A House Divided

2nd Sunday after Pentecost, June 6, 2021, Genesis 3:8-15, Mark 3:20-35

The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas

Everyone loves a fascinating fable, and the second account of creation in Genesis does not disappoint us. It probably responded to questions posed by adults and children alike, such as “Why does the snake crawl on its belly?” or “Why is there pain in childbirth?” or more basically, “Why are we here, and why do we die?” And while many for a long time actually believed this story in which fruit possessed magic powers and serpents talked and reasoned with human beings, I prefer to believe that this story is an amusing myth unintended to be taken as fact. However, the last few months following our national elections have only proven that seemingly rational human beings are not beyond believing myths.

Still, the answers this creation myth offer to the questions posed tend to incite a flurry of more questions, like: “Why was a tree possessing the knowledge of good and evil created in the first place, and why would God feel  threatened by one’s ability to discern goodness from evil?” Could God have overreacted in the dishing out of punishment? Would a simple slap on the wrist have sufficed? And why kick the human couple out of paradise when the preferred course of action might have been to excommunicate the serpent? Is our curious, inquiring spirit the reason for our downfall from God’s grace? 

I would hope that our inquiring spirits reflect the breath of life and divine image within us to, in the words of Jesus, “know the truth,” so that “the truth will set free.” (John 8:32)

Jesus told Pilate, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice,” to which Pilate replied, “What is truth?” What is truth, indeed. We are individuals torn and divided by competing notions of truth. Who are you? That depends on how true you are to yourself. Is every word of the Bible the word of God? That depends on whom you believe and the sources upon which you rely. Were the 2020 elections fair? Again, it depends on whom you believe, and the sources upon which you rely. 

And while we understand that people of different spiritual orientations and upbringings will see themselves differently, and believe the Bible in different ways, as a democratic, nonsectarian nation, we have tried to establish a system of checks and balances, relying on empirical data, tested science, and common sense to come as close as possible to an accurate rendering of the truth. But when the data and science still fail to convince you because you’ve forsaken the commonly accepted system of checks and balances, then we are no longer dealing in the same realm of reality. We are a house divided. One notion of truth may be liberating, while another becomes a dogmatic cult following.

As individuals, and as a nation and world, we are houses divided, in danger of destroying ourselves due to our inability to discern the divine essence that defines our humanity and to reach a common consensus of truth for which we all strive. However, as people of God, I am convinced that, while satanic serpents remain prevalent, we have not lost our ability to know good from evil.

The curious, inquiring spirit that expelled our fabled ancestors from paradise may, in fact, with the guidance of God’s compassionate Holy Spirit, be the means of our return.

Jesus could not remain idle, saddled by dogmatic dictates that prevented him from healing on the Sabbath, while individuals riled in the torment of unrelenting, oppressive, evil spirits. Our souls, nation and world are similarly plagued by satanic forces intent on dividing us from one another and the truth God desires us to know. 

Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (John 3:25) The world is God’s house, and we are called to a spiritual awakening that ignites a compassion for justice and truth in every heart and, through the eyes of divine love, looks beyond divisions to realize that whomever does the will of God is our parent, sibling, and kindred soul in the household and family of God. Amen.