Sub Dean - Revd Canon Michael Rawson
I have always loved the first part of the opening sentence of this afternoon’s first reading, ‘They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze …’
For me it conjures up images and memories of being on holiday in Italy when the heat of the day has dissipated and you can enjoy the relative coolness and comfort of a little breeze. For me it’s an image of well-being, peace and serenity. But alas, in our reading that feeling doesn’t even last to the end of the sentence. Everything goes awry and the blessings of God’s good creation fall apart.
In this story explaining creation, having eaten the forbidden fruit of the tree of life, Adam and Eve know that they are naked and are ashamed. They seek to hide from their Creator. But worse than that, they engage in a blame game – ‘It was her,’ accuses Adam. Whilst Eve retorts, ‘It was the serpent who tricked me.’ There is no going back. The harmony of creation is fractured and our forebears are thrown out of paradise. This episode sets the scene for the unfolding of the rest of the Old Testament where humanity constantly puts God to the test and seems incapable of living out the promises and offer of God.
Before we all get too depressed by the fallen state of our human nature, St Paul gives us a message of hope and reconciliation as he writes in our second reading,
‘when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.’
Here we have a powerful contrast of humanity falling from grace with humanity being redeemed, adopted and called God’s children through the child-bearing of Mary.
Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of the Annunciation of our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We recall how the angel Gabriel visited Mary and invited her to be the mother of Jesus, to be Theotokos, the God-bearer. It marks the beginning of a reversal of the fortunes of humanity. For in saying yes to God, Mary paves the way for God in Jesus to come among us and to redeem our fallen nature. Through her openness and action those who were cast out become once more the beloved children of God. Blame and recrimination are replaced by hope and expectation of God’s kingdom as all are invited once more to the feast of heaven.
As we celebrate Mary’s yes to God, it is an opportune time during this Lenten season to reflect on our own response to God’s love for us and God’s invitation to be open to the divine working in us. In her grace-filled yes, Mary may it possible for the Word to grow within her and she bore the Christchild into the world. May the same be true for us as it was for Mary.