The Creation Window
This sermon is part of a Lenten midweek series on our sanctuary stained-glass windows.
Text: Gen. 2:15-17; 3;1-24; Rom. 5:12-21
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
My favorite novel, Dune, begins with a line about beginnings: “A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.” This is certainly true. Beginnings shape everything that follow. Pour a faulty foundation and the building will have countless problems for ages. Begin a trip across the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean only a couple degrees off course and you’ll end up hundreds of miles away from your destination. Make critical mistakes at the beginning, and the cost to fix a thing down the line will be staggering.
We have before us today a beginning. In our sanctuary, we are transported back to the beginning of all things as we look at our stained-glass window of the creation. One of the purposes of stained-glass windows is to place the viewer right into the account it’s giving, surrounding your senses with what’s being depicted, so that you find yourself right there with the people it’s showing. So as we look at the window, we notice the animals without any fear of Adam or Eve. We see these first two humans without sin or shame as they still enjoy the innocent nakedness of Eden. They—and we—are standing beside the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with its fruits hanging on its branches, various colors and ripeness and seasons. Notice that these are not apples, in spite of the common misconception that a lot of people have. Scripture nowhere calls them apples, simply fruit. And because this is a unique one-of-a-kind tree, it would have unique, one-of-a-kind fruit. And over everything, watching in creative wisdom and love is the all-seeing eye of God, within a triangle to visibly represent Him as being Triune, three-in-one, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, from before the beginning of all things.
But this beginning is about to suffer a crack in the foundation. The ship is about to be pushed off course right as it leaves the harbor. The tempter, in the form of a serpent, speaks to Eve, fork-tongued lies and half-truths dripping out of his mouth. Eve tells him that eating this particular fruit is prohibited by God, with death as a consequence, but the tempter replies, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good from evil.” Eve falls for the temptation, eating the fruit. And Adam, in dereliction of duty, allows it and then himself eats. They had now experienced evil. They let it in—into the creation, into their bodies, into their lives. And evil brings with it death. Evil and death had now touched them, those forces were let in the gates, body and soul, and the course of Adam and Eve’s lives had now been altered.
But because this was a beginning, it changed more than just that moment or hour. It changed more than just their lives. The balances were thrown completely off. More than that, the balances were thrown right out the window. Everything changed when their lives changed. Adam and Eve were the crown of God’s creation, and when the crown was toppled, everything followed. All creation was dragged down into sin. St. Paul explains, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Because Adam and Eve were the beginning of humanity, the sentence proclaimed on them also would change the course of their descendants, our human race. There would pain and suffering. There would be toil. No longer would the earth or animals be willing subjects to mankind, as they gladly had been as depicted in our window. And at the end of it all, at the destination that was hundreds of miles off course because of this broken beginning, there waited on the shore death. “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
When the foundation cracks, when the ship is tragically off-course, nothing but a massive and often costly correction will fix it. The all-seeing God, who sees past, present, and future all at once, knew this. So He took action. “Then the Lord said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever—’ therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” God sent Adam and Eve away from the Garden of Eden because in it was still the tree of life. If they ate of it, they would live forever. God was not being vindictive, though, nor was He trying to hoard immortality all for Himself. He drove them out away from the tree of life and put a flaming angelic guard in front of it so that Adam and Eve would not live forever in this state of suffering and decay; sin, pain and death that they had landed themselves in, going on forever. He didn’t want that to be their eternal fate. So He kept them away from the tree of life until the foundation could be fixed; until the ship was back on track.
He told them how He would set things straight again. “The Lord God said to the serpent… ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’” There was the promise of the Messiah, to be born of woman. Notice that this Offspring would not be born of a father, but born only of woman—the first hint of the virgin birth of Jesus. He would crush the head of the tempter, take away all his power of temptation and accusation. He would pay the costly price of fixing the foundation when the tempter struck his heel, wounding him on the cross, even grievously with his poisonous lies and hatred. But the damage of Eden would be undone. The flaw from creation, sin, would be removed. It would be accomplished in Christ. “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many…If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
This is what Lent is for. It’s for righting the ship, getting the foundation back. So we have extra things like devotions, where we receive that correcting medicine of God’s Word. We have extra services so that we have more time in God’s presence, in prayer and focused meditation, rather than running around distracted by our schedules. We take time this season to hear what it will take to set things right again—and then seeing that cost paid not by us, not by our efforts and dedication and chosen practices, but paid by God Himself. The Son, one Person of the all-seeing, creating Triune God, will come to be one of the descendants of Adam and Eve; the Offspring of the new Eve, the virgin Mary. He’ll be on the lost ship with us, fixing the sails, steering the rudder, moving us back toward our proper destination. He’ll stand in the condemned house of doom that humanity has been living and dying in ever since Eden, and He will fix it.
That’s what Lent is about. It’s what our windows are about. It’s what the Church is about. It’s all about Jesus. So come into the stories of these windows. They’re portals to the stories of God righting the wrongs of an off-course world, our off-course lives. These are the accounts of Him healing and the fixing the curses on us, speaking Truth to counter fork-tongued lies and half-truths. These are about Jesus, which means that they’re about you, for He has done all of these things for you, to lead you an even better paradise at the end. There is one other place the tree of life appears in Scripture. It’s when Christ returns and brings His own to the heavenly Jerusalem. There we will eat from the tree of life freely, healed and restored, without the corruption of sin and death. And it’s then you’ll see the start of a new and eternal beginning in the new heavens and the new earth, the life of the world to come. In the name of Jesus, our Beginning and End, Alpha and Omega. Amen.