“The Bible begins with Paradise Lost and concludes with Paradise regained. In between this prologue and this epilogue unfolds the drama of God’s entrance into the human struggle to win back the lost creation and to restore humanity to peace, unity, and fullness of life.”
— Bernhard W. Anderson, The Unfolding Drama of the Bible
“There is one consistent message that runs through the Bible and points to the wholeness of the Bible: the sovereign grace of the one God and the radical contrast between the Power Syndrome and the Rule of Grace.”
— Dr. Albert Outler
Throughout this series we will find Grace in unexpected places and unexpected ways. In the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I think there is a tendency to read the story as “they messed up, so they got kicked out.”
There’s a lot more to it than that.
Sometimes it’s very easy to overlook some of the less conspicuous meanings of grace. Grace, you see, can mean a lot of different things, and there are many different facets to grace that we may not have realized. Among these less obvious expressions of grace is how the presence of God is itself an expression of grace.
For Adam and Eve, this kind of grace is evident in the relationship they had with God. You see, the Bible doesn’t end with the third chapter of Genesis. In the great sweep of biblical narrative that follows, we see that God didn’t just kick them out of the garden — and then remain in the garden to start over with new and improved editions of humans. God did kick them out, to be sure, but then what happened?
God went with them.
When you turn the page and continue on through the entirety of the biblical narrative, you see immediately that when Adam and Eve left the garden, God sealed it off and joined them in the existence outside the garden that would be, particularly at times, the furthest thing from paradise. Even though Adam and Eve lost Paradise, as John Milton put it in his epic poem, when you keep reading you discover that God remains present with humanity in its toils and struggles — and its triumphs — from then on.
That’s the Grace of God’s presence.
Through the course of history — from hunter-gatherer to agriculture to industry, and into the age of information and technology in which we find ourselves today — we find this facet of grace. God’s presence continues now and into a future that is always, to one extent or another, uncertain.
In God’s choice to go with the humans, to leave the garden of perfection and dwell with them in their “banishment,” we find the primary evidence of grace in all our lives. Why did God choose to leave the perfection of the garden to enter the “sinful” (chaotic, unfaithful, competitive, selfish, deceitful, etc.) world of banishment? It was to exemplify Grace — the undeserved, unmerited love of God that never leaves us, never gives up on us.
Have you ever experienced God’s grace through God’s presence in an unexpected situation — one that you thought was the end of your world? I look forward to exploring the Grace of presence with you this Sunday in the Sanctuary.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster