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The land of Nod

Genesis 4:13-24 These days, drifting off to the land of Nod sounds like a pleasant slumber.  It was Jonathan Swift who first used the phrase in connection with sleep.  And Rudyard Kipling followed suit.  Now we associate the land of Nod and ‘nodding off’ exclusively with sleep.  I read recently that taking heroin is also […]

Am I my brother’s keeper

Genesis 4:6-14 We all know the phrase.  And we all want to be able to answer yes. Tony Blair first introduced “New Labour” to the party conference describing it as the kind of compassionate socialism that said “I am my brother’s keeper.” In 2008, Barack Obama’s Christmas Day message was this: “Now, more than ever, we […]

Knowing… in the biblical sense

Genesis 4:1-5; John 17:1-5 “I knew her… in the biblical sense” said the fellow with a ribald wink and a nudge. Many are aware that “knowing in the biblical sense” is shorthand for sex.  But few know what it is that’s ‘biblical’ about that ‘biblical sense.’ Well it all goes back to Genesis 4:1: “And Adam knew […]

How the mighty are fallen

2 Samuel 1:17-27 “Have you seen the news?  Flooding, fires, earthquakes, wars.  If we don’t watch ourselves the world’s going to fall apart completely.” “I fear we’ll soon pass the point of no return!” “We must be very near the end!” These are statements I hear pretty regularly about “the state of the world today.” The […]


Genesis 3:22-24 When the person we love is dying of cancer we pray for healing.  We pray fervently.  But even if God grants a miraculous healing, what then?  Do we dare to ask for ten more years of health?  Twenty?  What about a hundred? How long do we want this kind of life prolonged?  For how […]

East of Eden

Genesis 3:21-24; Psalm 24 Humanity is homesick.  We feel restless, estranged, ‘out of place.’  But this is very odd!  Where else should we be?  Where else have we known?  Why should we not feel ‘right at home’ in the world where we live? Genesis chapter 3 tells us why.  Cut off from the LORD, humanity […]


Genesis 3:14-20 First Eve receives her life and then her name from Adam.  But in between these two events the whole world falls apart. Between Eve’s creation and her naming, the couple rebel, death and curse are unleashed and the LORD pronounces fearful judgements.  Yet the most hopeful verse comes next: “Adam called his wife’s […]

The sweat of your brow

Genesis 3:19; Luke 22:39-46 The Authorized Version can’t take credit for this one.  It translates Genesis 3:19 as “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” If they were even more literal they might have said “In the sweat of thy nostrils…”! But, unsurprisingly, it’s the more idiomatic translation “By the sweat of […]

Dust to dust

Genesis 3:14-19; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 As a minister I have often stood beside the grave as they lower the coffin.  It’s my job to say these famous words: “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” Each phrase picks up on biblical imagery. Adam was made from adamah meaning earth.  And humanity is “dust and […]

Fig leaves

Genesis 3:7,21 It’s a cover-up for something shameful.  But it’s hasty and inadequate.  That’s “fig leaves” in the popular understanding.  And it’s precisely the meaning of fig leaves in Genesis 3. An hour earlier, Adam and Eve were walking around Paradise as king and queen.  They were naked and unashamed. But the minute they eat […]