"The Dream Is Alive"#87-03
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on September 15, 2019
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Genesis 3
I had lied to him. I had embarrassed him. I was driving him and my mom crazy. Still, he comes down to my bedroom that night and he says to me, "I love you, son. I love you."
It was Halloween night. I was a junior in high school. I had said to my dad that I'm going out with some friends.
"Be smart," he said to me.
"I will." He was always saying stuff like that.
We got bored with trick or treating pretty quickly, and so we started cruising around the town and someone from a car that was passing us lobbed from their open window something and it smashed on our windshield. It was a raw egg. And as we were scraping the egg yolk off of my windshield, a brilliant idea appeared to me: "Let's go get some eggs."
I wonder what the cashier thinks when four teenagers come into the checkout line at 8 p.m. on October 31st with four Mountain Dews and a dozen eggs.
"Got a hankering for some omelets tonight, gentlemen?"
"Yeah, something like that."
So we took our eggs, and we drove to Bill's house, and we unloaded all the eggs on Bill's car and drove off laughing. And what we did not know was that Bill's mom was sitting right there on the front porch, and she watched the whole thing unfold. And Bill's mom recognizes a car that belongs to Mike Zeigler, so she calls up Mr. Zeigler and tells him everything that his son had done, giving my dad the necessary knowledge of good and evil, which he would use to see through the story that I would be stitching together to cover the naked truth later that night.
Now, he didn't reveal his knowledge to me right away. He just asked questions—questions he already knew the answers to, and I should've realized that when he asked the question: "Did you throw any eggs?" But I didn't. I just kept sewing together my half-truths and lies to try to cover my shame. And after a half an hour of this, I finally admitted the truth, but by then, the damage was already done. I broke his trust. I broke trust with him. I was under his wrath, punishment delivered in the form of confiscated car keys and two months' grounding. Yet still, that night he came down to my room and told me, "I love you, son."
On this program, we're listening to the ancient book of Genesis. I listen to Genesis because I want to get to know Jesus better. That is, the Jewish Rabbi from Nazareth who was crucified under the Roman Empire during the first half of the first century. That's the Jesus that I want to get to know, and that's why I listen to Genesis. In one of the biographies of Jesus, in the book of John 5:39, Jesus says to His fellow Jews, "You all search the Scriptures," that is the Old Testament, "You search the Scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life and it is these, the Scriptures, that bear witness to Me, that speak of Me." And so I listen to the Scriptures because I want to get to know Jesus. I want to be found in Him. I want to be a partaker in the power of His resurrection. I listen to the Scriptures because I want to get to know Jesus, and I invite you to listen, too.
We're listening to Genesis 3 today, and we need to remember that the events that unfold in Genesis 3 do not negate the vision of chapters 1 and 2. They don't undo the hope of chapters 1 and 2. The God who created the universe and everything in it still sees His creation as good, even after chapter 3. The Creator still wants to partner with, still wants to have humankind be His representatives, His image-bearers on earth, even after chapter 3. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob still wants to relate to you and to me with grace and truth, even after Genesis chapter 3, which goes like this:
"Now, the serpent was more crafty, more subtle, than any other of the creatures that the Lord God had made. And the serpent said to the woman, 'Did God actually say that you may not eat of any of the trees of the garden?' And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat of the trees of the garden. But God did say that you must not eat of the tree in the middle of the garden and you must not touch it, otherwise you will die.'
"'You will not die. For God knows that in the day that you eat of it, your eyes will be opened. You will be like God, knowing good and evil.' And 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, so she took of its fruit and ate and also gave some to her husband who was with her. And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they stitched together leaves of a fig tree and made coverings for themselves. And they heard the voice, the voice of the Lord God, who was walking in the garden in the cool of the day. And the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden.
"And the Lord God called to the man, to Adam, 'Where are you?' And he answered, 'I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.' And He said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?' And he said, 'The woman you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.' And He said to the woman, 'What is this that you have done?' And she said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate.' And to the serpent, the Lord God said, 'Because you have done this, cursed are you beyond all the beasts and all the animals of the field. On your belly, you will go and dust you will eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity, I will declare war, between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike His heel."
"And to the woman he said, 'I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing. In pain, you will bring forth children, and your desire will be contrary to your husband, and he will rule over you.' And to the man He said, 'Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat, cursed is the ground because of you. In pain, you will eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it will bring forth for you and you will eat of the plants of the field by the sweat of your brow. You will eat your bread until you return to the ground, for from it you were taken because you are dust, and to dust you will return.'
"And Adam called the name of his wife, Eve, because she was the mother of all the living, and the Lord God made coverings of skins for the man and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, 'Look, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil. Now, so that he does not stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat it and live forever.' So the Lord God sent him out of the garden to work the ground from which he was taken, and the Lord God drove out the man, and at the east of the Garden of Eden, He stationed cherubim angels and a sword of fire, turning every which way to guard the path to the tree of life."
