Toorak Uniting Church

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Freedom and Responsibility

Rev. Ken Gilson
Genesis 2: 15 – 17, 3: 1 – 7   Matthew 4: 1 – 11
13 March 2011

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS:
The richness of our life will be is determined by the quality of our relationships. Freedom and responsibility are the building blocks of a full life. Our attitude to freedom and responsibility affects all our relationships. Life comes in all its richness when we acknowledge our relationship; our connectedness with God, with each other, and with the creation as a whole.
We are truly free only when we acknowledge our need of others, are willing to own the choices we make and there effect upon others. Rather than running away from and blaming other people or things for our mistakes, I believe this is what the biblical writers are telling us in to-day’s readings and I want to explore this with you today.

FIRST A WORD ABOUT INTERPRETING THE READINGS
The bible readings are not scientific statements: The writers of the bible both old and new testament did not belong to a world with a scientific understanding of life as we do; they didn’t seek to prove things by cause and effect. The made observation about life and passed on what they learned through. STORY AND SONG AND POEM; the tools of oral traditions.
They were not interested in what we might call "the facts". They were interested in what the story said about life. Stories are not meant to be taken literally. It was quite normal in the bible times for the same story to be retold about a number of different heroes of the faith, who may well have lived at different times in history. Illustration: The story about the control of the elements of nature, water is told about Moses and Elijah and also Jesus. Moses crossing the sea, Elijah crossing the river Jordan, Jesus calming the sea. The writers intention is to say that each of these men were an instrument of the same God.

LAST WEEK
By having the disciples see Jesus talk with Elijah and Moses on the mountain followed by the voice coming from the cloud and then the disciple seeing Jesus alone, the writer is telling us that the power of God is to be seen more clearly in Jesus and therefore they need to look to Jesus to discover the fullness of God’s ways.

TODAY we look at the story of the Adam and Eve temptation in the garden and Jesus temptation in the wilderness.
WHAT ARE THE WRITERS TRYING TO TELL US ABOUT FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY BY TELLING THESE STORIES? WHAT HAS THIS TO SAY ABOUT BEING HUMAN AND OUR CONNECTION WITH GOD?
I stand with those believers, both Jews and Christians, both ancient and modern, who maintain that every individual becomes the Adam, or Eve, of their own soul.
The story of Adam and Eve is not talking so much about what happened in the distant past but what happens here and now.

WHAT DO THESE STORIES TELL US ABOUT TEMPTATION AND ITS CONNECTION WITH FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY.

Explore with the congregation: What happens in the Adam and Eve story? What was the temptation really all about?

Notes
The Temptation was to disbelieve, to doubt, that God’s intention was always good.
THE GENESIS STORY tells how doubting God’s good intention arise within us,
and what the effect of trying to avoid responsibility for our choices is.
The form of the temptation: God can’t be trusted, - why shouldn’t we know everything?
God tells lies! The result: of mistrust. relationships were frayed - What caused the sense of shame? Loneliness results, but God continued to give opportunity for, renewal of the break, re-establishing the relationship this is only possible when we own our choices.
Conclusion: the knowledge you seek is not gained by going it alone.
THE GOSPEL STORY tells us what happens when we act out of trust in God.
The form of the temptation: God isn’t to be trusted: you are not really God’s child.
Result of trust stronger relationship is built His needs are met, with out having to prove anything
The angles ministered to him.

Conclusion: To gain knowledge you don’t have to go it alone.

Question:
What do you think would have happened if Adam and Eve had said ‘we ate of the tree of good and evil’, when God asked them why they were hiding?
What do you think that says to us about God and our relationship with God and with one another?

CONCLUSIONS:
I believe that these readings tell us.
There is nothing wrong with being tempted; having questions in our minds.
It is human to be tempted and part of our glory not a thing to feel ashamed of; Jesus was tempted. The psalmist describes us as ‘only a little lower than the angles.’
But Temptation becomes destructive, not when we choose our own way but when we are unwilling to own that we chose it and want to blame others for our actions to avoid what we see as the consequences of our choices. I suggest that when we own that we had chosen a particular course of action, instead of trying to evade God or our conscience, by lying, as did Adam and Eve, then the door to understanding and a better relationship with God and each other remains open. Strong relationships are built upon being honest with ourselves, one another and God rather than slavishly doing what we are told like puppets
The stories we heard today remind us that God gives us the freedom to choose the path we will walk, God asks us to accept that the choices we make will not always be right; that is they will often bring hurt to us and to others. And promises that when we own our honest mistakes then the door is always open to forgiveness and change and the relationships we make will grow stronger.
Freedom and Responsibility are the fruits of strong relationships in which we can make mistakes, own them, and begin again, because we have a God who never gives up on us, ever if we give up on ourselves. Amen.

© Rev. Ken Gilson, 2011


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