Of Knowledge and Place: Reflections for the First Sunday in Lent

One need only think for a brief moment of this kind of knowledge possessed by human beings that may lead directly to death. Our discovery of the atom and its immense power has led us on more occasions than we know to the very brink of extinction. Such knowledge is not going to go away, but if it is obtained and used apart from the presence of God to remind us of our possible folly, our acquisition of such knowledge may result in death for all.

Still, the Hebrews were hardly fools. They know that they would continue to eat from this tree of knowledge no matter how often they heard the command not to do so. Human beings are driven to learn more and more. But they warned us as clearly as they could of the possible consequences. In chapter 3, the consequences are spelled out in hilarious detail. The woman eats, egged on by the snake; the man eats, saying nothing, simply following the dictates of his belly; and at the last both man and woman blame others for their own folly, standing deep in the garden, scratching themselves in their ridiculous fig-leaf aprons! Such are the results of human striving for divine knowledge, uncomfortable and laughable garments, hurling insults and blame in every direction save the only one that is appropriate, namely at themselves.

So, the place of humanity in the cosmos or the dangers and possibilities of the striving for great knowledge. Either of those could be a fine place with which to start a Lenten series. Both ask crucial questions of us as we embark on the yearly Lenten journey. I hope you will choose one and have at it with a will, and may your journey this year be rich and fruitful for you and for your congregation.

12/2/2022 9:10:35 PM
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.