Genesis 4:16-26
Proverbs 5:15-6:4

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

In the Orthodox Church, it’s actually not that often we read the book of Genesis in the services of the Church (like we did earlier tonight). Primarily, Genesis is read during Great Lent. Every day we read small sections of the first book of the Bible in the evening services, and by the end of the Fast we’ll have read the entire book in the services. I want to focus on a phrase from Genesis very much related to our reading tonight – a phrase that adds some clarity to the final portion of our reading, and gives us some things to ponder – but comes just a few verses after the reading we heard.

What we actually read comes immediately after Cain kills his brother Abel. Cain kills his brother, then he’s cursed by God, marked by God for his protection, and sent away to another place (away from the rest of his family). And then we heard from the genealogy of Cain – we heard who his descendants were. At the end of the reading we get another piece of information regarding Adam and Eve: “Again Adam knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore a son, and he named him Seth” (Genesis 4:25). The third named child of Adam and Eve (in the Scriptures) is Seth. But it’s a phrase about the birth of Seth from the 3rd verse of the next chapter that I want us to hear as well: “Now Adam lived two hundred and thirty years, and begot a son according to his form and image, and named him Seth” (Genesis 5:3). A very telling phrase – Adam begot a son according to his form and image. He bore a son in his own likeness.

We learn in the story of Creation that mankind is created in the image and likeness of God. We’re created in God’s image, with the potential to attain to His likeness. We have the ability to be, by grace, everything God is by nature. This is our Orthodox understanding of salvation – to share in the life of God by His grace. This was God’s purpose for us, for us to grow and be like Him and be with Him. We’ll never be God, there’s no confusion in Orthodoxy theology – man is always man, and God is always God. But by God’s good pleasure, He wants to share with us everything of Himself that we possibly can contain. Adam and Eve were created without sin. We often refer to them as perfect, and in the since that they were without sin, they were perfect. But they weren’t yet all that they could have been. God placed them in the Garden, and His goal was for them to grow in their relationship with Him and with each other. Created in God’s image, they were to grow in His likeness.

But according to the story we have in Genesis, the very first time temptation came to Adam and Eve, they fell. They chose to do their own will; they abandoned the likeness of God. They wanted the things of God, without God. The serpent promises that they will be like gods once they eat the fruit, so instead of following the commandments of their Creator, they choose their own path. Adam and Eve fall from grace, they are expelled from the Garden (we sing – they fell and were cast from Paradise into this world). Instead of sharing in the life of God, Adam and Eve condemn themselves (and future generations) to an existence of sin and death. Shortly thereafter, we have this phrase regarding the birth of Seth – “Adam begot a son in his form and likeness.”

Seth was born in the image of his parents, fallen. When we think about sin in the world, or the idea of the parent’s sins being visited on the children, certain temptations that seem to run in families…this phrase from Genesis helps us understand these phenomena. We’re born in the image of our parents. We’re born fallen, condemned (in the flesh, at least) to death. We’re born into a fallen and sinful and dying and pain filled world as well. Because we’re all born in the image of our parents. And as successive generations have given birth to children in their own form and likeness, is it really any wonder that the state of world continues to deteriorate? We inherit the issues of our parents, add to them our own sins, and pass them down to our children, and that cycle has continued since the birth of Seth. This also helps us understand the importance the Fathers of the Church place on the holiness of the lives of parents. So that parents can pass on to their children a better form and image than perhaps was passed on to them.

But there’s another side of this that we as the Christian Church can never forget, and can never forget to proclaim. While Seth was born in the image of his father, since he was human, he was also born in the image and the likeness of God. Adam and Eve were created in the image and likeness of God, and all of us carry within us that image as well. The image of God in man is never erased. Even the most hardened and terrible of criminals, people of other faiths, people in exceptional sufferings, people who struggle with psychological disorders – the image of God is always present in us. Mankind always has the opportunity to ascend to the likeness of God, to be what we were created to be. This is eminently visible in the Bible – bad parents give birth to Prophets and Saints, and on the other hand, good parents give birth to some of the worst of sinners. The image of our parents is imprinted on us from birth, but the image of Christ is imprinted even deeper. For all of eternity, we’re in the image of our Creator.

Everything in the world is redeemed in the Incarnation of Christ. God became man, took on all of our sins and failings, destroyed the ancient curse of death on the Cross and in His Holy Resurrection, in order that we can be with Him, so that we can be saved. And if we undertake the call of the Gospel – to unite ourselves to Christ, to follow in His commandments, in His footsteps, if our desire and struggle is to be with God – then nothing (not our parent’s image, not the state of the world, not even our own sins) can stand in the way of our ascent to the likeness of God, and to our salvation.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!