Sunday, March 13, 2011

Being a good human

Artist: Nikolay Ge

Most weeks, I check out a web post entitled "Sermon Nuggets" put together by Lindy Black. She offers illustrations, humor and quotations that go along with each Sunday's lectionary readings. Here are a few for today:

Turning stones into bread = material temptation
Throw self off cliff = security temptation
Have dominion = power temptation

The following three are all on the same basic theme:

These scriptures are about the temptation not to be a good human being. I think they are about the temptation not to be a human being at all. As far as I can tell, what Adam and Jesus are both tempted by is the chance to play God.
In many churches, Lent begins with a sooty forehead, as believers kneel for the Ash Wednesday reminder that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. it is not meant to depress or frighten us, but simply to remind us who we are: human beings, mortals, not God.
The point is, God drew a line in the garden of Eden and said, "Human beings on this side, God on this side. Tree of life on your side, tree of the knowledge of good and evil on my side. Stay on your own side of the line if you know what's good for you."

- Barbara Brown Taylor

To all readers: May your Lent this year be a truly blessed one.


  1. I love Barbara Brown Taylor's sermons and find her style of preaching really draws me in. And I know she isn't a fundamentalist. But a fundamentalist could have said what is in that last paragraph. However, given that BBT said it, I have no idea what she intended it to mean. I'm sure she doesn't mean that humans should not discern good and evil. Self-awareness by definition requires that we make choices, many of which must be based on the discernment of good and evil. For the knowledge of good and evil are at the root of self-awareness, the sense of being other in relationship to our fellow creatures, our world and the god we worship. And that is what I see as the underlying meaning of the story of Adam and Eve: Who knows what the wise ones who originally formulated the story thought they were saying. But consciously or unconsciously the story acknowledges that self-awareness and self-differentiation bring the knowledge that we are separate beings, separate in consciousness from God, who must therefore make our own conscious choices – many of which require that we think about what is good and what is evil. One can only live in the Garden of Eden when one lacks self-awareness.

  2. Hi, Tom. Yes, I agree with you and I almost left it out for that reason.

    My guess is that it was her way of telling the story of the fall and I thought it was catchy. I also thought it went along with the theme of the other two quotes about not trying to be God. But I certainly see your point.

    Of course, we live NOW - not then. So choosing not to discern between good and evil is not an option for us. I don't think she was trying to say that we should attempt to go back to Eden; just that we need to realize that attempting to be God (as that plays out in our own situations) is not a good idea.

  3. Yes. Well that is certainly true.

  4. Isn't it part of our nature though...that when someone (even God in this case) tells us to NOT do something...we are almost bound to do it?
    anie C

  5. Oh, yes, Annie. We ARE perverse that way, aren't we? :-)


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