Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 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."
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." 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.
Reflection Here is the biggest, boldest, most outrageous lie ever told to humanity. “You will not die…” That’s what the serpent said to the woman in the garden when tempting her to eat the forbidden fruit. It is a lie that set humanity on the course of denying, resisting and refusing death. It has not served us well.
Slightly more than half of Medicare dollars are spent on patients who die within two months. 22 million ‘hits’ came up in 35 seconds when I typed anti-aging into my computer’s browser. At the bottom of the recession in 2009, Americans spent $10 billion on cosmetic procedures. Models’ careers end at “28 if they are lucky, 21 if they don’t age well.” Every form of media markets youth, vitality, agility and would have us deny the inevitable degeneration of our bodies and our minds. Culture would have us buy the serpent’s lie… “You will not die if you buy my stuff.”
But, for at least one day each year we Christians refuse to be bamboozled. Across the globe on Ash Wednesday priests dip their thumbs in ashes, smear crosses on our foreheads while saying, “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.” In other words, you are going to die. It doesn’t matter what fruit you juice, what supplements you take, what extreme medical procedures you undergo, you are going to die.
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, a time for calling our the serpent and admitting the lies we tell ourselves. “I cannot help if when I lose my temper, when I judge and speak ill of others, when I take the extra drink, eat when I am not hungry or shop compulsively. I am not good enough to deserve your love, to deserve God’s love. I don’t need help. I can handle this myself. I am not going to change. I am not going to allow things to change around me. I am in control.” These are lies that we tell ourselves. Lies that we tell ourselves to boost our sense of safety and security, to enhance our self image and self esteem, to amplify our feelings of power and control.
But instead of saving our lives, the lies cause us to fall out of relationship with God, but only until we expose the serpent and purge our lies. This is the hard work of Lent; admitting the lies we tell ourselves and dying a thousand humiliations as we walk through Lent in the hope of the resurrection life of Easter.
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