Sermon: “I am the God of life” - A Dialogue between God and Eve

Scripture Reading: Genesis 4:1-17
Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.’ Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.’

Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let us go out to the field.’ And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’ And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.’ Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.’ And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch.

Prayer
Guide us, O gracious triune God, by your Word and Spirit, that in your light we may see light. May your Word disrupt and transform us, and your Spirit sanctify and renew us, that we may hear and respond to your voice calling to us here and now. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sermon: A Dialogue between God and Eve
“Eve. … Eve.”

God speaks with a firm yet gentle voice to the stiff, unmoving body. Where a vibrant young woman once stood, there is only the shell of a person.

A muffled, “What?” comes from the ground, with more than a hint of disdain.

“Why are you so troubled? Speak.”

Silence. God waits, and she begins to speak.

“My son is dead, and you’re asking me what’s wrong? You let him die. I know you must have been there. You must have seen Cain lure him out to the field. You knew Cain was the stronger of the two. So where were you? Or is this still part of the curse? I remember you said something about death. Am I to be punished with the death of my son, Abel?

“You’ve punished me enough already. You must know how much I miss the garden. That was my home. And now it’s gone. Everything is messed up. Nothing works the way it’s supposed to. The world is not right. The world is different now. Everything is out of balance. The world is either plunged into darkness or scorched by the heat. Either we are in the garden or we are outside of it. Either we are obedient or disobedient. Either we are dead or we are alive. Isn’t that how this world works?”

There is no answer. Eve keeps talking.

“The ground torments us with thorns and thistles. Our bodies torment us with disease and death. My body struggles through the pain of giving birth. And now, the only joys left in my life, Cain and Abel, have been taken away. Without them, I am nothing. I no longer have anything left to keep me going.

“And this is all your fault. You told us to multiply and bear children. You commanded us to raise a family, and we obeyed. But you didn’t tell us this would happen! I thought the pain of childbearing was the worst of it! But no. Losing your children is a far worse punishment than the pain of giving birth. I would rather you increase the pain of childbearing than allow my sons to die like this. At least that pain is only temporary. The pain of Abel’s death, however, will last until I die.”

A cloud drifts in front of the sun, obscuring the light and throwing Eve’s face into darkness. Finally God speaks, “What about Cain?”

“Cain? What about him? He is nothing. He is more dead to me than Abel. He not only took his brother’s life; he took away my life as well. What am I supposed to feel towards him? I know (up here) that he is my son. But (in here) I know that he is gone, that it’s as if he were never born. In here, I only have one son, and he lies dead in the ground.”

“But Cain is still your son, and he is not dead.”

“He’ll be dead soon enough, though. If I became an exile after eating of that tree, then the punishment for murder must be the ultimate exile—the exile from life itself. Life for life. That’s how this world works. If you do something wrong, you have to suffer the consequences. So tell me, what will his punishment be? A fatal disease? An animal attack? Or will you just strike him down now?”

“No.”

“What do you mean, ‘No’? Some other punishment? Will he fall to his death? I know how this works. I know the ways of this world of yours. Cain deserves what he did to Abel. So tell me, what will his punishment be?”

“Cain has already received his punishment.”

“Already? Where is he? What happened to him?”

“He is safe, but he is unable to make the ground produce food. He will have to rely upon others.”

“I don’t understand. He killed Abel, his brother, my son.”

“Cain is your son, too.”

“Yes, but … he took life. You commanded us to produce new life, not take it from others. He has contradicted his own existence. He must make restitution, and that is only possible by taking his own life. If he denied life to others, life should be denied to him. Are you not a God of justice?”

“I am.”

“Then why does Abel receive a brutal death, but Cain receives life? How is this just?”

“Are you the one to decide what is just or unjust? I choose to be merciful in carrying out justice, and just in carrying out mercy.”

“But Cain took away Abel’s life and my life! The world no longer has meaning for me; it is empty and pointless. Where there was the hope of life, now there is only a void.”

Not so! Have you forgotten, Eve? I am the one who brought this world into existence out of the void. I am the one who gives meaning. I am the one who said that this world is indeed ‘very good.’ Nothing can change any of that.”

“This world? Very good?? How can the world be good when suffering and death are what happen? Or do you find pleasure in death? Maybe you think death itself is ‘very good.’”

“No! I am the God of life, not of death. I reject death in favor of life. I am opposed to all forms of destruction. When Cain destroyed the life of Abel, he deprived his life, your life, and the lives of others of meaning. His act was evil; it was a return to the void whence this world came. He acted in opposition to me, to you, and to this world, and in those moments, his life became naught. For a moment—just for a moment—death was victorious. But I refuse to allow evil to triumph. I deny death’s desire to destroy what I began. I warned Cain that sin is lurking at his door, seeking to master him. And indeed, sin was lurking and it mastered him. But I lurk stronger still.

“The world is not ‘very good’ because good things happen in the world. No, the world is ‘very good’ because I am very good. The world has meaning, because I am the infinitely deep well of all meaning. The world favors life, because I favor life. That is why Cain still lives. He lives because I do not seek his death or the death of anyone else. Even when he seeks death, I seek life all the more. Have you forgotten that I was the one who first clothed you after you realized your nakedness? I took away your garments of shame, the ones you tried to make for yourself, and I gave you garments of grace and dignity instead. I seek what is best for you even when you choose what is worst.

“And the same is true for your son, Cain. I marked him for life, even though others (including himself) would mark him only for death. He bears my seal of protection, a seal which no amount of sinful acts—be it ten more murders, or even a hundred—can possibly undo.”

“But what he did was …”

“What he did was inexcusable. His denial of humanity was an inhuman act, but Cain is not thereby an inhuman person. He is more than his act of murder, just like you are more than your act of disobedience. Both of you are more than the sum total of your deeds.

“Indeed, Cain will learn an important lesson. Tomorrow and in the days after that, when he finds himself hungry for food, he will have to rely on others to stay alive. The earth will not yield its produce to him, and so others will have to work on his behalf. Cain will realize that he is dependent on others for his very life. He will discover what it means to be human; he will discover what it means to be passive, needy, and helpless. Of course, he will do many great things, even start a family and build a city. But he will always remember that his fate could—and should—have been death. He will remember that he does not deserve to be alive. He will remember that life is always a gift.

“And in a way, this is what the seal represents: the gift of life. But the seal is not primarily for him; it is for you. It is for his children. It is for everyone Cain meets. Wherever he goes, he will go as a marked man. Cain will be a sign to others: your life is not your own. Cain, your son—the one who murdered his brother and forfeited his right to live—will be my messenger.

“Where there was once a void, now there is a city. Where there once was no meaning, now there is meaning. Where there once was death, now there is new life. And this, dear Eve, is very good.”

Comments

Jess Smith said…
Thank you. I was nourished by your speaking God's words.