Tuesday of Pentecost 20 – Genesis 4:1-15 

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 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 for you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.

One of the great American stories is the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. They had worked closely together in formulating the Declaration of Independence and as ambassadors to Europe during the revolutionary war. They had been instrumental in securing the support of France and negotiating the peace treaty which recognized the United States. But soon after the war ended, they were at enmity with each other. Adams’ single term as president was ended when Jefferson was elected after a bitterly contested and personal campaign. Adams did not stick around the inauguration and the two did not speak for some time.

Years later, however, they started a corresponding relationship. As their fellow signers of the Declaration died, their friendship grew and blossomed. Finally, they were the only two left of the original men who had signed the Declaration of independence. Fifty years later, on the Fourth of July, they themselves both lay dying in their respective homes. They died within hours of each other, on that Fourth of July in 1826. Their last words were of one another. It is a wonderful story of reconciliation.

Today we have read the terrible story of Cain’s murder of his brother Abel. I am always amazed at how quickly sinful humanity descended to the depths of depravity. No gradual slide into immorality from Eden’s perfection. No, we went right to killing our own brother. Is there anything worse? If this was the end of Genesis, we would be hopeless, but it is not the end of this marvelous book. The rest of the book is a long catalogue of brothers treating one another terribly. Isaac and Ishmael are at enmity with each other. Jacob and Esau trick and threaten each other until one has to flee for his life. But the great climax of the book is the story of Joseph in which his brothers sell him into slavery in Egypt. It was not murder but in truth the life expectancy of a slave in Egypt was short enough to be tantamount to murder. But the story ends just the way God wanted it to end. Joseph forgives his brothers, not once but twice, emphatically, in chapters 45 and 50. Jesus died for all sins, even this one, even Cain’s sin. God has mercy on Cain at the end of this story. He has enough forgiveness for every sin, even the sins you have committed and those of everyone you have ever known.

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