Only God can fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts, Machado says

From left, Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer Deborah Sunya Moore; Week Five chaplain-in-residence, the Rev. Daisy L. Machado; and Chautauqua’s Senior Pastor, the Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, lead the morning worship service Sunday in the Amphitheater. HG Biggs/Staff Photographer

Column by Mary Lee Talbot

“Temptation. Seduction. Betrayal. It sounds like an advertisement for the next HBO or ‘Halo’ series. But those are the key words in Genesis. As theologian David Lowes Watson has said, ‘The Genesis story cuts to the chase of what it is to be human,’ ” said the Rev. Daisy L. Machado.

Machado preached at the 9:15 a.m. Monday morning worship service in the Amphitheater. The title of her sermon was “Tethered to God,” and the scripture reading was Genesis 2:15-17 and 3: 1-7. 

She explained that her preaching series is following the theme for this week at Chautauqua of infrastructure, and what infrastructure has to do with human thriving. On Sunday, she focused on how the government of Pharaoh failed to act justly and on Monday she preached about the inward structure of humans, especially in relationship to God.

The story of Adam and Eve’s encounter with the snake in the garden is the story of the first human interaction with evil. 

“The idea of temptation and the idea of a devil are introduced in this story, and the consequences lead to suffering and death,” Machado said. 

“This passage speaks to the commitment we have made or have not made to our faith, to our struggle to trust God against evil and to understand ourselves,” she said. “The story of the Garden of Eden is well known in religion and popular culture. Women are seen as capable of seduction and the cause of sin; God is portrayed as a stern rule-giver, a cosmic killjoy, an uptight almighty who punishes Adam and Eve. They are seen by some as non-conformists.”

Machado offered a closer reading of the text. In Genesis 2:16, the word “command” is used. In Genesis 3:1, the snake called this command into question. 

“God gave Adam one rule: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve could eat from the tree of life or any other tree,” Machado said. “There was nothing special about the snake except its craftiness. It seemed natural that it could talk, but in the Garden of Eden many dangerous animals lived alongside humans.” 

In Genesis 3:1, the snake asked Eve, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 

“Already the snake is questioning the rightness of God’s command,” Machado said. “The snake is trying to convince Eve that God is lying to her, that God’s command was out of jealousy, not out of love.”

The snake planted seeds of doubt with a clever question, intimating that God was not trustworthy. The woman might have been tempted by the delicious smell of the fruit. She might have thought, “Can it be so wrong to eat it?” The snake said God would not kill Eve and she would not die from eating the fruit. What was God up to, what was God’s purpose in putting this one tree off limits?

“Eve and Adam doubted God’s goodness and the serpent encouraged them to craft their own identities independent of God. The snake told them they could be like God on their own,” Machado said. 

She continued, “This tragedy changed how Eve and Adam understood themselves as a couple, how they understood themselves individually, and how they understood themselves in relation to God. They were cut off from a life-giving relationship with God. We are made to be in relationship with the Divine; temptation leads us away from who we really are.”

Philosopher Blaise Pascal said: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God …” Humans, Machado said, try to fill this infinite abyss with temporal things, but it can only be filled by an infinite object, which is God. 

“We all long for something transcendent,” she told the congregation. “We are tethered to God. Our future hope is in how God is doing and God is doing just fine. We tend to tether ourselves to people and things that change. Our insecurity comes from connecting our hearts and minds to things or people that can be taken away.”

Adam and Eve could never relate to God in the same way after acting like they could not trust God. Watson, the theologian Machado cited earlier, said before there was original sin there was original insecurity. Adam and Eve lost a stable relationship and fell into a deep existential insecurity.

Machado asked the congregation, “How are you filling the God-shaped hole in your life? Where do you put your trust? Are you truly tethered to God, or do you insist on constant miracles in order to believe? You can’t solve this problem by avoiding God.”

She quoted St. Augustine of Hippo: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” 

“We have to invite our hearts to find rest in God so that our souls can be open to God’s amazing grace,” Machado said.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Dear Child of God, it is often difficult for us to recognize the presence of God in our lives and in our world. In the clamor of the tragedy that fills the headlines, we forget about the majesty that is present all around us. We feel vulnerable and often helpless. It is true that all of us are vulnerable, for vulnerability is the essence of creaturehood. But we are not helpless and with God we are ultimately invincible. Our God doesn’t forget those who are suffering and oppressed.”

Machado said, “It is time to reconnect with God’s love, grace and care and be truly invincible.”

The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, presided. The Rev. Paul Womack, co-pastor of Hurlbut Memorial Community United Methodist Church, read the scripture. The prelude, “Apple Blossoms and Imaginary Birds,” by Margaret Sandresky, was played by Nicholas Stigall, organ scholar. The Motet Choir sang “Adam Lay Ybounden,” music by Carson Cooman and text from 15th-century England. Joshua Stafford, director of sacred music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist, directed the choir and Stigall provided accompaniment on the Massey Memorial Organ. The postlude was “Fanfare,” by William Mathias, played by Stafford on the organ. Support for this week’s chaplaincy and preaching is provided by The Gladys R. Brasted and Adair Brasted Gould Memorial Chaplaincy.


The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.