Compassion For A World That Functions The Opposite Of Eden

Text: Genesis 2:17-27 & Mark 8:1-9 

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Wouldn’t it be great if this world operated like the Garden of Eden?  Seriously, just think about it for a moment.  Imagine having everything you needed.  Imagine being content with yourself and others. Imagine having plenty to do, plenty to eat, along with no threats to your life. But as you know, all of this changed.  Sin ruined everything.  And so, here we are in this world – a world with tears, sorrow, hunger, fear, pain, need, and want.

Dear friends, regardless of what silly positive motivational speakers say, this world is tough – it is harsh.  Turn on the nightly news, and you will see how tough the world really is.  Every day people die of hunger, natural disasters destroy things, people suffer, and big people stomp on little people.  It is a jungle out there. Sure there are stories of people doing kind things in this world: a stranger saving a drowning dog, a long line of drive-thru cars where customers buy strangers' coffee, and the typical story of a homeless man saving tourists from being run over by trains.  But these stories tend to be few and far between.  The reason why?  This world is, more often than not, a cutthroat dog-eat-dog world.  That is to say, we live in a cruel world where everyone competes non-stop for awards, recognition, and resources.  

For example, because sin wrecked the world and our hearts, we are not content, satisfied, or generous. But instead, our minds and hearts are constantly wanting money, sex, power, and material things.  And once we get these things, greed sets in, and we horde. And when we are not hoarding, well… we overconsume to the point of wasteful gorging.  

To make things even worse, our sinful hearts go the way of pride, not humility.  We go the way of envy, not charity.  We go the way of vengeance, not patience. Indeed, this world is sick.  Mankind’s heart is sick as well.  We are living the opposite of the Garden of Eden, which is why there are so many tears.  This is why there is so much sorrow, hunger, fear, pain, need, and want in this world.  

Now, we need to pause and be honest about things, though.  Too often, people blame God for all of this.  But truth be told, it is our fault, not His.  Let us not forget that it was Adam and Eve who ruined everything in the Garden of Eden.  And just in case you want to blame them, keep in mind that you were right there with them.  Please do not be so na├»ve to say, 

“If I were Adam or Eve, I wouldn’t have messed things up so bad.  I would’ve done better.”  

Friends, this kind of prideful thinking is exactly what landed Adam and Eve into so much trouble in the first place.  

And so, the way things are in the world is because of us. The way that things are in our hearts is our fault.  My sin is my fault.  Your sin is your fault.  And this broken world?  It is our entire fault.  All of humanity – the rich, the poor, the wise, the foolish, the strong, and the weak – all of us are in this together.  To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, 

“Nobody lives right, not one.  Everyone has taken a wrong turn.  We all have participation trophies for being the sinner of the year.  We don’t know the first thing about living kindly for others.”

Just in case I have not been blunt enough, let me try and be even blunter. If God were to blast each and every one of us to hell, that would not be harsh, evil, or unfair.  You heard that correctly; if God were to crush the world in one powerful act of vengeance, it would not be harsh, evil, or unfair but completely good, for that is exactly what we deserve.  

… But the Lord God does not do this.  Ah, the Lord God is not distant in heaven cooking up a recipe of poison for you and me – plotting to destroy us with an evil plan.  But instead, He is compassionate. 

Consider our reading from the Gospel of Mark for a moment.  There was a great crowd gathering around Jesus, and they had nothing to eat.  And instead of dismissing them on their way into the wilderness to fend for themselves, Jesus freely fed them. He told them to sit on the ground so that He could give them food. He did this because He had compassion for the crowd.  

The word compassion is an interesting word. In our reading from the Gospel of Mark, it is a word that captures not only an emotion but also a characteristic of Jesus.  Stated simply, when Jesus had compassion on the hungry crowd, His inner gut was eaten up with pity and mercy for them – to the point that He was driven to do something for them.  The word compassion is an intense word – showing a deep sense of gut-wrenching anguish and desire that forces a person to act on behalf of another.  And so, because of compassion, Jesus multiplied bread and fish to feed the people.  

Dear friends, do not let the simplicity of this story pass you by.  Jesus fed the people spiritually and physically by teaching them and giving them food.  He did this because of His compassion. And so, right there, the 4,000 people were given a glimpse of the Garden of Eden. There at that moment, they had everything.  Their souls were full of the rich Word of God, their stomachs were full of good food, and they rested on the ground without worry in the presence of Jesus.  Content and satsified!    

Baptized Saints, do you realize that in Christ and His second coming, the curse will be completely undone? Do you realize that in Christ, the paradise of Eden will be restored to you? Jesus Christ has endured the burden of the curse of Adam and Eve and was raised on the third day to bring you back to the paradise of Eden and the paradise of Eden back to you.  He does this because He is compassionate towards you.  He was not content or satisfied to leave the world and you in sin.    

So what this means is that in Jesus, you receive the comfort of the Garden of Eden.  When Jesus comes to you today at the Lord’s Supper, you taste the bounty of Eden.  And when Jesus comes back a second time, the abundant bounty of Eden will be restored to you with a new heaven and earth. 

Now, the application of all of this is quite relevant for you and me.  In other words, today’s sermon and readings are not just a theoretical exercise in mythological stories from Jesus but reality for you and me.  

Consider this for a moment: this last week, as I was driving on Broadway here in Minot, I saw at least a dozen signs begging for employees - $16/hr to cook burgers, $300 sign-on bonus to work at gas stations, and so forth. However, in the grocery stores and retail stores, shelves seemed to be very empty - a table grinder is five months back-ordered, grocery stores can't get bottled water because there is a shortage of plastic bottles. Chicken is only being delivered at 50% of requests. And let us not forget increased prices. Gas is up 40%.  I’m told that some pork went from $1.50/lb. to $3.80/lb. A pallet of coffee went from $1,500 to $2,200. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has injected 10 trillion 'new' dollars into our economy for the purpose of propping it up and stimulating it. As a friend said to me on this subject, it is a perfect storm of conflicting supply and demand with drastic government financial intervention, which will result in something having to give. What will give, though? Only time will tell. 

Now, I don’t share this to be a doomsday prophet or an economic consultant.  But I share this because it is evidence that economic and political systems are fragile and erratic in this life under the sun. That is to say, do not be surprised if things do not go well in this life.  If things are good, well, God be praised.  However, if things go bad, it should not surprise you and me.  If things get worse in the upcoming months and years, we should not be alarmed because we know that lust, greed, gluttony, pride, envy, vengeance, and sloth permeate our world.  This is how things are.  We are living in the opposite of Eden.  And so, we must understand that at the end of the day, human leaders, institutions, and systems can't save us. 

But for you - dear Christian – you know compassion.  Not the compassion of humanity but Christ’s compassion for you.  

And so, when the world throws its worst and even turns it back on you or turns you upside down, your hope is not in this world but Christ. Your hope is in the fact that Christ has not left us for dead but has had compassion on us.  Your hope is in the everlasting kingdom.  Your hope is in the new heaven and earth – the abundance of  Eden that will be restored to you.  

Chins up, Baptized Saints!  Your hope is not in a fragile dominion but an enduring dominion. Your assurance is not in anything temporary, erratic, or fragile but in the one who is above, below, at the beginning, and at the end - the one who holds all things together... Christ Jesus, the compassionate One. 

Without His compassion, we would be left for dead.  But because of His compassion, Christ Jesus not only bled and died for you but promises to come again to renew the abundant bounty of Eden by giving you a new heaven and a new earth.  And hear this: in Christ and His gifts, there is complete contentment and satisfaction.  

In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

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