ALL IS WELL IN PARADISE
Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet the LORD set His heart in love on your fathers, and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as is the case this day. Deuteronomy 10:14-15
WHEN God created the heavens and the earth He was constructing the grandest cathedral of all, one He would fill with wondrous beings and finally with a creature that He made from the dust of the ground so that one day even the dust itself might be exalted. That is what the pristine world was, the universe's most spectacular cathedral, with the Lamb on the cathedra. The tent in the wilderness, the Jerusalem temple, and every man-made sanctuary that has ever taken your breath away, are but mimics of the heaven of heavens.
For light there was a myriad army of stellar bodies. Of color, no limit at all, even as we begin to perceive whenever we glance at the autumn sky. For decoration, milky galaxies so varied and numberless as to send tingles up and down the spine. And there was music! The Lord God made music and angelic choirs of which the grandest earthly choruses are but feeble imitations.
In Genesis we read that: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. That phrase "heavens and earth" is repeated so often in Scripture that it leads us to believe that of all the things God fashioned, this planet stands alone as most precious and priceless of all! There may be more noble and resourceful out there, but none more dear, and in all the earth there was no locale more sacred than the Garden called Eden.
In this garden God made a man from the dust of the ground. It reminds us of the Lord's Sabbath miracle when He mixed His own saliva with dust and made mud to repair the eyes of a man that had been blind from birth, but Adam was not a mere dusty creature because the Lord God blew into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being. Of earthly origin yes, but also of divine breath. You are the same: a dusty creature that is imbued with the breath of the living and everlasting God. No other creature can make this boast and you are of infinitely more worth than the birds of the air.
He did not only make this man, but the Lord God also chose this man to be his son as we read in St. Luke 3:38 "Adam the son of God," and from his opened side the Lord God formed the woman whose creation pointed to the church: the church that would be formed out of the Lord's own side when a spear opened it, when the blood that IS the New Testament received in the sacrament, and the water that sanctifies baptism left him and fell to the ground to make it alive again.
If the universe was the cathedral, then Eden was the chancel, the holy of holies where life was beautiful all the time, the place where God talked with our first parents in face to face fellowship, sustaining them by His Word and by the Tree of Life.
But all was not well in paradise!
We don't really know what happened in the war that took place in heaven before the world's creation. We have hints in Scripture and we do well to put the pieces together if we can, if we are careful, if we do not get too dogmatic. After all, the clues are not there for nothing. God knows that creatures made "like Him" love to ferret out mysteries and what greater mystery is there than theology, the study of God, the pursuit known as the Queen of the Sciences?
We know that Lucifer, whose name means Light Bearer, rebelled against God and took a certain number of angels with him. We might imagine that he was not happy with the Almighty's decision to make this new creature called Man, even if he was "a little lower than the angels." Perhaps Lucifer did not know, or more likely did not believe, that ever-enduring mercy of God was big enough to care for the angels and for this new creature made "in His own image." We don't know many details except that his sin was pride and that Jesus, "saw Satan fall out of heaven like lightning," but we do know the result: that God allowed the snake to enter the garden where he carried out his plan to corrupt God's good creation, and did so.
Yet we must not imagine that God is weak, because from the foundation of the world, the Lord God check-mated the snake. He planted the Tree of Life in the Garden as a sacrament of salvation, one that pointed to the cross, by which He would redeem His fallen but beloved creation. You are that creation, redeemed by God through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. you, along with the Corinthians, are the ones St. Paul has in mind when he writes in today's epistle lesson: God is faithful, by whom you were called into the communion of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Indeed, as life was lost in a garden, it was also regained in a garden because as we have said before, God's justice is always poetic. Thus we read in John 19:41 "Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden!" A garden there indeed! With New Adam, raised from the dust of earth AS THE GARDENER! For you see Mary had made no mistake at all on Resurrection morning when she supposed that Jesus was the Gardener.
This Garden is planted in the church today and gives new life to sinners, life that can never be corrupted because the New Adam crushed the snake's head by His cross and resurrection. Therefore we are now free to love the Lord our God who called us with our whole heart and soul and mind, and to love the neighbor He also redeemed as completely, and as well, as we love ourselves. That love is made perfect at the altar! Amen.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras