acting on those emotions, Cain becomes the first murderer.
God comes looking for Cain, just like he came looking for Adam and Eve. He asks a question, just like he did there in the garden, “Where is Abel, your brother?” Cain responds with deception, “I don’t know, am I his keeper now?” But God knows all about what happened. He always does. He knew in the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit. He knew when he asked Cain where his brother was that Abel had been killed. But God gave Cain a chance to man up, to repent, to come clean, and instead Cain replies to God as though he were someone he could dupe. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” But God is beyond all of our manipulative games. God told him, “I can hear your brother’s blood crying out to me from the ground! What have you done?”And once again, God is here telling Cain the consequences of his actions. The Ground is cursed, and will no longer allow Cain to farm. He will become an outcast, a wanderer, a nomad. He will lose his chosen work. Cain was a farmer, that is what he did, that is what he knew. Now he was no longer able to work the ground period. Suddenly there is no place for him.
Cain thought he had done something that would surely separate him from God forever. And yet God has mercy on him. He cares for Cain. God marks Cain for his protection, so that he will not be killed in vengeance for Abel’s death. And he lays a curse on any who would take revenge. They will receive seven times the punishment for killing Cain.
One big problem with sin is, we think it only affects us. We think, “this is my decision, I can handle the consequences.” But we fail to consider that whenever we sin, we impact those around us. Adam and Eve, they did not think about what would happen to every human being who would ever live because of their decision. Cain did not think about the possibility that five generations down the line, his great-great-great- grandchild would also chose to take the life of another to his own detriment.
Adam and Eve have another son, and name him Seth. And Eve praises God for giving her a son after Cain had killed Abel. When that happened, for Adam and Eve, it was like losing two sons. Abel was dead, and Cain had been cursed to wander. Now, God had given them another son, Seth.
In the last sentence of the chapter, "From that time, men began to call on the name of the Lord," Hope! We are not a lost cause. God has not poured himself out for us in vain. Someone realized that without God’s help, they would be lost, and they cried out to God. God wants to help. He longs to come alongside us as we walk through life. He wants to show us the great plans he has for us. He wants to give us strength for the hard climbs, and keep us company in our loneliness, and comfort us in our sorrow. Psalm 145:17 through 18 says, “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” All we have to do is call.

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