Sunday, June 10, 2018
Prayer of the Day
All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory. Increase our faith and trust in him, that we may triumph over all evil in the strength of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Genesis 3:8-15 God confronts Adam and Eve in the garden
2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1 Renewed in the inner nature
Mark 3:20-35 Doing the work of God as brothers and sisters of Christ
Title: Come Out of Ancient Hiding
Well, too bad for me that the vicar’s gone. This is just the kind of lectionary that any wise supervisor passes along to the vicar, with excuses like: “oh, it will be good experience for him or her to preach on these challenging texts.” All the while knowing that one will do anything to avoid them. Even throwing the newbies under the bus.
That first reading from the third chapter of Genesis alone offers a mine field of theological pitfalls: Original sin, the Origin of Evil, Why there is death, the first glimpse of the Angry, Punishing God image, Explanation for the Pain of Childbirth, Subjection of Women in a Patriarchal society. It even offers an explanation for the origin of humans’ fear of snakes. On the comical side, it offers us the first round of the Blame Game. Three years ago, when faced with these texts, I added that this story also offers us a picture of the Origin of Fear, as we see the first humans hiding in shame from their loving creator.
All totaled, it is an ancient explanation for some of humanity’s longest standing, deepest, and most profound questions. And as ancient as this story maybe, it is still, STILL, woven into the justifications for violent actions, reasonings for small thinking, and condemnations of the other, that are so boldly practiced in our day. Too often and too sadly in the name of religion. It’s way deeper than the batter of an unbaked wedding cake in Colorado. And there is nothing sweet about any of it. This ancient story seems to grow more bitter with age, especially as our self-understanding grows in the face of the richness of diversity. I offer just a handful of examples from present misuses of this ancient story.
Recently the Methodist Church in America was unable to pass an amendment that would have changed their Constitution to read that “both men and women are created in the image of God.” Currently it reads, “men are created in the image of God.”
Too often, we have heard people who claim themselves to be spokespeople for God claiming that earthquakes and storms, disease and defeat are Divine punishment for sin and wrong-doing (akin to God kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden). The AIDS epidemic and the earthquake in Haiti to name just two mislabeled crises. Of course, the difference between the ancient story and this modern day application attempt is that this condemnation is being issued not from the loving Almighty but rather from ones who are as flawed as the ones they are condemning.
Certainly, the veil that has been pulled back by the “me too” movement is testimony to the depth of the wrongful oppression of women by a patriarchal society drunk on power.
Of course, the blame game has far too many examples to mention. We all play it. We all echo Adam. “Not my fault. He made me do it. I’m not responsible.” Currently, the blame game is being played out to national and even global proportions that are causing many of us to hide from headlines and speeches with all the fear that sent Adam and Eve into hiding from the presence of God.
Yes, it is an ancient story, but its themes are engaged over and over again, usually misguidedly, as humanity continues to prove itself flawed, power-hungry, subject to evil, cowardly, judgmental, and filled with fear.
And yet, as misguided as we are in our attempts to self-direct our journey and self-rule God’s world, and as misused as this gift of free will is that God has blessed us with in love, God does not abandon us. God comes out of the garden of his perfect design and looks for us in the jungles of our making – be they concrete or relational, economic or social, political or religious.
God comes looking for us in the form of the person of the Good Shepherd, Jesus. And when we see the goodness of God in this one who is the heart of God in human form, who is the word of God made flesh and dwelling among us, when the one who enters our world and turns those ancient stories of condemnation and doom, of judgement and eviction, of fear and shame, when he turns those stories around and exorcises the demons that continue to possess us, when he brings us good news of God’s restoring and reconciling mercy and grace, what do we do? We reject him and claim that he is possessed by a devil.
How we cling to those ancient stories. Does not Jesus show us a new way? A new way to be, to think? A new way to be in relationship with one another, and, even more importantly, a new way to be in relationship with God? A new way to image God? Through Jesus the Christ, God has made a new covenant. Creation has been recreated. Sin has been forgiven. Death has been swallowed up.
The same thing that Jesus says of the devil that he has been accused of being possessed by – a house divided cannot stand; this same truism we can say about God’s house, God’s kingdom – divided it cannot stand. The perfection of God’s love will not allow for a division or separation. God’s love demands that God acts to repair the breach that our sin has created.
We sinned and separated from God in the garden of Eden. God has acted and resurrected us in the garden of Christ’s empty tomb. God’s love for creation could allow for nothing less. It is why God offers nothing less as proof then the beloved child, the one who embodies God’s very presence that Adam and Eve hid from. In the peace and love of Christ, we need not hide.
Come out from your hiding, Adam and Eve. Come out from your hiding, (fill in your name). Not to hear your punishment that might be heaped on you by yourself or some other person who is seeking to continue to play God through their obsession with that ancient story that does not include Christ, the cross, or the empty tomb. No, hear the voice of God calling with promises of new life in Christ – victor over the cross, champion over death. Feel God’s breath filling you with the new life of the Spirit. And be encouraged by Paul’s words from the second reading: 16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. (I Cor. 4:16)
God has heard our cry out of the depths of our own making. In Christ a new song, a new story fills us with new life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we tell this new story, we live this new story, we find peace in this new story. There is no need to hide, no need to fear, only God’s will to do as, in Christ, we are the family of God.
The Rev. Mark Erson,