John and Genesis.

Sorry I am not being all topical and writing about John Lennon. Or 80’s pop group Genesis. (Though I am a big fan of the former and can take or leave the latter.)
I am thinking about one of the Johns in the bible.
John the Baptist called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. I had always thought he must have just been grabbing at a poisonous, disliked animal. But I started thinking about it yesterday.
John and the Pharisees and Saducees certainly knew there bible. Snakes are incredibly significant in the Genesis story. It is a snake (usually assumed to be Satan) that leads Adam and Eve into Sin, bringing death and evil into the world. Even with out the things John (The Baptist) says later, it seems important to get this: they are not only being called the lowest animal they can think; they are not only being called poisonous. They are being linked with the creature who led mankind horribly astray, with the very origins of sadness and despair in the world.
After he calls them a brood of vipers, John asks: “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” This does not make a whole lot of sense with out the curses laid on the snake in Genesis: “Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.’

The offspring of eve who will crush the head of snake is generally regarded as Jesus. In this light, it makes sense for John to ask the question he does. Basically, he says “I do not know why you are bothering to run away from what is coming for you.”

In the next few sentences, John talks about an axe ready to chop down a tree. The bible (And Jesus’ words in particular) are full of fruitfull tree references. But I find myself wondering if this is a Genesis reference to. The Garden of Eden had the tree of Eternal Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When Adam and Eve ate from the second tree, they were prevented from eating from the first. I am still working out if John’s reference is somehow connected to these trees. I would love your thoughts on the matter.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “John and Genesis.”

  1. Huh. I don’t really have any further insights, but I can say I NEVER thought of either of those two references before, but they make a lot of sense. Nice going, Jeff. (In a totally non-ironic use of “nice going.” 🙂 )


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