Monday, August 28, 2017

Sermon on Genesis 4:1-15, for the 11th Sunday after Trinity (1 Year Lectionary), "My Brother's Keeper"

Note: for the full audio of the sermon, check out my podcast. This is a limited outline.
Cain and Abel—first brothers on earth, prototype of our conflicts, of worship of God, of temptation and the nature of our hearts under sin.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they gained something they didn’t have before—a knowledge of evil; and the persistent, slavish impulse to give in to it. We’ve carried that same impulse and slavery ever since. Cain is ruled over by it. “sin doesn’t take long to go right to the bottom” (Brandt).
Rejected offering. Why? Cain’s anger, and God’s warning. Genesis 4:7 “ If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Sin personified. It’s desire is contrary to you. Sin and disobedience is against our own interest, but we are blind to that. We propel ourselves further in, without consideration to our harm (physical, mental, emotional, moral, spiritual) or harm to others. God does not cripple or prevent Cain from pursuing his sin, but warns.
Would have been God’s way to be humbled and repent, to correct his course, but Cain propels further into self-destruction. Our hatred for truth that shows our guilt—anger > hate > violence > murder. Dares to deny sin and mock God: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” meant as insult to brother? Twisted words, fitting of the devil, that contain both lie and element of truth. Tease them apart:
Not my brother’s keeper, in these ways (Spurgeon): personal responsibility for actions, and guilt; for our salvation, making promises for others.
Are our brother’s keeper in these ways (Spurgeon): common humanity, kindness, interest in the salvation of each person’s soul, duty to do good for others, love your neighbor as yourself, poor and needy, example of Christ’s complete unselfishness.
Can’t reject the idea of being “my brother’s keeper” wholesale, without great harm to ourselves or our brothers. Danger of “American individualism” and failing to recognize bonds of brotherhood, family and community bonds, common humanity (against racism), participation in something greater than your individual self, loyalty. In the right sense, my brother’s keeper shows we look out for each other, help, support, encourage, etc.
If only they had brotherly love!! 1 John 3:11-12 11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Danger of jealousy and resentment! Purge those thoughts before they take root! Do not brood or nurture evil thoughts!
God’s mercy, even in the curse and punishment on Cain—mark of protection. Small comfort, but spared his life. We can know forgiveness, even while experiencing consequences.
Childbirth, even under the most ordinary circumstances is an incredibly difficult but also amazing experience. How much more so, after Adam and Eve heard promises from God, after their sin, that childbirth would become very difficult for her, and that one of her offspring would be born to crush the head of the serpent (i.e. defeat the devil), AND this was the first childbirth in history or that they ever witnessed or experienced. Can they be blamed for thinking that perhaps the Messiah was already born to them? At the very least, her statement: “I have gotten a man of the Lord!” hints at her hopefulness and trust in God’s promise of a deliverer.
She was right to hope in the promise, wrong if she located it in her son.
Gospel: Deliverer-Messiah, Eve’s offspring, crush the serpent
Jesus’ blood speaks a “better word” than the blood of Abel (innocent bloodshed, shepherd, cries for forgiveness, mercy).
Jesus is the truest “Brother’s Keeper” as He laid down His life for us, willingly struck down for our sin, shedding innocent blood to cry out “Forgive Them!” for us.
In baptism we are joined to Jesus, the “New Adam”, and receive something we didn’t have before—an impulse to obey God’s will, do what is pleasing and right—but still at war with the “old Adam” our sinful nature. Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom. 7). Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Jesus, our true brother, the deliverer promised to A & E, the New Adam!

Sermon Talking Points
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1. Read Genesis 4:1-15. Cain and Abel were the first children born on earth. Why did God accept Abel’s offering, and not Cain’s? What was different about how they worshipped God? (v. 3-7), Hebrews 4:4; 1 John 3:12; Proverbs 15:8. Why does God desire our “first fruits” as offering? How is it an expression of faith? Exodus 13:12; Proverbs 3:9-10.
2. Note in Genesis 4:5-7, God warns Cain about his anger before Cain murders Abel. Why is anger such a potent danger? Matthew 5:21-26; James 1:19-20; 4:1-3. What commandment is violated when we are angry or stir up hatred in our hearts? How should we respond to our own anger? Ephesians 4:26, 31; Colossians 3:8; Genesis 4:7.
3. Cain rebelliously dared to try to deny his sin before God in Genesis 4:9. How often do we try to excuse or justify our sins before God? Consider your own personal examples. Who are we fooling when we do this? 1 John 1:8-9. In what ways are we  not our brother’s keeper? In what ways are we our brother’s keeper?
4. What was Cain’s curse? Genesis 4:10-15. How did God show mercy, even as He punished Cain? What is the “better word” that Jesus’ blood speaks, than the blood of Abel? Hebrews 12:24. What is similar and what is different between Abel and Jesus? How is Jesus a true “brother’s keeper” to us and all people?
5. Finally, what is our deliverance from our anger, and other sins? James 1:21; Romans 7:21-8:8. How does Eve show her faith in the promise of Genesis 3:15, by mistakenly concluding she gave birth to “a man, the Lord” (Gen. 4:1, literal reading)? Though Cain was not the Messiah, she was right to believer in the promise that God would send one to defeat the serpent.

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