“And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, where He placed the man, He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God gave growth to every tree that is pleasing to the eye and good for food. And in the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And the LORD God commanded him, “You may eat freely from every tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” (Genesis 2: 8-9, 16,17)
We know that the greatest temptation of all, is that we want to decide what God is and what he must do. We want to be in control and decide what is wrong and right for us. The temptation is to be like God.
“For God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
St Paul writes of how Jesus, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;” (Phil 2:6 NIV)
We need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
The scriptures are there to open our eyes to the Truth of God, the truth that we are placed in the middle of God’s story. Through life in Christ, we are reunited with God and our purpose for ‘oneness’ with God. (John 17:21-23).
Jesus, life shows us how to please the Father as opposed to pleasing ourselves. And yet we even try to manipulate scripture to suit our own need and support our own cause. The History of Christianity is one of abuse of the status that we have been given, an abuse of the blessings that God has given us. An abuse of power. St Francis and St Clare show us clearly a better way. We need to put self-sacrifice and obedience and centering our lives on Christ into perspective, and we need to draw on the experience of others, to keep us true to what God wants, as opposed to what our carnal heart’s, desire. The Franciscan way of “oneness” keeps us centred, humble and balanced. The Anglican way of “via media” keeps us centred.
Choosing to remain in the middle – seeking God’s will, submitting to His will, being mindful of the extremes, and the seasons and the challenges and the battles and the limitations of the human condition, but always allowing ourselves to be drawn deeper into God’s story, this is the way that we must follow.
To remain in the middle, requires us to face the realities of being human. To be so confident in God that we are not afraid of our sinful condition. To be so confident in love that we can endure all things. As St Paul said “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” (Rom 8:38 NLT)
I love that – ‘life’ cannot separate me from God’s love. The human condition, my fears, doing battle with my sinful desires, the influence of evil, temptations, my confusions, none of this can separate me from God.
But my disobedience, my wilful action of rejecting God’s Lordship over my life will drive me from the middle and a barrier will exist between us. And when I cross that line, and all I see is the devastation of sinfulness, when my eyes are only open to heartache and fear, then I must cry out to my saviour, and repent and look back to the middle and see my saviour and resubmit to him.
When we live in our own strength, we feel vulnerable and naked and ashamed. But we have been given a Spirit of love that drives out fear. (1 Jn 4:18)
And so, we find our home in the middle, accepting our need of God and understanding that fear will always surround us but never overwhelm us.
We find our place in the middle in need of a saviour to continually open our eyes to God’s presence.
We find our place in the middle, where everything is ours, to enjoy and make use of and be blessed through, but where we have to continually seek to use all we have for God and not for ourselves.
To be in the middle means to stand before God and loose our ambition to be self- sufficient, The way of freedom from self (Poverty)
To be in the middle means to be totally dedicated to God and see that all that he created is his. (Chastity).
To be in the middle is to be a lover of God and a lover of all humanity (Obedience).
“And in the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” and there in the Middle God put you and me!
Let us pray.
God of Love, You placed us in the middle and there you clothe us with your compassion, give us wisdom to discern your will for our lives; by filling us with your Holy Spirit so that we can hear your voice and your voice alone.
Keep us focused on the centrality of Christ that we may live to your praise and glory.