This is the Word of the Lord, Genesis 3. Those words really speak to me. Hey, they speak to my frustrations. They speak to my fears. Do they speak to you? Maybe they don't speak to you. Maybe you hear them as a myth, something that never happened. I don't believe that, but let's just start there. Let's just say that this is a just-so story—kind of like how the leopard got his spots or how the elephant got his trunk. Let's just start there. Now, if this is that kind of story, you got to admit, we could agree that it's a different kind of story in the first place because of its longevity. It's been around. Many just-so stories have come and gone, but this one has outlasted empires. It's proved more durable than stone. It's proved more resilient than kingdoms and revolutions. And even for a story that's been around for at least a few thousand years, it still speaks pretty well to our experience today, even if you've never heard it.
For example, even if you have a lot of money, you know the toil involved with eating meals every day for you and for your family. You know how much work that is, how difficult the work is: by the sweat of your brow, you will eat your bread. You know this story. Even if you aren't currently married, you know, you're well-acquainted with the strife and the hurt that will inevitably come to any couple who tries to share a house together and a bank account together and a bed together. Your desire will be contrary to your husband, and he will try to rule over you. You know this story. Even if you've never personally given birth to a child, you know about the pain involved in bringing a child into the world and raising that child. In pain, you will bring forth children.
You know this story. Even if you're relatively young and healthy, you know how fragile your body is, how breakable it is because you are dust, and to dust you will return. You know this story. Even if you've never committed what people would consider to be a serious crime, you know what it's like to be led into something that violates your deeply held convictions about what is right and wrong. You know what it's like to be ashamed to feel guilty. You know good and you know evil, and you know the evil that's inside you, and it scares you—just like what's inside me scares me. You know this story because it's your story and mine.
I can't force you to believe this. I believe that these accounts from Genesis, they are what God wants us to know about what happened to our world. They are what God wants us to know about our situation, past, present, and future. I believe it not because I can prove it from the fossil record. I believe it not because I'm ignorant of how some modern scientific theories contradict it. I believe it not because I'm a sucker for stories with talking snakes and swords of fire. I believe Genesis because of the resurrection of Jesus. That's why I believe it.
Here's what you can do. Go to YouTube and search "NT Wright Resurrection," capital N, capital T, last name Wright, W-R-I-G-H-T, Resurrection. Watch the video that is 2:23 long. NT Wright, he wrote this tome of a book. I have it right here. It's 817 pages long. He argues that the only way that you can explain the rise of Christianity and why it took the particular form that it took is that the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, after they watched Him crucified and killed, saw His empty tomb, and met Him alive again in a transformed body. Now, NT Wright, he says he gave his book to a friend of his who's an atheist, and the friend read it and said, "It's a great book. You really make the argument. I simply choose to believe that there must be another explanation, even if I don't know what it is."
No one can bully you into believing this stuff because to believe it means a transformation in your worldview. If Jesus is risen from the dead then He is who He says He is: the Son of God, the Savior of the world. If Jesus is risen from the dead, then the Scriptures that He has endorsed, that's your story. That's my story. And if you live inside this story, you can see that the world still labors and lingers under that ancient curse. And the story also says that God cursed us, not because He hates us, but because He loves us.
When I was 17 years old, it was very difficult for me to believe that my dad loved me, even as he was punishing me. And it is difficult to believe in the love of God when you are suffering the punishment of God. It's difficult. It's so difficult that you and I cannot do it on our own, and so God sent His Son to become one of us, one of us, the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. Jesus became one of us, and He suffered under the curse. That's what was happening when He was crucified. It wasn't the machinations of the Roman Empire. It was the ancient curse of God falling upon the Son of God. And someone will say, "How can that be love? Really? God sent His Son to be tortured to death? How can that be love? How can God be trusted when He does stuff like this? How can you trust God when He sends crosses and suffering into your life?" And I say to the serpent, "I can't, but Jesus did, and I am hidden in Him. I am crucified with Him, and He has crushed your head."
When I was in the third grade, I had a dream of being in the military. My dad was in the military. He was in the Air Force, and I wanted to be like my dad. I wanted to serve in the military. Even when I was in kindergarten, I was drawing pictures of airplanes and airmen in uniform. I wanted to be like my dad. When I got to high school, I lost the dream. The dream died. All I was concerned about at that point in my life was how I looked and how I felt and impressing anybody who saw me, and I think that's sort of why I got to that position where I lied to my dad and was grounded for two months.
The week after that, a representative from the Air Force came to my school, and I heard about it on the announcements, and I thought about my dad and I thought about what he had done, and I thought about what I had done. So I went and talked to the recruiter, and the dream came alive again. It wasn't the punishment that did it. It was my dad's word, "I love you, son." I wanted to be like him, and it was time to start acting like it.
There is a dream inside of you. There's a dream inside of me. God put it there. It's His gift. Traditionally, in the Christian worldview, we call this the image of God. It's a dream not in the sense of being unreal, but in the sense of being not yet fully realized. See, you were made in the image of God for the fulfillment of this dream. You are a high-performance vessel of the living God designed to live forever and to care for His creation with dignity and wisdom and beauty. You are a sister. You are a brother of Jesus, the King. That is what is most real about you. Everything else, the pain you still experience, the sin that still entangles, the serpent that still bites at your heels, those things are temporary terrors of an old dying and defeated nightmare. God's dream is fulfilled for you in Jesus. God's love did it. The dream is alive because Jesus is alive, and now it's time to start acting like it.
Would you pray with me? Dear Father, You've told me again and again that You love me, that I am made in Your image, that I am Your child. Help me to act like it. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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Reflections for September 15, 2019
Title: The Dream Is Alive
Mark Eischer: To connect with The Lutheran Hour, go to lutheranhour.org. There you'll find audio from previous weeks, information about the program and its Speakers, links to free resources, our mobile app, and much more. That's lutheranhour.org. Now, back to Dr. Michael Zeigler.
Mike Ziegler: Thanks Mark. We are continuing in our series on the book of Genesis. Again, if you want to listen in on a conversation around this message, around the text of this message, check out our new podcast. It's called "Speaking of Jesus," and you can get that wherever you find podcasts, and be sure to subscribe and leave a review. Once again, I have joining me in the studio, Dr. Chuck Arand. Thanks for coming back, Chuck.
Chuck Arand: I am happy to be back. Thank you.
Mike Ziegler: Sometimes we boil the story of the Bible down to sin and salvation or problem and solution. What might be some shortcomings of seeing the Bible that way?
Chuck Arand: I think one of the shortcomings could potentially be of viewing everything through a logical lens or a rationalistic lens, and it's somewhat myopic in that way. So, for example, there have been many times when my children and wife will at times say, "You can't solve every problem." And then this past year I happened to be reading Dorothy Sayers, a well-known English author. I think it's the book, The Mind of the Creator, and there was a passage in there that hit me like a ton of bricks.
She draws this contrast between the analytical mind and the creative mind, and says that the analytical mind views life like a detective story. We have these problems, these conundrums, and you've got to figure them out. It's almost like putting a puzzle together, or a crossword puzzle. There is one solution. And then she says there's the creative mind, where the creative mind, rather than seeing the issues of life as problems to be solved, sees the issues of life as the matter or the material out of which you make something new. And I thought, "Well, that sounds more like the God of the Bible."
Mike Ziegler: Right.
Chuck Arand: First of all, God, above all else, can be described or defined as a Creator. And so, He creates out of nothing. And then from thereon, after Genesis 3, He's always creating something new out of nothing. The nothingness of death, the nothingness of sin.
Mike Ziegler: So just to be clear, we're not saying that there isn't problem and solution in the biblical narrative. That's a main part of it.
Chuck Arand: Oh, sure. Of course sin is a problem, and the solution to sin is Jesus, His death and resurrection. But notice how creative the solution is. It's not a solution any human being would have come up with.
Mike Ziegler: Right.
Chuck Arand: And that takes you to Paul in 1 Corinthians 1, where he talks about, we want to see powerful signs, like the parting the Red Sea, the thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai. Or the Greeks would have expected a solution that was congruent with the grandeur and orderliness of the cosmos.
Mike Ziegler: "And we preach Christ and Him crucified."
Chuck Arand: Crucified and this, out of a humiliated and crucified man, God brings about the renewal of the entire world.
Mike Ziegler: That's a pretty creative solution.
Chuck Arand: Yeah. So they don't have to be antithetical. There may be a difference between the analytical mind and the creative mind, but a solution can be pretty creative.
Mike Ziegler: So you're saying God might be more like an artist or a poet than a problem solver?
Chuck Arand: You know, I don't want to limit our picture of God to one particular image or metaphor, but I do think that we haven't always had the Creator image at the forefront of our thinking. So even when bad things happen in our lives, or tragedies, sometimes we focus only on "Why did this happen? What was God thinking? What is His reasoning?" Almost as if I can get a handle on that, then I can sort of get a handle on God and understand what God is doing instead of realizing "Well, God took this and made something new of me by this."
Mike Ziegler: Well, thank you so much, Chuck. If you want to hear more of a conversation like this, again, check out our new podcast. It's called "Speaking of Jesus." You can find it wherever you get podcasts, and be sure to subscribe and leave a review.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Jesus Sinners Doth Receive" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)