Cain and Abel
October 4 2020
Sermon by Dr. Terry Swicegood
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.[b] She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So, Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” [d] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Did you ever wonder what was the real beef Cain had with his brother, Abel? After all, Cain was the first-born and as such he was the child to carry on the family name, the child that someday would receive a double family inheritance. The child who would inherit his father’s role as head of the family. He was so fortunate. You would think he would have been utterly contented.
But not so. Whatever the reason, one day Cain’s resentment against his brother boiled over. It boiled over on such a simple matter. Each brother brought an offering to God and Abel’s offering–for some unexplained reason–was more pleasing to God than was Cain’s.
The die was cast. A few days later while they were working in the field, Cain sets upon his brother, and murders him.
I have a theory about this. Although Cain was the first-born, Abel was his mother’s favorite, the darling boy, the apple of her eye. And over the years as her favoritism mounted, his seething also mounted.
I couldn’t read this story of Cain and Abel without thinking of the Proud Boys. They are the right-wing group which has been in the news over the past few several months.
Gavin Mcginnis, the founder of the Proud Boys has said: “Violence solves everything,” and “our group members will kill you.”
Where did those warped thoughts originate? Were the members of the Proud Boys neglected and abused as children? Did they fill their time as adolescents playing those violent video games? Were there no reliable adults in their lives to teach them to respect differences in other people? What?
Today is World Communion Sunday. While we were still sleeping Christians in China were celebrating the Last Supper, and as the sun made its slow way across Asia and then Europe, millions of Christians, country by country, neighborhood by neighborhood, knelt and thanked God for the bread broken and the wine poured.
It’s good to have this Sunday each year to recall our oneness in Christ with so many different people from so many different places. But it’s also important to remember our oneness as well with Jews, and Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus. To remember that we all came from one set of parents, Adam and Eve, to remember that as such we are brothers and sisters, and to sadly recall the story of Cain and Abel, that we are constantly breaking asunder what God has joined together.
As you know our son flies with American Airlines. Last Thursday American furloughed some 19,000 workers including 8100 flight attendants.
The last flight for flight attendant Breunna Ross was one week ago today. Just before landing in Dallas Fort Worth she gave the passengers the usual spiel: local time, gate arrival and baggage claim area. And then she added a personal message to the passengers and crew, thanking them for her experience as an AA employee.
She said: “As all of you know the airline industry has been impacted greatly by this global pandemic. Our routes and flying have been significantly reduced, resulting in our company having an overage in staff. For myself and one other crew member on our flight today that means we’ll be furloughed October 1st and unfortunately this was my last working flight before that day comes.
“I will never forget seeing your faces today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the kindness shown on today’s flight.
Ross went on to explain through tears that she had started working for American Airlines two and a half years ago.
“This job was an escape for me after being unhappy with my job after graduating college. It was a job that awarded me with many opportunities, a job that I fell in love with.
“I have been to places I never thought I’d have the opportunity to go to, places I never knew existed. I’ve met people from all walks of life and I’ve make friendships that will last the rest of my life.
She then specifically thanked the airline for taking a chance on her and she wished her crew members luck for the future.
As she ended her message, she addressed the passengers again. “With so much happening in the world, you never know how small actions can impact the next person. Please be kind to one another, practice compassion with everyone and live with acceptance of yourself and others.”
Each of us has a choice about what we say and what we do. I know we are worried about the future of our country. I know we are worried about the level of violence in America. I know we are worried about getting sick or having loved ones get sick.
But we do have a choice–either to let our worries overwhelm us or to call upon the power of the risen, regnant Christ to sustain us through this dark time. And in so doing to embody the virtues that American flight attendant so eloquently lifted up: Be kind to one another; practice compassion with everyone, and to live with acceptance of yourself and others.
Cain and Abel