“I wanna tell you a story” are words forever associated with Max Bygraves. And though his is an unlikely name to hear in church, these were words that came to mind as I spent some time with that familiar story from the Book of Genesis we heard earlier.
All of us have been weaned on stories of one sort or another, if we were lucky we had parents who read to us, perhaps at bedtime. It’s a shame I don’t get to read to my boys any more, I used to enjoy it and the stories we read often help us to understand the world and our part in it.
The story of Adam and Eve is a good example, it’s a story that speaks of deep truths about what it is to be human, and so it is especially appropriate to hear it as we begin this season of Lent.
It describes what came to be known as the fall, when Adam and Eve fell from grace as they choose to disobey God’s only command and eat the fruit of the tree.
Just like the best stories, this is one in which we can imagine ourselves in it. We probably have some sympathy with Adam and Eve too because like them we’re good at making the wrong choice too. And each of them is, in a way an act of disobedience, a fall of our own as we turn away from God.
In some way Lent invites us back into the garden afresh, to renew our focus and reflect on our choices.
Choice is often seen as a mark of civilisation. Our Supermarkets are a good example, filled to overflowing with different brands and so many choices. Some of that is good, I enjoy pondering which biscuits to buy but sometimes it seems we’ve gone too far.
It’s not that long ago, that you went to the shop and sugar was well sugar, it didn’t matter who’d made it or where it had come from, you just needed some sugar and the shopkeeper, my Grandfather among them, would bag it up.
Perhaps life was simpler then, it certainly seems that nowadays we give our children endless choices, I sometimes think too much so. Navigating our way around this choice filled life can be stressful and so we might sometimes wonder whether we really know what choices really matter.
Which takes us back to the garden and the choice, for aided by the wily serpent Eve chose to eat the apple and Adam joined in too. They made the wrong choice and once they had things were different. And though they didn’t die (physically at least) their innocence did. ‘They saw that they were naked.’
Fast forward a bit and in some way Jesus redeems Adam and Eve’s wrong choice by choosing to defy the devil in the wilderness. He, famished after 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, is challenged to turn stone into bread, to throw himself from the temple to prove who he is and lastly is offered all the kingdoms of the world if he would choose the way of the devil.
Instead he chooses to live for God ‘to worship with Lord your God and serve only him’. We’re not faced with the same choices as Jesus but choosing to walk in his way, when confronted by so many seductive false choices is something we try to do every single day.
So as we begin this Lent in the garden and in the wilderness both invite us think about our choices and ask do we live for ourselves or for God? Part of our answer is found in that tradition of giving things for Lent, things that in some way matter to us.
For through these small choices as we turn away from that which in some way has a hold on us, we give ourselves space to reflect on the bigger choices we make every single day as we seek to ‘turn to Christ and follow in his steps in the way that leads to everlasting life’ as one of our services puts it.
On Ash Wednesday last week, the words that accompany the imposition of ashes frame the season ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return, turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.’
These words remind us of our mortality, but rather than being gloomy they are given to help us, reminding us that the choices we make in our lives matter and just like the Garden of Eden can lead us to death or to life.
For all of us, young and old, there will be things we need to turn away from, Lent sharpens the focus and invites us to be made new because as St John Chrysostom said ‘The fast of Lent has no advantage to us unless it brings about our spiritual renewal.’
So for God’s sake, make the most of this Lent and whether you choose to give something up or take up something more or do something different, may your choice be one that helps you grow in the way of Christ. Amen.